A few days ago, I received a much-appreciated email from my friend Karen, who'd read my annual holiday mope and wanted to let me know my dark feelings weren't all that unusual. She also wanted to forward something she thought I'd like, a poem she'd seen that "seemed very much like something [I could] have written." I smirked at the idea, remembering that my last experiment with this particular literary form was back in 1990, just after I'd broken up with this one particular girl and was convinced there would never be another, and my fate was to be unceasing heartbreak and loneliness and hair-metal ballads about the same. (Hey, I was only 20, and not an especially mature 20-year-old at that). Let us simply say the results of my poetic efforts weren't exactly, um, good, and then we'll politely turn away from the sobbing idiot in the corner...
But hey, I didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, as the cliche goes -- you see why I wasn't much of a poet? -- so I followed Karen's link and, well, darned if it does sound like something I could've written, if only I had any talent at all for writing poetry. In a strange example of synchronicity, it even evokes my memories of the last year I was driven by hurt to scratch out a few talentless lines of free verse, as if the man I am now were looking back across a couple decades and finally able to say what he wasn't able to say then, in the way he wanted to say it but couldn't.
Or something like that. Maybe I just like the imagery of old T-birds and open roads and Cecil B. DeMille. The poem is below the fold, should you wish to read it for yourself...
"Cruising with the Beach Boys"
by Dana Gioia
So strange to hear that song again tonight
Travelling on business in a rented car
Miles from anywhere I've been before.
And now a tune I haven't heard for years
Probably not since it last left the charts
Back in L.A. in 1969.
I can't believe I know the words by heart
And can't think of a girl to blame them on.
Every lovesick summer has its song,
And this one I pretended to despise,
But if I was alone when it came on,
I turned it up full-blast to sing along –
A primal scream in croaky baritone,
The notes all flat, the lyrics mostly slurred.
No wonder I spent so much time alone
Making the rounds in Dad's old Thunderbird.
Some nights I drove down to the beach to park
And walk along the railings of the pier.
The water down below was cold and dark,
The waves monotonous against the shore.
The darkness and the mist, the midnight sea,
The flickering lights reflected from the city –
A perfect setting for a boy like me,
The Cecil B. DeMille of my self-pity.
I thought by now I'd left those nights behind,
Lost like the girls that I could never get,
Gone with the years, junked with the old T-Bird.
But one old song, a stretch of empty road,
Can open up a door and let them fall
Tumbling like boxes from a dusty shelf,
Tightening my throat for no reason at all
Bringing on tears shed only for myself.
Original source here.