Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sadly, Our Geniuses Linger - For Oscar Levant

Sadly, Our Geniuses Linger
(for Oscar Levant)

This witty suicide shtick is killer. I eat it up man.

You drink for free. The room comes with the gig.
Your ladder's got no bottom rung. Your keys don't fit nothin'.
Nothin' springs. Nothin' gets explored. You ain’t checked out
Nothin' since them smoke-yellow tiles
slipped into the sky's clothing.

When you was movin' you plinked them keys. Now
Them fingers dig the rough pine leading up them seventeen steps
To your room. You memorize them everyday
On your way down. All you need to get home
Is to count seventeen. You walk like a sea horse man!
How d’you climb them steps anyway?

Every night ends with one long moan from the bottom
Of the scale. Ain't never true—never cathartic—only lazy.
That last note slides flat or straightens up just sharp enough
For pity to sing its only lyric. And I sing along. I applaud your style.
I listen. Each wire you rap shakes and wails its dirge. If you
Could stand you'd show me how to bend a note
‘round my neck like silk. Instead you prop them chins
In your palm like you're marble and off center
Like some project out front of the library.

That Steinway gonna make a grand coffin—huge and dark
Like a yard of loam. That snifter gonna stand—a fitting but fragile
Stone. Wet rings gonna bleach the polish. They gonna circle
Places on that map for future crooners.

Forgotten squares leach the shapes of a hundred
Carbon fingernails into the edges of that classic lid
Leaving some fine filigree of frantic grasping.

© 2008 Jeffrey Roberts

Drawing of Oscar Levant by Brian Forrest
11 x 14
conte on paper
Used with Permission.