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.