Here’s another poem for Passover. “Just Like Brian Wilson” starts as a critique of the concept of royalty, which I despise. It proposes that at the point in the Passover seder when people sing “Next Year in Jerusalem” (“L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim”), we instead should say “Wherever you want to be.” Jerusalem, after all, is a city built by and dedicated to royalty, the most anti-democratic of all forms of government. The remainder of the poem unfolds as a variation on the theme of where people desire to be, each new variation opening up rhythmically, ending with what was my utmost desire at the turn of the millennium when I wrote the poem: to be at a comfortable desk working on an important work of literary art. The imagined last line of the poem becomes the title, and refers to Brian Wilson doing exactly what I was wishing to do with increasing frustration. I was thinking, of course, of Wilson holing up in his basement for a year and writing “Pet Sounds,” perhaps the most influential pop music album ever recorded.
“Just Like Brian Wilson” was part of A Poet’s Haggadah, an anthology of poems created to replace parts of the traditional seder service.
JUST LIKE BRIAN WILSON
Do not believe in kings.
When others sing, In Jerusalem next year,
shunning David’s city, chant instead
Wherever you want to be:
in Paris or another European hub
studying the texture of paint under glass,
in the dust behind the plate, mask on,
in movement eyes closed swinging free
above the games and funnel cake,
swatting back half-budded branches
in the sound of boots slogging,
well-oiled, feet in sand, adrift in a book of lust,
or behind the closed door of a small room
overlooking a large view of the world
well-lit walls cluttered with fragments
hunched on a slightly hard chair
by the tools you need to think about things.
Published in A Poet’s Haggadah (2008, Beyond Baroque Literary Center)