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Poem covers: CAN YOU DISCERN DEVOTION FROM NEED?

Updated: Mar 24


Poem: "Wednesday Night Want and Worship" by David J. Bauman from his collection Angels and Adultery (Seven Kitchens Press)

Music by Seth Pennington












I was born singing. It's my first memory, I think, humming this gentle refrain in the back of my parents' diesel Suburban. It was my sleep song, a loose collection of eighth notes that still reels through my mind when I need to remember to breathe again.


That thread of music runs all through my life--from church choir to high school band playing trumpet, picking up the bass, then guitar; I walked out of my first guitar lesson determined to teach myself. And did.


It was my music that eventually led to my poems, and poems (mine, yours) always lead back to songs. Bryan Borland was first. For the launch of his second book, Less Fortunate Pirates, I finger-picked a melody and sang his poem "What I Want You to Know."


If anything, my memory is awful. I cannot remember my own poems. I cannot remember my own lyrics, which means I don't play in public because I think it false to not fully internalize those words, to rely on an obtrusive stand, a mess of shuffled papers.


What I can do: I study a poem by sight-reading, guitar in hand. I sing the poem. I become its rhythm. I do this as an act of revision, too. My constraint becomes breath, melody, or breaking breath, breaking melody. There's a chorus or there's not a chorus, depending.


Sometimes a poem-song sticks.


There are times that the creative energies around me begin communicating with each other. Example, in cleaning out a closet, a Jayhawks record called Rainy Day Music gets found. That same week a new chapbook from David J. Bauman called Angels and Adultery is in the mail. The poems feel like the record and the record then feels like the poems, like a tender question with a tender answer back. Or more, these poems say this: "these are the pieces of my life; this is everything.”


If a poem is a vessel and a song another, then listen to how the water tastes the same, different in each.



David J. Bauman

"Wednesday Want and Worship"


Midweek here, folks dig Bibles out

from bedside drawers, count singles

for collection plates, put on ties or skirts,

gather at church for prayer meeting, and

fellowship after—a bit of gossip a little laughter.


Others snatch quarters from car ashtrays

to redeem for tokens in the viewing booths

on Route Fifteen, south of County Line.

Dressed to be noticed, or not. Maybe head

to Wild Jay’s later, for strippers and spirits.


Show me the difference. Believers, desperate

or sincere, will seek communion.

Can you discern devotion from need?

One man prays one-handed before a screen

in the dark, while another slips bills


into the thong of an oiled young man.

I sat in the back pew once because it was

better than being alone. And who hasn’t tried

to love out of fear, or hope of reward?

Now when I taste flesh it’s not a symbol,


though it might be a salvation. Adoration goes

to the house of a friend with nothing

to ask for; returns the borrowed shovel,

receives a glass of wine, and baptizes freely

with praise and reverent eyes.

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little rock, arkansas
seth@siblingrivalrypress.com