Audio: A version read by the author.
When I was committing the crime of high school,
the songs on the radio
took about two minutes to play,
and smoking a cigarette took about five,
so that things happened fairly quickly
as we passed the time and it passed us
without a sound except for the singing.
Singing by the Orioles, the Dubs, and the Clovers,
plus Lee Andrews and the Hearts,
who could do no wrong, according to me.
One night in the spring,
I even saw the Jesters battling the Paragons
on the stage of the Brooklyn Paramount,
then wandered the borough in a drizzle.
These days, if I’m not at my desk
or asleep in the back room,
I’m sitting in the garage
with a cup of coffee watching the rain
and waiting for that startling chord
that concludes “He’s Gone,” by the Chantels,
the five notes the rungs in a ladder
pointed into a vacant teen-age sky.
They were students together in the Bronx
at St. Anthony of Padua’s school,
but they named themselves
after a rival neighborhood school,
St. Frances of Chantal,
having wisely rejected the Paduas,
as I imagine them doing one afternoon.
Where are the Chantels now?
Playing in the snows of yesteryear?
Bathing in the waters of childhood?
Are they hanging in the domestic air
like a smoke ring over a kitchen table?
Or like one sailing from a girl’s mouth
in a car somewhere
only to vanish in a boy’s face
reflected pink in the rearview mirror?