Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 333

Duke Street Rhapsody

steppin off the B* Train round midnight
I’m hip to jive in the downpour intro
spotlightin a backdrop to a slow tempo dance
n s’like all low-key
n ama slippin into a downbeat cloudburst
in the romance of an old sepia-stained
black and white
an ah dig it

I pull my collar, curl into my coat
my mood, upbeat indigo steppn
my steps, a riff, tap…, tap…, tappin
fuse into, drip…., drip…, drippin
a melody in rain follows me up to the top
n am wonderin… who’s playin?

facing me, remnants of the old meat market past
calling and responding to a present
used car sales lot hinting at a future
on a sign that’s been up there
oh.., longer than ah remember

it’s bitter, a hollow night
thick with damp-sound
n ama take a sharp right
into a multi-phonic combo rhythm
…tap, drip.., tap, drip.., tap, drip..,

till the only other passenger disappears
ghostlike in rain-blurred vision
in a squeakin jalopy hissing
whish-sh-sh, whish-sh-sh, whish-sh-sh

easing into her stride
fusing into a dynamic, rhythmic
whispered improvisation:
…tap.., drip.., whish-sh-sh
…tap.., drip.., whish-sh-sh
…tap.., drip.., whish-sh-sh

right again and I hit Duke Street
and the beat’s still with me
hiding like a shadow in the dark
n ama carrying it,
wearing it like a new suit

above me an endless horizon
of black and blue stretches into
unseen women in unison
veiled behind billowing skirt-clouds
sultry and sulking in torch song dreams
bellowing menacing clouds
heard in screams
n me am all mizzle-muddled
cause they’re crying lost love
in verse-scattered puddles

opposite me, diagonally
on a corner, the post office
up above, ahead, jutting out
from sandstone, a brilliant red
T logo, neon-ed to the hilt
like a Greek siren
singing me seductively
into the New Variety Bar
for a cold one
I’m tempted, hold out, to my Orpheus
drown out her song

I pass on through
keep steppin n look ahead
shop-shutters lowered, shushed
like the eyes of babes in slumber
till morning, it’s me n you baby
n rain playin thunder

a dissonance of drizzled
hammer a rap on countless surfaces
choralling madrigals into a quartet
merging with a cool duo
foot-steppin rain
as a bus stop’s metal roof strikes
a cadence of clanks..,
clank.., clank.., clank..,
improvised into one clear stroke
the pulse picks up
and the deluge wreaks havoc
n me, am in subdued rainfall
funk-ed all over a tempo
of fused harmonised chaos
n am still diggin it

n am picking up the pace
am struttin, hell, ma legs
thems Jitterbuggin all over the place

across the street, Cafe Tibo
stares back noiseless streaked people
running into water colour
further up, Coia’s, spills more of em
eating and drinking
onto a canvas of water-logged glass
upstairs, top dancer
an open window belts out Billie:         

“Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky
 Stormy weather
 Since my man and I ain’t together
 Keeps rainin all the time”

to a wall-shadowed couple
moon dancin in intimate embrace
two down, next close, three friends
lean out smokin
their high pitched giggles floatin
fall soakin in song
n am not jokin
am in a frenzy
of torrential refrain
dude, am all ovah this rain

am approachin Miller’s Bar
on the corner of Duke and Garfield
n a ‘witches brew’ of folks
pressed sardine-like
bars the doorway
in clouds of hissing

on the other side
Sonny’s Discount Store
Sunset Beach and Super Wok
sit together in a dynamic range
of intonations stretching
beneath bleached blonde tenements
where winking mercury droplets
hang like tears
before kamikazeing
from window ledges
humming an unsung ballad

jeepers creepers n I’m gettin down
on sweet muted chords
leapin all around me
then I hit the D* Train junction
crossways from the Duke
where it all comes together

that bebop rain takes the tune
as I stand looking at rainfall
playing through melody
it slightly flats out
then reaches harmony
as a stray drunk
staggers out on a high note
shape-shiftin and slippin
chords that he forms
into those interval cracks
between drips, he’s swingin
while a heavenly rhythm section
keeps soft time
in hushed drip-drop magic

he moves slowly through
the melodic body of the downpour
then compensates harmonically
moving mode and tempo
up a shot until only rain
can bring it all back down again

its breath-taking listening
and how seamless it all is
cept light and rain play me
cause when I look again
there’s Miles Davis in silhouette
standing in front of the Duke
head slightly bent
trumpet raised

*B Train (Belgrove Street Train Station)
*D Train (Duke Street Train Station)                                   

Ruby McCann

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