Blues for Almost Forgotten Music

By Roxane Beth Johnson b. 1967
I am trying to remember the lyrics of old songs
                                                            I’ve forgotten, mostly
I am trying to remember one-hit wonders, hymns,
                                              and musicals like West Side Story.
Singing over and over what I can recall, I hum remnants on
                                                             buses and in the car.
I am so often alone these days with echoes of these old songs
                                                          and my ghosted lovers.
I am so often alone that I can almost hear it, can almost feel
                                                        the half-touch of others,
can almost taste the licked clean spine of the melody I’ve lost.
I remember the records rubbed with static and the needle
                                                                     gathering dust.
I remember the taste of a mouth so sudden and still cold from
                                                                         wintry gusts.
It seemed incredible then — a favorite song, a love found.
                                                                It wasn't, after all.
Days later, while vacuuming, the lyrics come without thinking.
Days later, I think I see my old lover in a café but don’t,
                                                                        how pleasing
it was to think it was him, to finally sing that song.
This is the way of all amplitude: we need the brightness
                                                                         to die some.
This is the way of love and music: it plays like a god and
                                                                       then is done.
Do I feel better remembering, knowing for certain
                                                                       what’s gone?

Roxane Beth Johnson, “Blues for Almost Forgotten Music” from Jubilee. Copyright © 2006 by Roxane Beth Johnson. Reprinted by permission of Anhinga Press.

Source: Jubilee (Anhinga Press, 2006)

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Poet Roxane Beth Johnson b. 1967


Subjects Living, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Music, Love, Heartache & Loss

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Roxane Beth Johnson


Roxane Beth Johnson earned an MFA from San Francisco State University. She is the author of Jubilee (2006), chosen by Philip Levine for the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry from Anhinga Press, and Black Crow Dress (2013).
Of African American and Italian heritage, Johnson has said that her early literary influences were the Bible and church hymns; later influences include the poets Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens, and Rainer Maria . . .

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Poems by Roxane Beth Johnson

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SUBJECT Living, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Music, Love, Heartache & Loss


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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