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 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.