I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know and Taking Notes

by | Aug 10, 2021 | Issue Twenty Two, Poetry

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know

Little girl, living in the hard shadows
of mountains, crossing railroad tracks
to play Bach, crows in the deep woods,
fingers on the keys for hours every day –
what do you fear?

Did someone tell you your dreams
should stay small? tell you the world
would punish you for being you?
How do you wrestle – blow by blow –
all your demons to the ground?

Tell me the rage, the ache of work,
the passion in your eyes and mouth –
how to scream with no sound,
no voice, no words.

To be beaten – and to beat – is
this the life we make?
Teach me how to play a song like
no one else has ever played.

Gonna break this chain off and run
I’m gonna lay down somewhere shady
            – Nina Simone

Taking Notes

When the lights shut off
And it’s my turn to settle down
My main concern
Promise that you will sing about me

             – Kendrick Lamar, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”

Promise that you will write about me

Promise that you will write about me

Promise me – promise me

Promise my words you won’t forget my hand –

            writing its story – my hand wrapped

against the pain I didn’t even know was there –

deep in the tendons and bone – Promise

            my voice that screams when no one’s there,

no one to listen, no one to witness, no one

to give me their tears – I’m thirsty

Promise, promise that you will – Won’t you? –

            wrapped against the wound of too much

            empty page and not enough story to leave behind,

            and that is my aggravation – Pity that it’s not more real,

            not more human, not more necessary – If I didn’t say

            another word – no dreams would be lost – Nobody changes

            who they are – I’m a blip on the blip of a blip – That’s all –

            Nothing more – That’s my aggravation – too nothing

            for the something – Promise me – I am thirsty –

Promise me – Please – that you won’t forget the old with

the new – I’ll be gone, yes, so promise you will write

about me, that you will bring the words that aren’t tired yet –

bring words that can say something new – Promise me

my obituary telling won’t be the end of it – I’m tired of

breathing, don’t you know – If I only had a cup of water,

then my thirst would go away, would disappear – just

like my eyes, my voice, my hand – Promise that –

Promise that you – Promise that you will remember

all the unfortunate hurt and dream – that you’ll write

about me even if the words are nothing since even

nothing is something – What’s not said – What’s

not written – Even the empty has its shape

Promise that you will say – when you write – all the truth

I never could – Promise me – Promise a mellow jazz

in the air to the empty chairs, to the empty hallway

where no one walks – Let the jazz play – Let John Coltrane

squeeze his unexplainable into my ear – when you read

the words to give me shape – words that Frankenstein all my

notions that are long gone – the kind of gone which can never

be filled no matter how much is said because the words are

always about, they never are – they’re about the thing and not

the thing – but promise me any way – I’m thirsty – I’m tired –

No more running – No more pop, pop, pop on the keys

Promise that you will – no matter what, no matter where, no matter

how big the dark space between here and then – Promise me –

That’s all I’m asking – a promise for a lost cause, my lost cause

– Me – I am the cause – I am the lost – There’s no saving

the silence – no way to find when it’s too far gone – And it is

Promise that you’ll dream about me – that you’ll say to the future,

the one which can never be – He was – Promise me – your

pinkie, your heart, your Mother in the grave – Promise me

you’ll dream and write it down – then burn it at midnight –

Any midnight will do – If you don’t write it,

it didn’t happen – If you don’t ,

write, I wasn’t there – So

write it, then – Promise me

Promise you will write down this wrong – Write it, Elizabeth said –

my wrong – my bad – my sad eye which never closes – never

unsees – Promise you’ll leave all the answers – even the ones

you don’t have and never did – Promise me – I’m thirsty –

I don’t care what you did or did not – don’t care what

you thought or should not – There’s no time

like a future past to save your soul –

            It’s real if you feel it – if you speak it

Promise that you will – There’s no time – that

            you will write about me, then

            turn off the lights,

            let the darkness finish,

let the music play on – play on – play on –

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