Tuesday 25 August 2015


Forty years ago today, Born To Run was released, and Bruce Springsteen would soon be on the cover of Time magazine. It was just before that album came out, some time in July 1975, that my high school friend Bryan 'Snake' Sperry and I took a trip up to Tanglewood, in the Berkshires, to hear Springsteen, outdoors, among a crowd of maybe 1,200 people. My college roommate Steve Berman, who grew up near Asbury Park, had introduced me to Springsteen's music when I taught at Georgetown Visitation Convent School and stayed with him while he was in law school at Catholic U.

Along with us on the trip was the Annie of this poem, Annie Donnelly, whom I'd met while I was teaching summer school at Wesleyan. I'd just met Tom Disch, who was also teaching there, on the bus up to Middletown (I've written about that here), and I sat in on his class, which Annie was taking. As it happened she was at Trinity, where Bryan had studied, and they knew each other a bit, I think. Anyway, for me it was coup de foudre, and I recall talking her into seeing the Boss. I also recall she not only came along, but drove, at breakneck pace, in her Beetle. I've had a fondness for Route 44 ever since I was hanging part way out the passenger's window, holding the side view mirror on. 

I've just moved house again, and I found this old photo: Annie & Bryan and Tanglewood in the summer of '75. I can see my enraptured state reflected in the way Annie looks. Of course it didn't last. And a few weeks later I moved to Montreal, to do a masters at McGill. I finished the poem in September, and it was published in 1976, titled 'The Morning After,' in a nice magazine called En Passant, which if I remember right was published in Delaware.
I collected it in Chump Change, which was the final Northern Lights chapbook, in 1991. Oddly, although it was the Springsteen anniversary that prompted my reprinting the poem here; the new title came to me a couple of weeks ago (it's from JJ Cale's song, obviously). I suspect I was remembering, without realising it, another 40th anniversary


Old women force smiles & ask if it is hot enough for me.
Magnolia is still in heat; she attracts a crowd
Of suitors. It makes her nervous, having to deal with
Their anxieties. Eight in the morning & already
The dew has burned away. It will be as bad as yesterday
When I went crazy with the heat, or something.
The rest of the city is still asleep, sweating, except
For those watchers, and the panting dogs.
Annie sleeps, still.
I chase away
The puppie's would-be lovers; she doesn't seem
To miss them at all. She fetches sticks until symbolism
Begins to bore her. Chews one to splinters.
As we walk home
My feet start to stick to the pavement. Maggie waves
Her tongue in surrender. Mine feels tired too.
It is getting hotter. On the landing I look at
The neighbour's paper: three humans killed in Hartford
Last night. Not counting us. Someone will be murdered
Today; they will make tomorrow's paper. I will not
Be here to read about them.
Magnolia gets cold
Milk in her bowl. Annie wakes, leaves the bed,
Kisses me the way she clears the kitchen table
For her breakfast. If I were saner I would still be
Sleeping. The heat gets worse. It cannot last.

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