This poem came out of the March 18, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from technoshaman and lb_lee. It also fills the "party / festival" square in my 3-6-14 card for the Origfic Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by technoshaman. It belongs to the Damask thread in the Polychrome Heroics series.
It's been raining for over a week
and now the Theatre Department
has announced a karaoke night.
I don't have anything to do on Friday night --
it's too hard trying to keep up
with Maisie's old friends --
so I decide to go to the party.
Maybe I can start making
some friends of my own.
The students from Stage Dressing 402
have put up an enormous tent on the lawn,
right there in the middle of the Rangle,
lit from within like a Chinese lantern
glowing tawny orange in the autumn twilight.
There's a girl onstage already
whose breathy, compelling voice
sounds half-familiar to me
but I can't quite make it out
through her heartbreaking rendition
of "Rainy Day People."
Rainy day people don't mind
if you're cryin' a tear or two.
Rainy day people always seem to know
when you're feeling blue
High stepping strutters who land in the gutters
sometimes need one too
Take it or leave it, or try to believe it
If you've been down too long.
One side of the tent has a table
full of refreshments:
thermos kegs of coffee
and hot lemon tea,
a styrofoam cooler full of chili,
and platters of cookies.
I look through the song list
and see that it contains everything
from current hits to old movie scores,
folk and rap and pop and rock.
One title catches my eye
and makes me laugh,
so I make a selection.
When my number comes up,
I step to the microphone
and begin to sing:
Plant a hedge, cut it back
Dig a hole try to fill it
Plant a rose, tie it back
Find a mole, try to kill it
It's a maze this garden, it's a maze of ways
Any man can spend his day ...
As soon as Maze finishes singing,
she lets me come to the front
because she knows I saw
a song on the list that I wanted to do.
There's not a large crowd tonight,
given the rain and the chilly wind
slipping in the cracks of the tent,
so once you finish a tune
you can take another number
at the end of the line.
I hide in the shadows,
listening to bad pop songs
and worse covers of movie soundtracks.
I know I'm supposed to be
socializing, that's the point of a party,
but I feel too conspicuous to relax and chat.
Singing, that I can do; it's safer onstage
so I'm glad when my turn comes up.
There's a girl in my mirror
I wonder who she is
Sometimes I think I know her
Sometimes I really wish I did
Mira offers me an opening
at the end of her song, and I take it.
It's easy to move through the loose throng
and find the screen for the karaoke machine
that displays the song choices.
Someone has sorted out
a bunch of songs about rain --
no wonder we're hearing so many.
They've done "Singing in the Rain"
four times already.
I search for something different
to lift the clouds a bit
and settle on "Lasagna."
Thinking about that makes me hungry,
so I grab a bowl of chili while I wait;
it's not as good as minestrone,
but it's enough to warm me up.
I just have time to drop the empty bowl
in the trash before I'm called onstage.
You want-a some-a lasagna magnifico
Or a-maybe spaghetti
Ay, you supper's a-ready now, where you go
Mama mia bambino ...
After Ham steps down,
he invites me to take over,
so I find a chair and listen quietly.
A new singer comes onstage,
and I recognize Jason
from the Student Health Center.
His voice is warm and rich as he sings
about a warrior and his strange rescuer:
Pale was the wounded knight, that bore the rowan shield,
Loud and cruel were the ravens' cries that feasted on the field,
Saying "Beck water cold and clear will never clean your wound,
There's none but the Witch of the Westmoreland can make thee hale and
It's a beautiful song,
and Jason renders it well.
At the end he gives a graceful bow
and springs down from the stage
to disappear into a cluster of friends
all dressed in poet shirts and peasant blouses --
some sort of historic club, if I remember right.
I sidle over to them,
and Jason introduces me,
convinced that I need
to make more friends.
There are too many names
for me to keep them organized.
I remember Morris, a lively boy
with unruly black curls
who likes to talk about dance;
and Lyra, a quieter blonde girl
who turns out be a music major.
I stay with them until
the announcer calls me up,
and I can see them waiting
to hear what I'll sing.
Beside the world we live in
Apart from day and night
Is a world ablaze with wonder
Of magic and delight
Like a magic crystal mirror,
My computer lets me know
Of the other world within it
Where my body cannot go.
Clarity does a beautiful job
with the song about computers.
I've been content to hang back
and listen tonight, but then
I spot Dace in the crowd
and he looks so lost that
it starts me worrying.
Clarity steps aside for me
so that I can go check on him.
I snag a number on the way,
just in case I need it later.
Dace makes it onto the stage
before I can catch him.
He has a good voice for jazz,
soulful as a saxophone.
Willow weep for me
Willow weep for me
Bent your branches down along the ground
and cover me
Listen to my plea
Hear me willow and weep for me ...
I catch him afterwards, though,
and he seems a bit surprised to see me.
He gives me a shy smile,
then tucks his chin against his chest.
I ask him if anything is wrong,
but he just deflects, words rolling off
like water from a black umbrella.
