The day 27 prompt at Poetic Asides was “write a looking back poem.” Since so many of my poems are “looking back” pieces, the prompt wasn’t much of a stretch. It also left a wide field for my imagination to wander. Then I saw a story about Joni Mitchell’s rumored coma and remembered encountering a certain song almost 40 years ago:
AS JONI LIES SLEEPING
In the communal barn where everyone gathered,
students took turns at the grand piano.
They played classical pieces or old-time standards,
but what captured my attention
was this lovely melody with haunting chords
that soared into the rafters and fluttered
in and out like doves. I asked around
until someone said the song might be
“For Free” by Joni Mitchell. I searched
out the album when I got home,
and there were those chords, then the words
the pianist hadn’t sung. Even now,
that song takes me back to the high-beamed barn,
Vermont in August, the creak of worn rattan furniture,
and the serious voices of serious young writers
discussing literature over martinis.
I imagine the streets of nearby Middlebury
and see a busker fingering his clarinet.
A lithe young blonde crosses against the light
to stand before him, shy and admiring,
before she tosses coins
into his upturned hat.