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the long way around

The living room is a forest of mic stands and cables. A cup of coffee, a large glass of water and a shallow shot of whiskey sit on the tiny white table. I alternate between them, making sure the guitar is in tune, trying to understand if the chair will creak when I lean my head back on the second chorus.  There is a hush in the room. I can hear my own heartbeat. The lyrics are printed out on a fresh piece of paper, large and thick so I can read them easily even though I sing with my eyes closed and will surely forget a handful of words no matter what I do.

The guitar sounds dry, perfect - even honest. I can play a simple D chord with a long strum, or the side of my thumb and it sounds so different. I record a few takes, barefoot in the bright room. I am going too fast in some parts, and my fingers are already sore from the chord changes.

And then all at once, I am thinking of a show I played in an old factory in Brooklyn, way back when I had just started writing songs almost twenty y…

jholtei ghorka (the yellow slide)

The yellow slide,
a dirty macaroni
shape
children clawing their
way backwards
and then
swirling down.
She wanted to
every time,
taking the short green
one instead.
Playing in the sand
making star shapes
and little cakes.
Quietly, I brought
her to the
bottom.
We sat, even
lay down and
looked up at the
clouds.
I began pulling her
by the hands
up a few
feet,
then letting her go.
She was terrified
like our kittens
during a
thunderstorm.
And we returned, each
time a few
extra inches
me letting her
go, then
catching her.
“Papa, will you catch me?”
She asks, every single
time.

There was a great
red rooster
when I was
a boy.
I wore jeans each
summer to avoid
getting pecked
during his daily
attacks.
I banged pots
and pans together
got the dogs
after him
but he kept
coming
until he died
and we made a
great soup from him
which I savored
for hours
sitting at the dinner table
long after everyone
had gone to watch
tv.

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