On Music and These Men


I was raised on guitar, songs, piano,
and books, rather than rockers
my father didn’t approve of. In our house
it was traditional and folk
and only got as wild as Baez sings Dylan,
no small treasures. Plus all those piano lessons.
Before that, the facts are that my dad-maestro
had me playing baritone ukulele
and my sidekick brother singing
This Land is Your Land with me in harmony
as four and three year-olds.
And that I have become him.


Husband one turned me on to jazz, to fusion,
to Corea, Hancock, Zappa, Santana, to epic anthems
like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
To birthing our own music-driven household.
My folks had forbidden me to marry
this longhaired drummer who still inspires me.
The rest is history. For a brief moment
in those hurricane days, I was an artist
under the patronage of our particular alchemy.
Cue motherhood.

Just beyond childhood,
like my mother and our women before her,
mothering was good and good for me,
a shy one years away from ritual work
toward enlightenment beyond the care and feeding
of sons for more than two and a half decades.

And as the artist grows, so grows the art?
Not necessarily. Artists know
youthful exuberance has its own,
perhaps once in a lifetime authority.
But who knew just then? When you are young, time
means forever. His artist mother said
that at 24 he was immortal.
We all were.


In a next serious dance, like a cancer
we all lived through and learned from,
an inferno forged me and all of us in ways
I guess we were destined for.
It was about the great ladies then,
Billie, Ella, Sarah, Nina, and another powerhouse
he liked to tell a West Village dressing-room story about.
I’ll add her name when I retrieve it
from my lazy Susan memory.
The venerable Irish tenors and the rigors
of hymnals filled with perfect 4-part harmonies
and terrifying pedal lines fed and formed me, too.
And he said access
to the arts is life
or death.


On a new planet, an architect/musician found me
busking for part-time work on Craigslist.
We danced to the tune of architecture meets music.
It was ultimately all about structural integrity,
the beauty of a great bass line,
and transcending a muteness
that had enveloped me like a safe blanket
sometime during motherhood.
I thought we would dance forever,
even after he sailed away. There is power
and community in valuing the work of another
while knowing you are championed
from no matter what far star.

Silenced by ALS, his lip-rendered air guitar
played comic relief to his last audience
in final hours that he in fact damn well designed.
His grand idiosyncrasies still play inspirator
to me, inciting me in real time
and dreamtime to continue
and continue in whatever ways
in the midst of whatever


My three sons are men now.
One artist, two musicians,
each jams full out, chin deep
in the big stuff while tending to art
and thus to soul, whether or not that’s how they’d say it,
in a culture and in times in which that’s patently radical.
They proceed. Persevere. Prevail. And I know,
despite their like-it-or-not shotgun ride
along my half-crazed developmental nexus,
that I modeled that. They did and do inspire me
creatively, philosophically.


In today’s oasis of grace, husband two
is a de facto musicologist of the ’60s and ’70s.
Through him my mind was blown in particular
by the likes of Joe Cocker’s Woodstock version
of With a Little Help from my Friends,
Jimi Hendrix’s Star-Spangled Banner,
Joni Mitchell. Judy Collins.
The Animals to The Beatles.
So many others.

I have visceral memories of driving
like a bat out of Silver Lake in our dating days
in fits of ecstatic identification with some aspect
of the music of icons I hadn’t quite attended to,
including revelations from other great ones
we lost young. Joplin for one.

With him
I am free—for perhaps the fourth time
but in ways the first—to create. Evidence
of crucibles: mine,
his, ours,
that now fire my work
and much that I don’t know
yet. This
is the way
I want to live.


Now I’m driven
by the current political madness
to get how music from the Underground Railroad
to the civil rights movement,
from Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan
to Biggie and Tupac and beyond
can help propel us toward new ground
and grounding. I’m leaning in,
rocking on,
for these

My last of 30 poems in 30 days for National Poetry Writing Month, April 2017

Image by John Livzey


Teresa Young teaches private music students in Los Angeles and coaches savvy folks in accomplishing passion-based goals in healthy new ways. Clients include Boomers and GenXers seeking fulfillment in the second half of life and Millennials looking for meaning from the start. Teresa coaches by phone, in person, and via Skype outside the U.S.