Three Poems by Daniel Simpson

Farm Visit

After a long trip, we’re settling in,
everyone but me congregating in the kitchen
where Grandma brews coffee and sets out pie.
The women catch up on family news;
Dad and Grandpa talk fishing.

In the living room, I skate across
the radio dial, past the Beatles and Beach Boys,
an all-news station from Philadelphia,
and talk shows on fluttery signals
from the Midwest and Deep South,
until I land on a hockey game from Fort Wayne.

From the kitchen, my brother
cranks up the volume of his car-ride complaint,
casts about for the barb that will bait Dad.
Boring parents, he says, and stupid hicks
are not the way he wants to spend his weekend.

Dishes rattle and coffee splashes
when Dad jumps up to smack my brother
back down into the platform rocker
which scrapes across linoleum
until it crashes into the cellar door.

I don’t want to listen anymore.
I don’t want to hear the scuffle
of an adolescent kicking wildly
or the smack of my father’s palm on my brother’s face.

I fiddle with the dial, touch the antenna
as if, by fishing among stars
for radio waves, I’ll find a frequency
of magic that can set this household right.

*

A Taxi Driver Hears A Great Songwriter Speak

A weeknight evening and the place was to the rafters.
Luckily, I could swing it
so it wasn’t one of my twelve-hour days.
Some guy interviewed my hero
no more than fifteen feet from me.
Put me out big bucks for that front row seat,
but he’s worth it, the way he seems to know my life.
You know, we’re much more alike than different.
He was getting over the flu; I’d just had it.
When he took his guitar out of the case, he dropped his pick.
He might have a guitar rack in his bathroom,
but he has to sit on the can, same as me.
He doesn’t lose me with his talk
of open fifths and darkened thirds,
Little Jimmy Brown and the chapel bells.
Sure, his awards and albums made me jealous,
but I bet I know almost as much about music.
I’m as good at my day job as he is at his,
and if I didn’t have to make an honest living …
well, you never know.
At the reception and CD signing, he never showed.
We stood around with our plastic cups of wine,
while he slipped out the back. If I was him,
I’d have showed up. And afterward, I’d have walked
right out that front door and straight down Broadway.

*

Schonberg

Why would a young dog
give its life to guide the blind?
Ask the right question
to get a useful answer.
Did the dog have a choice?

What did the dog do,
once they neutered it
and slammed the kennel door
on its freedom dream?
It did its best to flourish.

And what about you—what
choices do you have left?
Do you take pleasure,
as Schonberg did in twelve tones,
unleashed by your limitations?

*

In 2017, Daniel Simpson and his wife, Ona Gritz, collaborated on two books, co-authoring Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems and co-editing More Challenges for the Delusional, an anthology of prompts, prose, and poetry. His first collection of poems, School for the Blind came out in 2014. The New York Times and numerous poetry magazines have printed his work. The recipient of a Pennsylvania Council of the Arts fellowship, he tends a blog at http://www.insidetheinvisible.wordpress.com.