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Boogie Child

Boogie Child


One night I was laying down, I heard mama and papa talkin’. I heard papa tell mama to let that boy boogie woogie ’cause it’s in him and it got to come out.
—John Lee Hooker, “Boogie Chillen


Our time was Thursday, 5 o’clock,

my psychiatrist’s door always opened wide,

him wearing a wool sweater, sipping tea,

lights dimmed to an endless twilight.

We sat in matched leather club chairs,

and the smell and feel of the chair’s skin

reminded me of ten thousand tanned hides

stacked ceiling high in my father’s factory,

their perfumed animal oil and pigment

soaked into the stained flesh of his hands.

Dead from cancer, I longed to have him back,

to talk man to man, but what I got instead

were dreams of John Lee Hooker

wearing a wide-brimmed felt fedora,

one of my father’s sweatbands sewn inside,

The Hook teaching me to play “Boogie Chillen”

on my father’s old D’Angelico guitar.

I can still feel the heavy steel strings

cut my fingers, the years of yearning,

all the sessions I sobbed and clutched

the tissue box until I could finally feel

the buried beat and knew my psychiatrist

believed I could boogie. I learned to play

my father’s songs, the jazz chords he loved,

and I can still hear my doctor’s voice

when I greet my patients with music I heard

those Thursdays when he jammed with me.

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