I was back in Winthrop, driving though the town
Where I grew up. The radio’s off, but passing
By the brand new high school it’s vintage Motown
Comes blaring through the Bose speakers in Neil
Shapiro’s yellow Camaro. The top is down.
It’s nineteen seventy-one. We’re taking a “beach check.”
The great Temptations are singing as if they could drown
In the waves of what keeps running away with them.
I love the way they stretch out the crucial noun:
Imagin—a—tion. The girls on their towels are lying
Face-up or face-down. Their skin is golden-brown.
Neil is the president of the senior class
As well as the drama club. The sun is a crown
On his wavy luxuriant hair. Not one of our classmates
Is yet a shade in their underworld cap and gown
As Beauty walks by and he sings: I hear a tender
Rhapsody, but in—now slowing down—
Reality she doesn’t even know me…
Then speeding up to flee her laughing frown.
But no fleeing Myelofibrosis. Mellifluous term
For the terminal cancer that never made a sound
As it pulsed to the tribal beat of his chosen blood.
And now there’s no one around except the renown,
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Intoning their syrupy-scalding Tears of a Clown
They call Pagliacci. Congenial Neil, as white
As a ghost as he waits for the vials to fill. The town
Conducting a blood-drive. The need for “Ashkenazi
Jews.” The Mayo Clinic. The Music of Motown.
The reel to reel cassette not yet obsolete.
The canvas top on the yellow Camaro is down.
We’re passing The Neil Shapiro Center for
The Performing Arts. He’s Emerson College bound.