A FAINT ORGASMIC TINGLE
Franz Liszt used to pay prostitutes
To sit in the front row at his concerts
And faint at his music’s crescendo. One night
He looked up from the piano. The chairs
Were empty. The faithless whores
Had taken his money but hadn’t shown.
So that night at the crescendo of the piece
Liszt fainted, slid right off the piano stool.
I myself have never fainted at music.
I do remember a faint orgasmic tingle, though.
One night at the Bottom Line I thought I discerned
People paid to kvell. It was for Jimmie Dale Gilmore,
A handsome, sweet-voiced Buddhist cowboy from Texas,
Discovered by the suits after his hair had turned silver.
I think they paid some of their women to swoon,
To audibly crush on the country crooner. I liked
Jimmie Dale, loved his early band, the Flatlanders,
Who got a contract in Nashville and recorded an album,
Only to see the label fold, the vinyl shelved, though they had only made
Eight-track tapes of the band’s Texas folk music.
Immortal as Liszt, those eight-track tapes.
Almost unnoticed was the Olympian
Who opened the show, Townes van Zandt, the crush of every songwriter.
When Kris Kristofferson won his songwriting CMA
He pointed at Townes in the audience and said,
Give it to him instead. Brilliant drunk Townes,
Memory zapped by early shock treatments,
Whose recollection began at about age eighteen,
But he wasn’t fooled by that, horrible sad shit
He couldn’t remember any more which drove him to call
His album, made twenty years before his death,
The Late, Great Townes Van Zandt.
Either you get Townes or you don’t. I myself
Used to think of him, when he sang “I’m tyin’ on
My flying shoes,” every time I flew. When drunk,
Townes was a clown prince, playing like Lennon
When he wore a toilet seat to entertain
The drunken German sailors of Hamburg.
That’s where you feel the juice stir, at the Star Club,
And there’s doomed Stu Sutcliffe trying his best
To play the bass at 4 AM, trying to keep up
With Lennon and McCartney and Harrison.
I’m giving you lot up, he said the night
He quit the Beatles. Life’s too short,
And I’m going to spend it with my Astrid.
That night at the Bottom Line, Townes
Was sober as a judge, thinking maybe the suits
Would give him a second chance. They didn’t.
He died of a heart attack after a drunken fall
A few years later. People will tell you he was a savant,
And I will, too.
Bob Dylan’s genius was parked somewhere else
The night he played at Jones Beach. No one knew
Who Laura Nyro was when she opened for him,
A brave woman out there with just a piano
And songs like “Eli’s Coming.”
“Eli’s coming, hide your heart, girl!”
She had the tingle, too. I never knew
Who Eli was, but I was ready to hide.
Later, when I wrote about the show, I said hearing bad Dylan
Was like listening to Mozart whistle.
Why would you pay to hear Mozart whistle?
On the other hand, it was Mozart whistling.
The music publisher said he would give me $50 a story
For every review of Townes, of Laura, of Dylan.
But he stiffed me, only gave me forty.
So, for the lack of ten dollars, I stayed covering the criminal geniuses
Of the savings and loan business, publishing the lists of their infamies.
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