Sunday, July 10, 2016

the memory lane rag

I am tired of tripping down memory lane,
stumbling and fumbling and being surprised,
so I take to the track that strolls through the field
of summer and bliss and now.

On either side the flowers bloom and grasses wave hello,
and here I know this is my home, so now, where else to go?

Daisies rampant, that I love, and soon Queen Anne will bloom.
Brown-eyed Suzie’s poised to unfurl—aha! There she goes! Zoom!


The goat’s beard is mostly puff balls now, puff balls full of seed;
they wait to explode—the wind is light—
so many flowers I see.

Then one morning I look for music
to play as I go about work,
and I pick a CD that I rarely
—like never—think of
and wouldn’t you know,
it sets my toes tapping!
And so off I go dancing
but the road it takes
looks just like

Ragtime piano by a guy named Bob Milne,
and it was my mother’s CD. I am dancing now,
just like my mother,
and once this would make me cringe
(to see my mother in me)
almost enough to make me unhinge—
Stop! Why?

I love my mother and I see her now,
the way she was once ago,
the way she danced—
a little shuffle and jive,
   mincing steps,
sly smile a grin,
    hands clenched in small fists,
(hands that played ragtime piano
to beat that
                 barrelhouse
                                    band)
and she’s got the boogie,
      and she’s got the rag,
            the blues,

and folded within the plastic CD case, which is a bit sticky, so yuk,
is a paper upon which something was spilled,
maybe coffee or tea or such,
it is mottled and wavy, puckered and creased,
and on it is printed a full page piece:
—“BOB MILNE – Ragtimist”—
written by my brother-in-law’s dad
—“MERRY CHRISTMAS 1997”—
and he signs off w/love
—“Samardad”—
which is a take on him and the place where he lived,
the place my mom lives now,
a place where Bob Milne
once played piano in ragged time
in a Mountain Room—

It is a wonderful story I read it now
while shuffling and jiving,
  mincing my steps;
I had forgotten this paper inside the CD,
the CD I listened to with my mom, once or twice,
in the room where she lived before now,
that room where she had more of her stuff,
and when she moved I took this CD because heck, I like that memory—
and she wasn’t dancing but sitting in her chair,
the big green chair with the seat that rose
to help her out,
out to lunch or dinner or wherever,
a walk to the patio—
I like that memory,
she enjoyed the ragtime,
it made her smile,
  made her whole face lift,
her hands move,
   her body move,
just a bit,
    just a slight jive,
but very much alive,
     and yes, dancing.

“Samardad” was a character.
He wrote a book about his life. I have a copy.
And now I have this raggedy piece of paper too
on which he wrote “BOB MILNE – Ragtimist”
and all about that “ragged-time
(ragtime) music.”

But I have a question:
Where do Memory Lane and Here & Now Avenue part?
They must diverge somewhere, please.

I think also I dance
like Barney Fife
— now isn’t that great?

To dance like Barney—
To dance like my mother—
To dance like me!


But how do I get off this Memory Road?
I am tired of tripping on down it, of dancing on down it,
though I like to think I am smoothing its bumps,
sitting high in the cab of a mammoth machine,
at the controls,
smoothing the bumps,
filling the cracks,
making the road
a level path to wander
in my dotage
when,
probably,
I will have forgotten it all
anyway.

I walk down the track through the field
one morning,
there was a night of rain and storm—
a Hollywood version with flashing lights,
rolling thunder,
pouring rain,
will it never end?
—what is with all this drama, anyway?—
and mingling in the aftermath
a scent of hay fields, just mowed,
  thick with moisture,
ten thousand flowers,
   vibrant air,
and I swear just breathing
    is full as a meal,
like meat and potatoes—
     salad and roll on the side,
                                               please.


A line from “The Ragtime Dance,” Scott Joplin (1868-1917).