Pops, Dis Playa Need Ta Roll


They leave home singing, return home singing,

iPhones providing a soundtrack to their days

as they overdub the lyrics with an aggressive,

more frenzied version of their own.

But singing is not right, not in the technical

sense of the word, an unqualified misnomer

that would have traditionalists seething

in their graves— sonorous crooners who

devoted their lives to perfecting the range

of their sound; signature vocalists like Holiday,

Pavarotti or even good olé Blue Eyes;

their throats emotive as any instrument.

How modulation of timbre transports

feeling into worlds unknown, even a single

note rolled in glissandro can transfix.

But my boys could care less about that—

music as a vehicle, spiritual medium with

transformative properties. My desire to be

moved lame as the word gobbledygook.

Their base requirement visceral: rap the body

can feel, words that rise defiant, defendant;

brash sentiment carried mostly on the wing

of bass and rhyme. After dinner my son

pimps in his self-affected gangsta: Pops,

dis playa need to roll… I got beats to make

this nigga feel like drippin. Then he thumps

his chest with an inverted peace-sign.

Smiles thinly. Scrolls through graphic

soundbites on iTunes rapping over the top

of his favorites: Tupac, 2 Chainz, Biggie

and Wiz; ownership meant to impress.

He tells me Rock is dead. I think to

counter, wish to tell him he’s got it

wrong, there’s much more to music

than this. But thinking is where

it starts and ends.





This reliance on spiritual balance

A far remove from its initial days

When I practiced The Upanishads in one

Hand and held the braided hose

Of a hookah in the other like an umbilical

Connecting me to the rich omphalos of God.

Meditation a zeitgist in the 80’s.

As the Beatles and Maharishi disappeared

In the rear-view, Wall Street’s

Three-piece-suits loomed king.

But at college I was smitten with Birkenstocks

And the regurgitated vibe of Woodstock,

the lanky TA’s chakra—hipster minyan

To professor So&So of Far Eastern Religion—

That accompanied me across The Quad

After lecture. He made pursuit of transcendentalism

Seem as cool as dropping the needle

On the Talking Heads, a tab of windowpane

On the eve of a Dead show.

But Enlightenment’s novelty wore off

Like a monk’s interest in the secular.

And then the world does what it does

And life did what it did and like

Finding a rhythmic breath

Or frying an egg sunny-side-up,

I finally got the center to hold.

To know then what we know now…

Well, we’ve all heard that one before.



Tony Tracy

Tony Tracy is the author of two poetry collections: The Christening and Without Notice. He is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in North American Review, Flint Hills Review, Poetry East, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Hotel Amerika, Painted Bride Quarterly, Potomac Review and various other magazines and journals.

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