For Ray Charles

by Lamont Palmer

    There was the rocking,
the near falling off the stool,
there was musical rapture,
there was a vision, not born of retina,
there was a vision that seared even as it, often, laughed at itself.
Stages melting, some theatrical arsonist is loose;
but no one is hurt, like a bush that burned in a timeless land
and no one singed. Just pleased. 
They clapped like they were killing mosquitos. 
His reception always sounded like lightning.
He sat smiling amid the smoke;
winked from behind glasses 
that were dark as some intense Georgia night,
        dark as his own troubled skin.
For now, he was done entertaining you.

There was the pain, thinly
disguised as notes. 
Only certain audience members
could spot it, the incognitio misery;
yet the sad wail, like a bluesy snake
came from his throat: all heads bounced,
all heads felt like they knew, felt in on the rhythmic mystery.
His fingers were drunk and pounded and pounded
but were never ashamed.

           There was the poverty,
played into the cold ground, driven out of
his mind on e-tudes.
There was the ivory,
fondled into submission, there were pianos
enslaved by him.

    Out of the life's morass, into the new light,
he traveled, he traveled.
What better place to go than to where
everyone's eyes are unencumbered?
What better crowd to play for than a luminous one? Bright as his own mind.
Land of the good eyes, land of the endless bodies,
I see him seeing. I see his eyes behaving like playful stars.

For Ray Charles by Lamont Palmer

© Copyright 2001. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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