Saturday morning I’d push
A kitchen chair in front of the fridge,
Hop on to be closer to the radio:
Brer Bear, Brer Fox, & Brer Rabbit
Bustin’ the chops of that tar baby,
So stuck on himself. I still remember
The whole mess: losing his temper, vain
Wit—too smart for his own good,
& Uncle Remus’s low voice, soothing
As the sound of whittling wood,
The meadowlark’s liquid refrain.
I couldn’t get close enough
To that magic box (so hard to hear).
I’d examine the glittered fabric
That covered the speaker, smell the oiled
Wood & that sweet-warm hum
Of tubes & dust & electricity,
Watch the greenish glow lighting the dial
Behind the window—& then I’d fly away.
Mother listened to Arthur Godfrey
Or Art Linkletter while she cleaned house,
Didn’t have time for The Edge Of Night
Or As The World Turns. Outside
We shoveled snow off Dewald’s driveway,
Listened to basketball broadcast live
From the old RCA cabinet radio mounted
On the wall of their garage. Clad in sweatshirts,
Stocking caps, long Johns, & Chuck Taylors,
Our hands red-cold from dribbling wet pavement
& retrieving out-of-bounds snow-balls,
We were Panther heroes of the game
Winning shot—a last-second toss from the terrace.
One evening my dad hauled the radio down
Onto the kitchen table to hear a Heavyweight
Title fight. Liston & Clay. He searched
& tuned through static crackles & whirs,
Buzzes & whistles till we heard the ring
Announcer’s scratchy words: “In this corner . . .”
Muffled by the roar of the crowd. Ding!
Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Fading in & out,
Waves of punches floated, jabbed,
bobbed & weaved, & then it was over
So suddenly, before we’d even tuned it in—
Sock & shock. No butterfly
Fix. The bear stung by the bee: Ali!
No Viet Cong ever called him “boy.”
Even after TV stole the show
(those images of Kennedy, The Beatles,
Men walking on the moon, Gunsmoke, Jack
Benny, Ward & June ) I listened to AM
Radio each night in my bedroom:
Rock ‘n’ Roll from Chicago, New York
& L.A. The Wolfman howling about white
Rooms & white rabbits, black magic
Women lighting fires & rolling
Stones, blowing open the doors of perception
On the eve of destruction, California
Dreamin’ in strawberry fields, & old Puff
Smokin’ those Nashville cats in purple
Haze hats—tumbling dice
With the hurdy-gurdy man.
Can you dig it, Ziggy? Ground control
To Major Tom. I’m not the man you think I am
At all. No. So surrey on down, sky pilot—
How high can you fly? You’ll never reach
The spirit in the sky dancin’ in the street.
They say video killed the radio star.
Imagine that, Sundown. You better take care.
Come to me & take my hand. No? It ain’t me
You’re lookin’ for, Babe? Can’t you
Hear my heartbeat, you heartbreaker? Shake
For me girl. Lay across my big, brass bed.
I want to be your backdoor man. If you’re sad
& feelin’ blue, go out & buy a brand new
Pair of blue suede shoes or a night on the town.
I’m counting on you. Lord, please
Don’t let me down. I need somebody.
Not just anybody. How can you laugh
When you know I’m down & out & I can’t go
On? Just take a sad song & make it better
By turning the radio on & taking me away
From here, dear Prudence, Roxanne,
Gloria, Michelle, my belle, Holly
Holy Hell—I love to turn you on.