Richard Oyama: Three Poems
Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor
The Crystal Spring
For Bill Evans
You bend your back parallel to the keys
Like Glenn Gould. Critics called that eccentric.
Who doesn’t want to be inside the music?
Miles said it was always Evans they credited: you, Gil.
It was your sin to be an intellectual among the booboisie.
Still you squeezed the plunger like Bird did.
You made sumi-e, the saddest music of the world. You
And Miles were brothers sans skin, imagists
As limpid and exact as you were. Your life was
A diminuendo, a dying fall, a crystal spring.
And you flew solo.
Elmore James Outfoxes Old Scratch (1955)
That cold December night the hawk blew.
Elmore was mad as hell.
Damned television. I
Play the blues for my own self.
Tears drain from his mouth’s coarse grain.
How does the skin contain so much feeling?
Elmore’s fingering a genuine bottleneck,
Its lip broken. He slicks the griefs that bedevil him.
Old Scratch’s a trickster.
He tastes bleeding metal on his tongue.
I’ll taunt the Devil.
Believe I’ll dust my broom.
This the wolfish hour. Everybody’s abed, ‘cept
Hoodoo ghosts. Elmore slides the high strings, his life
Hanging on it. He sees the future and rips it up.
I believe my time ain’t long.
Hell’s a country where not a damned thing change.
My Clean Shirt
She slugged vodka shots and blew white lines.
There was an ineffectual husband back in Akron.
Her friend gave me the thumbs up. We
Left the downtown blues club
And repaired to someone else’s crib.
You’re cute, she said. That’s what
They used to say. She cut out
Paper dolls for dress patterns, rehearsing
Guilt, passing out under the sheets.
Her pubis was like a Rousseau jungle.
I am a gentleman. At the subway
We kissed in the diminished light. I was
Not satisfied. But
My shirt was clean.
Photo credit: Mona Nagai