July Fourth this year is extra special. We will be celebrating not only the independence of our nation, but also our slow emergence from the strictures of the pandemic. Those of us who have been vaccinated are beginning to enjoy the simple pleasures of visits with friends, dinner out and walking around town without a mask. We look forward to the July Fourth parades, barbecues and fireworks, but the shadow of our economic shutdown has not disappeared.

So many people’s jobs were affected, but the ones I want to focus on here are those in the field of live entertainment, specifically musicians. This hits close to home for me, as my husband and his son are jazz guitarists and last year all the usual jobs they played dried up. My two nephews, accomplished pianists playing in the New York City area, had a similar experience. So I know firsthand what it’s like when the audience disappears.

Of course, these creative people found ways to share their music through a variety of means, whether it was playing on porches or collaborating on the internet. Still, it’s not the same. I’ve read at a number of Zoom poetry readings over the past year, and that silent clapping or quickly dashed comment in the chat room does not come close to the exuberance and energy of a live audience.

Dave Morrison of Camden is manager of the Camden Opera House and, in that position, knows a lot about what it takes to keep the music going. He has a history himself as a rock and roll performer, but I know him best as a poet. Back in the early days of this millennium, when I was just picking up steam as a poet, he was instrumental in helping me get published.

Dave has published 12 books of poetry and hosted countless readings. In this poem from the book “Welcome Homesick,” published by Jukebooks, he delves into the mind of a musician. He describes the poem as “a study in how what seem like random creative seeds can take root and grow — a collection of words, notes, colors.” He also addresses a dilemma many musicians are familiar with — struggling to balance their art with a day job. At the end of this poem, though, “it comes together in something beautiful and alive.”


He felt it on his

eyelids before he

opened them, that simple,

insistent pattern, a drummer with a

broken stick, a dancer with a

clubfoot, a box of rolling pins

dumped down the lighthouse stairs.

He hummed it to himself

through the toothbrush

foam, tap-danced it down

the stairs, heard snatches of

it in the subway wheels, tried

to whistle it under his breath,

fingered chords on his pant legs,

chased the melody like a fat man

chasing a butterfly with a heavy

net, almost got it, almost…

Found himself at work, the

butterfly gone out an open window, fifty

joyless tasks nipping at his cuffs like

fifty bad little dogs…but that night

the idea crawled out of his horn and

burst like fireworks and he was

mesmerized and grateful, and

so so happy.

Judy Kaber is Belfast’s poet laureate.