Tearin' Em Up Live

 He went to sleep one night and never woke up

the second draft of his latest poem on the night table

beside her blue glass earrings. Music –

hot, hungry vocals, guitar licks, saxophone notes

wailing around his old orange cat who slept

oblivious and faithful on the pillow beside him.


He couldn’t sleep without it and she found him

in the middle of Etta James tearin ‘em up

Live at the Parisian Room where nobody was sleepin.

She’d come in to get her earrings off the table

and bent to kiss him goodbye just as the last notes

of Etta’s dynamite third set ended and the music


stopped. She heard the stunned music

of her own voice, “oh my God,” as she touched his

cheek in disbelief fighting strange grating notes

of hysteria swirling and rising from her belly up

to her throat. She slumped against the table

saw a blur of orange beside him, the cat still sleeping.


He was a poet who painted houses. He slept

with her between stanzas and odd jobs. She knew music

was his real passion. They’d sit at the kitchen table

late at night. She’d toss her hair and sing along to his

favorite songs, all slinky and jazzed up

in her red thrift store dress, murdering the high notes.


Sometimes, usually during winter, she’d find notes.

Rising in the see-your-breath bedroom, sullen and sleepy

she’d stumble out to the kitchen and find one stuck up

on the fridge, “my dearest Etta or Ella or Aretha, your music

kicks ass,” signed “your biggest fan.” She knew his

dream. That last poem she found on the table


was a song. She sat for a long time beside the table

holding that scrap of paper, humming, crying, imagining the notes

of a guitar, a piano, a stormy-blue voice, and the expression on his

face as he listened. Now, during the silent chill of sleepless

nights she hears only the sad ruin of this unexpected music

and the endless encores swallow her up.


In her red dress at the kitchen table, the cat asleep

on her lap, the raspy notes of kick ass music,

a vigil for him. Etta tearin ‘em up.




djc   djc wrote
on 8/30/2009 7:57:58 PM
A sestina is a very intricate and difficult style to master...very well done. djc

writing Lavenderwind
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Although most of my poems are free verse, this one is a Sestina. It was inspired by a Sestina I read by B.H. Fairchild called "There Is Constant Movement In My Head." I loved the poem so much I just had to try out the form.
A Word from the Writer
I am constantly inspired by reading other writers and also by my monthly poetry meeting where a group of us get together and offer constructive critiques to one another.
Published Date
10/30/2007 12:00:00 AM
Published In
This poem was published in "Spring," a publication of the Sask. Writers Guild.
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