Next thing I know, Jason
and Morris and Lyra
have surrounded us,
apparently having decided
that Dace is as much
in need of new friends as I am.
He's not used to being included like this,
and it shows in a swiftly hidden flinch,
but at least he doesn't pull away.
We hang out together,
groaning at the bad songs
and applauding the good ones
until it's my turn to step up.
I don't need to know
what's bothering Dace today
in order to offer sympathy,
and truth be told,
this song is for Jason too,
given the work he does.
When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough
Of this life, well hang on
Don't let yourself go
'Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes ...
At the end of Keane's song,
he tugs me gently forward, because
he knows that I like Dace too.
I haven't been paying as much attention
as some of my other headmates,
but I come out when I'm asked to.
Dace is there, and Jason,
along with several of Jason's friends.
I sort of know them from Clarity's memory
but it's foggier for me.
Morris is going on and on
about some sort of round dance
that he wishes they had more men for,
giving us hopeful little looks,
his eyes wide and dark as a deer's.
For once I'm grateful that
my outside body looks like a girl.
Dace and Jason are bearing the brunt
and Dace looks like he's about to bolt.
Finally Lyra shoos Morris away
and I manage to slip off
toward the refreshment tables.
My throat feels scratchy
after everyone else's singing
so I take a cup of hot lemon tea.
It's a good thing I do,
because no sooner have I finished it
than I hear the announcer call me up.
I jump, because I didn't take a number,
but Jason explains that he put me up
since I'd been singing all night.
He doesn't know it wasn't ME up there.
But Jason is watching me expectantly,
and Morris looks like a kicked puppy,
and Dace is all nerves.
I remember seeing "To Ease Your Pain"
from when Keane picked out his song,
so that will do for me.
I see the sad eyes behind your smile
Tears would be a welcome release
If you could let your guard down for awhile
You know you might find some peace
Ain't nothing you could do or say
That could shock me or drive me away
And I would do anything to ease your pain
You're not alone you're not insane
You come from a place where it always rains
And I would do anything to be your cure
So lay down with me and let me ease your pain ...
Clement slips back inside
and leaves me to take over
after the last verse of his song.
I ask for contact information
from Morris and Lyra,
and while I'm at it, Dace too --
which is usually Clarity's job, but
I'm here now and I can manage.
They're giving me funny looks,
and I know we've been switching all night,
so they probably think I'm bipolar or something.
If only they knew.
They can't know, though,
and I can fake being Maisie,
which is easier with people
who never knew the real one.
It's not so bad.
It's getting better.
Morris tells a joke then,
and Dace stutters a laugh,
tucked between him and Lyra.
It's getting better for everyone,
I think, as I make my goodbyes.
It's time for me to head home,
and I pull one more cup of tea
for the long walk in the rain.
Lyra turns out to be headed the same way,
and we walk together, sharing
her enormous umbrella.
We don't say a word,
and that's okay,
because the rain
makes its own music
over our heads.
* * *
Karaoke involves singing along to a background track of music. It has health and social benefits. Know how to choose and perform karaoke songs. Excerpts from songs in this poem are quoted via fair use, and are not counted in the line tally for purposes of pricing. If you like these snippets, I heartily encourage you to look up the originals and buy them.
Friendships are important for a healthy lifestyle and have many beneficial effects. There are tips for keeping your friendships intact even if you are busy or depressed.
"Rainy Day People" by Gordon Lightfoot is sung by Mallory Brasher / Farce. Read the lyrics or watch a video.
Lemon tea is one of several classics for maintaining a singing voice. You can make it with or without black tea as a base. Don't go overboard on caffeine though; it's not good for your voice.
"It's a Maze" by Secret Garden is performed by Maze.
Shyness can make social gatherings unpleasant. There are ways to overcome it.
"Girl in the Mirror" by Britney Spears is sung by Mira.
"Lasagna" is a Weird Al Yankovic song, popular in Italian-American culture, performed by Ham. It is sung to the tune of "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens.
"The Witch of the Westmoreland" by Stan Rogers is a fantasy folk song, sung by Jason.
Making friends is a basic life skill. Understand how to make friends and how to help a lonely friend connect with people.
"The World Inside the Crystal" by Steve Savitzky is a filk song widely considered the computer wizard's theme, performed by Clarity.
Loneliness can cause, or be caused by, a lot of other problems. Know how to recognize and help classmates who may be having trouble, and gauge the mental health continuum.
"Willow Weep for Me" by Ann Ronell is a jazz standard, performed by Dace.
"Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. is sung by Keane.
"To Ease Your Pain" by Jo O'Meara is performed by Clement.
Keeping secrets can cause a lot of stress. Damask are in the fuse box (with a secret identity separate from superhero work), have not told anyone about being a multiple system, and several of the headmates further have issues due to shifts in sexual orientation which they also have not revealed to any outside supporters. This is becoming a problem. Consider the pros and cons of coming out, and know ways of dealing with closet stress.