TURN THE RADIO ON

radio hoto

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.

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