MARVIN GAYE RECORDS “LET’S GET IT ON”
By Jeff Fallis
Janis Hunter’s just sixteen,
and her mother’s her traveling companion
when she goes to meet Marvin
in the studio. Who wouldn’t want to meet
him? She’s nervous, sort of shy,
unfailingly polite, freckles on her nose,
dark-eyed, wide-mouthed. Marvin gets
distracted after they meet, can’t stop looking
over at her. And the song’s
already written and arranged, but Marvin
hasn’t sung it yet, so it’s
really still a blank space on the studio
sheet, an open end, a void.
Janis is there because she’s family friends
with Ed Townsend, Marvin’s new
collaborator, technically, but it’s
so tempting to read all sorts
of mystical significance into her
having been there. After all,
they would go on to get married, make babies,
torment the life out of each
other. (That dream Marvin kept having about
her : whirling from man to man,
in reach, out of reach, distant lover, little
erotic dervish he can’t
unpeel his eyes from.) She listens intently
from the control room with Ed
and her mother and some Motown honchos there
to keep an eye on liquor
and drug and strange studio expenditures.
Marvin knows he could make her
believe he was singing to her and only
to her without trying to,
even : he’s been honing the skill for years and
years. All those screaming women,
all that coy eye contact with the first few rows
of sold-out seats. But this time
he means it, this time he’s hungry and horny
and his heart’s even in it,
his heart’s even galloping out of his chest
into the gray microphone
and the electrical coils and control room
and pure radio ether
that lies beyond L.A., beyond what he
or any of them can see,
beyond acrimony and alimony,
beyond sex, beyond fucking,
beyond Detroit, beyond the Hollywood Hills,
beyond the beyond, beyond
evening or album or circumstance. We put
something out in the world and
it moves beyond us, it takes its baby steps
and goes around the corner
where we are only dimly aware of what
effect it’s having, who it’s
making time with. And Marvin, what a nice thing
to have said, to have sung : We’re
all sensitive people, with so much to give.
And since we got to be here,
let’s live. Marvin bawls, he balls, he growls, he pleads,
lays it out, lays it down, while
Janis listens, butterfly-stomached, wide-eyed.
IN A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY
By Kevin Prufer
A good way to fall in love
is to turn off the headlights
and drive very fast down dark roads.
Another way to fall in love
is to say they are only mints
and swallow them with a strong drink.
Then it is autumn in the body.
Your hands are cold.
Then it is winter and we are still at war.
The gold-haired girl is singing into your ear
about how we live in a beautiful country.
Snow sifts from the clouds
into your drink. It doesn’t matter about the war.
A good way to fall in love
is to close up the garage and turn the engine on,
then down you’ll fall through lovely mists
as a body might fall early one morning
from a high window into love. Love,
the broken glass. Love, the scissors
and the water basin. A good way to fall
is with a rope to catch you.
A good way is with something to drink
to help you march forward.
The gold-haired girl says, Don’t worry
about the armies, says, We live in a time
full of love. You’re thinking about this too much.
Slow down. Nothing bad will happen.
By Ellen Bryant Voigt
Up there on the mountain road, the fireworks
blistered and subsided, for once at eye level:
spatter of light like water flicked from the fingers;
the brief emergent pattern; and after the afterimage bled
from the night sky, a delayed and muffled thud
that must have seemed enormous down below,
the sound concomitant with the arranged
threat of fire above the bleachers.
I stood as tall and straight as possible,
trying to compensate, trying not to lean in my friend’s
direction. Beside me, correcting height, he slouched
his shoulders, knees locked, one leg stuck out
to form a defensive angle with the other.
Thus we were most approximate
and most removed.
In the long pauses
between explosions, he’d signal conversation
by nodding vaguely toward the ragged pines.
I said my children would have loved the show.
He said we were watching youth at a great distance,
and I thought how the young
are truly boring, unvaried as they are
by the deep scar of doubt, the constant afterimage
of regret—no major tension in their bodies, no tender
hesitation, they don’t yet know
that this is so much work, scraping
from the self its multiple desires; don’t yet know
fatigue with self, the hunger for obliteration
that wakes us in the night at the dead hour
and fuels good sex.
Of course I didn’t say it.
I realized he watched the fireworks
with the cool attention he had turned on women
dancing in the bar, a blunt uninvested gaze
calibrating every moving part, thighs,
breasts, the muscles of abandon.
I had wanted that gaze on me.
And as the evening dwindled to its nub,
its puddle of tallow, appetite without object,
as the men peeled off to seek
the least encumbered consolation
and the women grew expansive with regard—
how have I managed so long to stand among the paired
bodies, the raw pulsing music driving
loneliness into the air like scent,
and not be seized by longing,
not give anything to be summoned
into the larger soul two souls can make?
Watching the fireworks with my friend,
so little ease between us,
I see that I have armed myself;
fire changes everything it touches.
Perhaps he has foreseen this impediment.
Perhaps when he holds himself within himself,
a sheathed angular figure at my shoulder,
he means to be protective less of him
than me, keeping his complicating rage
inside his body. And what would it solve
if he took one hand from his pocket,
risking touch, risking invitation—
if he took my hand it would not alter
this explicit sadness.
The evening stalls,
the fireworks grow boring at this remove.
The traffic prowling the highway at our backs,
the couples, the families scuffling on the bank
must think us strangers to each other. Or,
more likely, with the celebrated fireworks thrusting
their brilliant repeating designs above the ridge,
we simply blur into the foreground,
like the fireflies dragging among the trees
their separate, discontinuous lanterns.