Dick Lourie

Four Poems Listening to Music (Blues In The Night, Piece of my Heart, Gymnopedies, Night Train), February 1981: The Systematic Murder of Black Children–Dick Lourie

Four Poems Listening to Music

Blues in the Night

I close my eyes to listen but last night’s
dream turns up to distract me: with a big
kitchen knife I’m preparing a fish for
our dinner      when it moves I’m terrified

what should I do:      kill it quick to avoid
causing more pain      but the blade won’t go in
deep enough      I can’t tell if the music
is making me less afraid or more      now

I recall that old Gestalt therapy
trick where everything in the dream turns out
in fact to be you—so am I the fish
the knife      am I this music hauling up

the dream from where it would rather stay?


Piece of My Heart

in another dream—closer to morning
when I can’t distinguish the dark from the
light—I am being guided by Lor Gill
through a difficult passage in a wood

with a firm hand on my arm as if he
is the older      even though when I first
saw him he was an infant in Elaine’s
arms      yet here he grins like a big brother

and though when I wake I know that he’s dead—
motorcycle crash at thirty-three—in
the dream all I noticed was the beauty
of his youth and how I trusted him



Denise in class always told us that dream
is our channel to the unconscious: to
be respected for its wisdom      and so
I used to write down every dream      quickly

afraid I’d forget it      sometimes now I
turn up the radio      make breakfast      read
the paper      afraid I’ll remember it:
like this morning      but now even late in

the day my mind is too clear      so this dream—
familiar—coolly presents itself:
I just can’t get on the bus with all these
shopping bags      takeout coffees     instrument

cases and no one will tell me what to
do      not Denise dead now twenty years and
not Satie—though I can hear that he’s trying


Night Train

no wonder it’s been said music is the
perfect art: here when it’s here      sufficient
then gone      record it if you must listen
again but you’ll never see or touch it

the others try hard but always seem to
leave things lying around: stone      words paint splash
blade      crash      hand on your arm      nagging smell of
someone’s mortality      who might that be?

no wonder I took up the sax      how else
could I even approach perfection—at
night in the bar like the best kind of dream
I strap it on and by dawn forget everything


February 1981: The Systematic Murder of Black Children

This is not a political poem:
giving out your “views” as they say in that
sense of democratic debate      kicking
it around in discussion and argument

would be in this case a distraction      so
I went with a title that’s plain fact you
could quickly verify: just discovered
in Atlanta the body of the 17th

(seventeenth) Black child murdered within the past
year      such a fact laid out so simply      hard
to forget      might stick in your head awhile
reminding you—maybe—whenever you

see a Black child      that they are miraculous
what do I mean?      we need to behave of
course with love and respect toward all
children but as for Black children you have

to remember that someone is out to
kill them      why?      because they are Black children
and so let them command your loyalty
your most clear and fierce attention      they are

rare they are in peril fewer of them
will survive      those who do are yes miracles
you must treat them like the bearers of your
only hope for an end to the murders of Black children



Dick Lourie’s poems come from his new book Jam Session And Other Poems (Hanging Loose Press, 2021). Lourie is a poet and musician, a founder member of that seamless union of word and music. He is also a legendary editor, shaper of visions. Like all his books this is unique, indivisible, rare, to be read and treasured. Look for it at SPD Books or at www.amazon.com