Ray is Gone
when I was a boy I lip-synced "hit the
at 60's integrated San Jose, CA neighborhood party
by black neighbors (I had been Doctor Lloyd's first patient
accidentally concussed by driveway baseball bat swung
by my best friend)
to do the twist wearing my side laced pointed shoes
a garage full of food and dancing I didn't
want to leave for bed.
age 15 my friend's father told us Ray Charles
heroin addict "we saw him sniff it off his
at Circle Star Theater show
but when I grew friendly myself
with Lady Dope
know nobody'd waste
besides, by then he'd kicked
legend has it
"what I say" improvisation to end a show
said: "follow me" and the band and Rayettes
jumped 'board his raw freight train
jamming heavy to the heart of R & B
call and response until the house lights came
his life behind the ivories
his voice of this nation
from gospel to country western to
"anything I can make mine"
full of hope and pain
"America the Beautiful"
when he sings it.