Daniel J. Pizappi
Funeral Dirge With Keys and Horns
The real king of rock n roll is dead
and I keep thinking how that
left hand of his is probably
still rolling through bass runs
on a mortician’s slab somewhere.
A friend told me it was only after
Tom Petty died that he realized how
much those songs meant to him.
And I thought: same.
And about how I sat with my daughter
on my knee and tears in my eyes,
mind hopping from the heartbreak
of Las Vegas to hundreds of nights
with the Heartbreakers howling
out the stereo in my dad’s garage,
a boombox on the porch,
or next to a fire by a creek
somewhere—how he’d been there.
And I thought how it’s only after
anyone dies that we realize how
much they meant to us.
Only when it’s too late.
And now I think how we used
to sit up nights in the kitchen,
Stoney and I, till two or three
in the morning. And how we’d
talk about everything—books,
songs, the future, the past
—and how he’d put on some
Fats and we’d talk about how that
right hand was all flash and thrill
and treble, but how the real thing
what really made it
was that left hand holding
down the bass.
And I remember how he’d drink wine
like water, how he’d stop smoking
just long enough to fill his pipe, how
the smoke would curl around his head,
how, especially in the winter when it
hadn’t been cut, smoke would stain
his white hair yellow at the ends,
and how his wheelchair would grind
bits of tobacco into the tiles when he
backed around to grab another bottle.
How he’d been living on borrowed time
for years before we met.
And I think how damn scared I am of the day
I’ll find out how much he meant to me.
Daniel J. Pizappi grew up in New York’s Hudson River Valley and currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is a PhD student, Managing Editor of Grist: A Literary Journal, and co-editor of the anthology Kentucky Writers: The Deus Loci and the Lyrical Landscape (Des Hymnagistes Press, 2016). His work has appeared in Your Impossible Voice, Burningword, and The Schawangunk Review.