THE MAGICAL FUNGI OF ETERNITY
How many thousands of years passed
before the emperors noticed
The Magical Fungi of Eternity
were not miraculous, did not ensure longevity
and tasted silty and gray.
The fungal appearance, however, was enchanting,
a brain in its natural state
upon a companionable stump
or secreted into the damp wound
of a trunk, sprung
from the hairy pate,
free to grow itself, to furl itself
in chanted swirls, to consort
with a breeze, unplugged
from the cords of hand and heart.
Kingdom, phylum, genus.
THE MUSSOLINI QUARTET
Amalgamated in America but tugged by its strands of origin,
swing was promiscuous, pinging across lines like uncracked code.
The girls back home, blowing off the dictator’s ban,
paired up with any civil servant willing to whip them,
spin them, flip them like burgers on the dance floor.
At the front their boyfriends hummed Gershwin
while locking Yanks in their sights.
“Is this any way to win a war!” the dictator bellowed,
yet his own son, at the grand piano in the marble hall
where generals gathered and sipped Chianti,
noodled “Stardust.” (Aida fainted.)
While the enemy danced to bootleg records,
the American boys got to hear it live
when the Count and the Duke would sail over there
and play on a plywood stage within earshot of mortars.
The seductive rhythm of swing pulsed soon soon soon
while the bones shouted now now now
and the reeds twittered lies lies lies to the troops
who survived on French tarts.
But the music was made for dancing,
and the crazed privates would have swung each other
had there been half an inch of space in the mud.
Hearing it without dancing, though,
was like drinking tin cups of chicory coffee.
And when the musicians packed their axes,
the boys felt as they did after their rendezvous,
pining all the more for their gals back home.
After the war swing’s satin harmonies were torn loose
by switchblade solos, a difference between scotch and heroin.
But the dictator’s son was a son too of swing.
Under an assumed name, he formed a quartet
that found a gig in a bayside café in Naples.
An accordion player accented the jazz
but the drummer enforced a finger-snapping swing.
And after a suitable duration,
during which the defeated learned to shrug again,
the son reclaimed his name and recruited a big band
that got steady bookings in Rome.
And the one-armed men at the Moose Lodge,
lit violet by the jukebox,
dropped dimes on “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”
while nursing their beers and muttering about their wives
and spinning stories about how those French girls swung.