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Sun Ode 706
     for Sam Phillips


Stay on awhile o Re
rollin' about heaven
your touch is a brush
with glory, & when you're gone
the taverns on Beale St
the waving arms go down
in darkness.

Sam's voice on radio waves
from the bandstand to the outer world
of war & cold sheets the bluish

dim ceiling lights enclosed
a shade less of grief within
the heated circle of river lights

the waves of lights descending
the bluff to waves the music
always stopped short

of deaf Aunt Emma, the rooftop
of the Peabody a gigantic
hotel plied nightly with dancers

& sorties of chatter, the silverware & sheen
of linen & candlelight, service men &
their dates, fatal

in white gowns & gardenias
the squared-walled temple broadcasting
from Memphis, the dithering

small boat traffic amid
a patchwork of cotton boats &
transports, the ships' lights crawling

beyond the bandleader's
gloved hand raised, the beat, reeds &
brass, double-timed

out to sea, unannounced
to waves, the German U-Boats
their diesels undetected

                              & a variation
on music calculated, a lease
signed against muteness

the gutted store front
on Union St a margin
of neon halo to shine the

sun eternal affection
coaxed from paint to resurrection
along the wall

reshaped rooms
jerry-built to Sam's perfect ear
an interior to register a tremor

sealed off from traffic
& glassed-out the sun ghostlike
from a small side-window

from the start
surviving on assignments the music
mummified & walk-in's

off the street paid
to record a gift
snapshot of their voices

singing tunes on holidays
the reproachful voluminous
boxes of new pressings

doubting the point
of his life, the fluorescent
chores of schedules met

in deepening stillness provoked
by overstrained credit & regret
he flipped out

repairs in both hospitals
reduced to shock applied 8 times
his head 8 times enraged

to extract the great light
he spoke of, the raconteur
permitted silence, & released

to the little intervals
the heart encouraged
thru electricity, the light

around his tomb regarded
thru a wine bottle a near miss
in the crosswalk

& he decided to risk everything
on his own label, the Sun accepted
the redneck agreeable

to Grace, his church permitted
nothing less, the Whites & the Blacks
beyond separation in music

the possession of it shared
shared as possession the grand folly
of the profligate heart. On a pint

he recorded Howling' Wolf
the big man signed
before his first release

& was off along the corridor
to Chicago. Ike Turner had discovered
his plangent rhythms &

Bee Bee King,
a list of them off
boulevards & Beale St hotels

for a night's stay & dives
in full swing & a green place
to drive beyond

with Ike, his Rocket 88
& after take-off, Elvis
reserved a booth

a song for his mama back
in Tupelo, walked in
& left his name the boy

with the sideburns next appeared
in Memphis with Slim Whitman
an opening act, poor Slim in reserve

needn't have bothered, the girls
crazy for Elvis, seemed bewitched
& Sam, looking for a white man

successfully ignoring race,
that old retreat, hailed Rock Roll
forward, on those hips

conceding nothing to
taste the grateful soul might
of frustration desert 

at the fabled crossroads
to flaunt & shake
a half-dozen ways

the eternal sun smiling
down upon the crowing
rooster's solo no offense

o Re, the good wine
the song delivered whole
upon your touch the song.

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