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Blind Ray is Gone


when I was a boy I lip-synced "hit the road, jack"

at 60's  integrated San Jose, CA neighborhood party

hosted by black neighbors (I had been Doctor Lloyd's first patient

accidentally concussed by driveway baseball bat swung

by my best friend)

encouraged 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 was

heroin addict "we saw him sniff it off his handkerchief"

at Circle Star Theater show

but when I grew friendly myself

with Lady Dope

know nobody'd waste it

that way...


besides, by then he'd kicked

cold turkey

legend has it

"what I say" improvisation to end a show

Ray 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 up.


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

samsara's reward

"America the Beautiful"


when he sings it.



[Originally published in NHS 2004, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs04/Peter_Marti.html.]