Learn to Listen
by Tom Daley
for Ron Goba
To listen is to finger the socket
where a circuit sleds between miasma
and infatuation, the dizzying crook in the mesh
of his brain and your weather. A circuit that jitters,
jams in cul-de-sacs, a live wire
that hisses, “Touch at your own peril.”
What is the light
that is generated or shed? Consciousness mousetrapped,
drawn and quartered, lightheaded
in Mariana trenches. To hear him is a comforting boon
but to listen could be just the mistake
you’ve been angling for. Many are called,
few are frozen in the glacier that will chill
the souls of future planets. His is the shock
and bliss of over-torque, the hangover of carnality,
a state fair muttering through a Stradivarius.
Disinclined guru both rueful and razzing,
one part Lithuanian, one part leviathan,
one part licentious, one part chronicler,
wrinkled with close reading, gregarious conspirator,
annotator of the shots list,
the bourbons and whiskies at the pub
that’s smoky with softball teams and wannabe Irish.
Lunky, gargantuan, a tenderness teased out
of the legerdemain of his literary tricks.
He sits at the door
with his back at an angle to the bottom of his chair.
If he starts counting bills,
you know he’s bored with your poem.
The clicking of the keys of an oboe flickers him
into paroxysms of joy. He himself climbs the register,
flings out a music pleated and generous as a concertina’s,
dark and cone-bearing, a bassoon undoing a blizzard.
Listen: at the right moment, can you untwine
the prickly alliteration,
the hypertensive self-examination?
He dupes you into thinking
he writes only for himself,
claims it’s the workshop boys
who’ve convinced him to make it connected.
Bespectacled, leering, cranial, curious. He hunches
toward the mike in humility
but straightens as the poem unwinds itself.
It is a humility crooked with love’s bravado. A humility
stoking the peat fire from a Scottish distillery.
A humility brazen with tenderness,
rinking roughshod on the ice
of his sudden plummets and forays.
On their way out the door, the hipsters tell him,
“I like your stuff, man.”
He wonders if his underwear has become transparent.
His shyness is a Potemkin village screening
a river doused delicious with savoir-faire. He pants
to explicate the world he stepped back from in his shyness.
A politician’s demeanor unperturbed
by political calculation. Is his shyness a wound
or a shield? He noses out the posturers, the poetasters.
Parsimonious of praise, when he thumbs you up,
you are a gladiator spared by Tiberius, held over
till the next contest. You are a yearling
and he will corral you with his imperiously big-hearted,
sweetly peat-soaked soul. You will learn to listen,
besotted with the sound
fountaining from the vents he has cracked open
on the bottom of the sea.
Copyright © 2019 by Tom Daley.