A poem for Record Store Day 2015

Yours truly, in Vientiane, Laos, 1974 or 1975, rocking dad’s headphones.

Tomorrow, April 18, is Record Store Day all across the globe. Vinyl records are definitely worth celebrating. I wrote this poem (inspired by Record Store Day) a few years ago, and I’m sending it out to all the vinyl-philes, and to the record stores that stand out in my own experience/memory — Homer’s in Lincoln, Nebraska and Pitchfork Records in Concord, New Hampshire, in particular).

Your Record Store

The one just barely breaking even downtown,
holding out across from the town common–
the one that deals almost exclusively in vinyl.
The one run by guys
who may or may not truly revere the analog,
who may or may not have Opinions about digital,
about the ephemerality and soullessness
of the download, et cetera, but who spend
whole shifts DJ-ing the store, music reaching
to the vintage pressed tin ceiling, rolling
down the aisles of milk crates.

The only playlist’s already printed
on the black disc’s swirling eye; any shuffling
requires warming up the second turntable,
which is do-able, but why disrupt
the string of songs assembled
in that order, for your pleasure, by artists?

At the coffee shop they give you the bum’s rush
if you don’t keep plugging the refill meter
to buy your tabletop and free wi-fi,
and the boutique saleswoman gets nervous
if you examine every shirt she’s got in stock.
But here, it’s understood you could spend
unaccountable hours flipping, flipping, flipping
through the bins, drunk on musty liner notes,
inspecting for scratches. It’s a good
Saturday afternoon’s labor, thumbing your way
from A to Z, across the vast archipelago
of genres and sub-genres–the taxonomy itself
a kind of music. You’ll always find something
good to spin here, an hour-long dissertation
on Miles Davis or Husker Du, or another album
demanding that you take it home, begging
for your needle in its groove.


Walter Cronkite Takes Off His Glasses

Lunch at the sports bar, a dozen televisions
peer down at us: Abtronic™ on one screen,
trivia on another; on a third,
another memorial service, dangerous mix
of grief and righteous self-congratulation —
Just give me Walter Cronkite
behind a desk
no made-for-TV-movie theme music
no made-for-TV-movie title graphic:
            Attack on America
            America  United
            America Strikes Back: This Time, It’s Depersonalized
no Mondrian split screen,
no hired-gun expert analyst in one corner,
no bonus talking head in the other corner
no ticker tape dragging along beneath,
no harried speculation to fill dead air,
no race for ratings —
just the story, and silence
when there’s no more story —
Just Walter Cronkite,
one man, one head, no ticker tape —
all info, no ‘tainment —
Just Walter Cronkite,
whose biggest dramatic flourish
was the occasional removal
of his spectacles
in grief or grinning disbelief:
            Kennedy shot
            Moon landing
Just Walter Cronkite
taking off his glasses,
maybe touching his forehead,
maybe shaking his head a little
before he pulls it together
and turns over the next page.