April Hall


Stacks Image 153

With only two
there’s something new
pocketed in phrases,
spaces wide and fat,
notes bent to blue,
gone sad in places
as all outdoors.


   See the artist at peace,
her inner pendulum
a metronome, east and west,
trimming in time with her work,
a tick ahead or behind,
though, of necessity,
precise as the railroad,
and the process, driven;
a woman sporting a silk scarf
pages through her valise, composed,
steam enveloping the platform.


Dark interstate corridor
grasses flare in the night wind
voice and piano flirt,
a lone low watt jazz station,
quartz-locked FM, old school
talking proust and picasso,
brain-to-brain enamored,
cigarettes on the dashboard,
painted toenails, windows cranked
voice and piano circle
‘round a diaphanous rhythm,
effortless triads for chords,
melody probing at structure
like a bull through a snapped cape
seeks flesh that yearns a hurtin’.


   Cats who can “bring it,” love the studio.
No whining “you shoulda been there,” harking back
to that one epic gig lost in the blue blear
of a club. Here, no crowd, drink; cigarettes
out the question, and no crazed old lady
hassling you about the rent, your land-line jackwires
dangling, exposed from the wall, shorted.
   It’s you and that mortal with the axe, java
in the ante room, posse in the booth,
levelers, faders, pans, patch cords
premium mics, monitors, and that truthtellin’
tape that do not roll for nothin’.


   Love, large as an old world bass,
Continental passion carved from axe-felled wood,
tight-grained ice-age maple and spruce, hand rubbed,
aspect aptly warmed, figure preserved
with borax, salt, potassium silicate,
and for varnish, gum, honey, and egg white.
   Such a love might cost more than a modest home,
and as testy, breathe like a bronze-red rhino,
each bow-stroke, each pluck, threatening a charge;
finicky about the hall too, to adjust
takes hours, kind persistence, persuasion,
but the tone, the pulse, the melodic urge
underneath, look at me, look at me now!


   Back in the studio at last,
faithful water beside me
gentle as gin, glittering.
Affixed sound baffling, a skyline
of inverted, angled tenements
pitched to stifle stray echoes,
asks dispassionately, “Whadd’ya got?"


   At the end of the last take
a beat and a half overdue
an impudent note drops in
sporting a rumpled tux, sunglasses,
leaning against the kitchen entrance
gesturing, cream-filled éclair in hand
and a quip that breaks up the studio,
earnest engineer, singer, producer,
and grinning, the upright bassist, himself.
   Rolling laughter reverberates, pierces
like cetaceans agog, overtones
that, in analog days would
spike the vu-meters into the red,
impractical relief, that sadly,
in the final mix, takes up too many megs
to keep, but worth hearing,
at twice the price on the box set.


   In lustrous light, a record’s an iris
prismed with radial struts
patterned to attract, infatuate,
a tease promising evening, texture
where melody and lyric seduce,
dilate, a pupil to fall into forever.