Friday, October 28, 2016

Leon Redbone


Remember when we went to see John Prine, you and I
and a couple of your fellow folk-singer friends
at the old State Theater in downtown Reading
Leon Redbone opened. I’d seen him once before
in college, though why he would deign to perform 
in front of a bunch of art students who knew him only from
his ALL detergent commercials will always be a mystery. 
It looked like he hadn’t changed a bit; same Panama hat, 
same sunglasses and mustache, same strum and mumble.
A weird caricature of a bygone era, singing songs
from the infant days of the previous century.
And he whistled, a pinstriped peculiar bird,
strangely affecting despite his aloofness
And then Prine came onstage, performing with more gusto
than a man his age should be able to muster,
but what I really remember from that night
is that lonely, haunted whistling. I hear it now, 
summoning the hungry animal that gnawed a path through your bones 
burrowing up your spine until it finally found your brain.
I’m glad I saw you that last time, tired but still able to laugh
in your living room with your floppy hat
covering your skull, though I never did get to hear you 
play your guitar, never heard you sing I Ain't Got Nobody,
Shine on Harvest Moon, Whistling in the Wind.

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