two poems by Matthew Lippman
WHAT THE HITS MAKE YOU DO
When the sun came up over the clouds I turned up “Rich Girl.”
It wasn’t the sun or the religion or the gladiolas.
I just like the hits.
The hits make me fun. They make me smart
and tell my children to turn up the radio.
Remember when “Maneater” came out and how stupid it was?
It wasn’t as stupid as “You Make My Dreams Come True.”
That was the smartest song of the 70s
and we were almost tired of stopping the war.
When Darryl tried to look like Bowie it was funny,
and everyone was falling in love.
This is what the hits make you do,
fall hard for the person next to you
and so you have to turn up “Sara Smile” really soft
when the night comes screaming down the block. Funny,
she’s the one who wrote the song, Sara, and her heart is a bloom.
Everyone was falling in love when it hit the airwaves.
Everyone had a piano in their chest
that was dug out daily, like some wild collective
that was the perfect situation.
This morning, when the sun tiptoed over the church
I was on my hands and knees.
It was the perfect situation.
A Hall and Oates situation so catchy
I fed “Private Eyes” into my eyes
to be public, a citizen of the world,
trying to fall in love with everyone.
That’s what the hits want for us, ask of us, beg of us.
Fall in love with everyone.
Turn us up on the radio really loud
and let the body go—the ass, the hips,
the super shake down into an abandoned luncheonette
where every booth has a jukebox
for lost quarters,
and a lover that leans over the table and says,
you make me a top 40 disc jockey
every time you go away
you take a piece of me with you.
ABOUT AN ELECTRIC GUITAR I CAN ONLY MAKE A WHISPER
There’s something about an electric guitar that I don’t even know.
It’s more than the broken teeth of Susan Tedeschi
or the fat gut of Luciano Pavarotti.
The world has gotten so hot.
The penguins don’t know which bus to get on
to get off.
So, I sit at the window and try hard to listen to the birds.
The garbage trucks get in the way and then the concrete barriers.
The ones on highways that split up north from south, east from west.
The window is open like a starlight.
Like a midnight frog.
About an electric guitar I can only make a whisper.
I’m not afraid to say I am sad.
Not afraid to say I am liar and a cheat.
That yesterday I stole a bottle of beer from the candy store
and when I was a kid
stole boxes of Charleston Chews from the candy store
then sold them for twice the price to my stupid friends.
There’s something about an electric guitar that I can’t even say.
It breaks me into a million little fireflies.
Some of them are dead and some of them light up the world
for peace and for a love.
When I die I want to come back to life as a convertible
to hear everything.
The window is open and I can hear the electric birds.
The Fender blue jay and the Rickenbacker starling.
Maybe they’ll cool down the world with Tedeschi’s broken teeth.
Let it be so.
Let us live one more lifetime longer.
For the kids.
So, they know what bus to get on.
So, they know the electric guitar,
you couldn’t even say
if you knew the words
that it played those notes for you.
Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced? Identify songs of influence in your life and explore them like variations on a theme, melding syntax and song structure, recalling the seriousness or levity that accompanies. Whether it’s an account of when a specific song first entered your life, the process of learning to play a song, teaching someone a song, experiencing the same song in different places as it weaves through your life, unbelievable radio timing, sharing songs with those in need, tracking the passing down of songs, creative song analysis, music as politics, etc, I am interested in those ineffable moments and welcoming submissions of your own variations on a theme, as drawn from your life’s soundtrack. Please email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for others’ Variations.
**(“song” is a broad phrase: could be a pop song, a traditional tune, a symphony, commercial jingles, a hummed lullaby, 2nd grade recorder class horror stories, etc)**
Matthew Lippman’s collection MESMERIZINGLY SADLY BEAUTIFUL won the 2018 Levis Prize and is published by Four Way Books. He has published 5 other collections of poems including, The New Year of Yellow (winner of Kathryn A. Morton Prize, Sarabande Books), Salami Jew, American Chew (winner of Burnside Books Prize), Monkey Bars, and A Little Gut Magic. He is the Editor and Founder of the web-based project Love’s Executive Order (www.lovesexecutiveorder.com).