Daily Archives: August 25, 2015

The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra

Originally posted on 7/21/2010.

A klezmer band purchases a sheepdog
to act as band mascot.  

They change the name of the band to
The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra.

In their hometown south of Detroit,
The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra
plays weddings so often
that the sound of a clarinet in the street
prompts proposals, engagements, elopements…

The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra
begins to travel widely
and soon achieves a degree of acclaim. 
Everywhere they go, they bring the sheepdog 
(known to the audiences only as The Sheepdog) with them. 

He lies on stage during their sets,
perking up for the dances then 
dropping his sad head to the floor
for vocal lamentations and slow songs,
peering out at the audience
through his fringe of fur,
looking right and left.

The Sheepdog is in private life named David.
The band keep this name to themselves,
as they keep their own names private
from the audiences they play for,
using stage names —

Aaron Out Front,
Judith Judith,

Ronaldo Star,
Jonathan Regretful,

Felix the Cat,
Sam The Fiddler.

Sam The Fiddler, in particular,
loves The Sheepdog and
is David’s closest companion in the band:
walking him during breaks;
petting him for long hours
in the privacy of hotel rooms;

brushing his thick coat
before every gig
until it is nothing but shine.

I only have ever seen them play once,
and am not a fanatic
for klezmer music in general — 

but at the wedding
of close friends from college, I saw

The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra
play for hours,
and I danced and wept
as much as the families did

for their offspring.

Tonight on the radio, in the early dark of pre-dawn,
I heard a recording of The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra
and thought of you again: I have never forgotten

how your hair fell across your face so often
that it seemed I was always brushing it back
to see your eyes;

how I danced
and wept with you
and we called both
a celebration of us;

how it seemed
that band was playing

whenever we spoke
or loved, 
and the air itself
blurred into song.

This is not to say
that remembering you
reminds me of a sheepdog,
The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra,
or of weddings or dancing

as much it is to say
that when I think of
joy and sadness mixed,

of caring that demands
the constant brushing of hair

from soft eyes, of hours of travel
and the rewards

of keeping private
what is most your own,
those moments have a soundtrack

and you sing to me on that soundtrack
like a clarinet,
like Gershwin,

like klezmorim,
like some few weddings
I have attended.


WeCanWorkItOut (AllYouNeedIsLove)

An hour from now
everything will likely be all
ironed out.

Flattened,
unwrinkled world to come,
we await you

and your generous spirit,
your lack of complication.
We shall sit here

and contemplate the 
impending grandeur of 
such perfection, brought about

by good intentions and
the sincere and rhythmic
wringing of hands

to songs we’ve heard
a million and one times;
what joy that it finally worked,

what joy
that our boundless optimism
has not been in vain.

An hour from now
we’ll surely be able to sing 
so sweetly, so unencumbered

by nagging doubts 
that there was something more
than love needed, something more

than goodwill needed
to end war, hate, injustice,
all the rest of those things,

we can barely stand to say
those names, doubtless 
we’ll
forget about them, 
forget

the words themselves 
an hour from now when
the Sixties 
finally kick in.