Two Poems by Maria Rachel Hooley

American Popular Music

What was the song the juke box played
the first time you ever saw her-
the slender vision you hadnít believed existed.
Was it So Much In Love or Be My Baby,
some melody so inevitable,
You held need for the first time
in hands rough from farming.
You were a country boy who left a California cotton field
to join Uncle Sam.
You werenít expecting her when you entered Lubyís--
a place of meatloaf and chicken fried steak,
not a latitude and longitude
where you life was about to change.
What melody were you humming--
Unchained Melody-
the sensuous notes draping my motherís figure,
the uniform hiding the future travels your body would commit
	to memory.
You saw her there, smelled Channel No. 5
filling the air with invisible bubble time would pop.
What melody haunted you when I was born-
What notes did my first scream rival?
Was it Happy Together or Iím a Believer?
and as you held me for the first time,
sitting next to my mother in the hospital,
Did the strains of that first love song still echo
in the back of your mind?
Fast forward thirty-seven years
when it is not my mother but instead you
who fill the hospital bed.
Time is numbed by pain and sleep
as I sit beside you, wondering
what is this new melody that I canít hear
and you canít seem to shake.
What notes haunt you,
Whispering from beneath the betrayal of flesh
as foreign cells begin a war with your lungs and heart?
Iíd tell you that whatever the song,
it wasnít good enough to make the top 40ís
But youíve never been about charting anything,
just arriving.

Gravitational Pull

At fourteen, thereís a different story in how you look everyday,
Sometimes blonde hair, sometimes red,
Hand-touseled or straight.
Every three weeks you cut off an inch and
I must reaffirm landmarks.
Youíve started getting phone calls
But none of the guys have struggled from
That cellular world
Into the radar your father and I monitor.
Even without boots, you stand taller than I,
Something every child strives to master-
Iíll surrender that victory,
Secure that while we did not teach you
Everything to know about boys,
Weíve managed to keep them in the outer orbit.
Still, I know you hear the displacement of
Life in their wake,
And one day soon,
Perhaps during a pool party
When the sun bronzes the skin
Not covered by your blue bikini,
When you dive into the blue water,
Your long body taut with you and promise,
You will rise and thrust your head above the surface,
Finally aware of how gravity changes
Under pressure.

Maria Rachel Hooley