“Reverend Billy’s Boogie Woogie and Mom’s Gulbransen” by Gianna Russo

The Palladium Theatre, Saint Petersburg, FL.

We’re here for the Hillbilly Deathmatch.
Two balladeers duking it out:
heartbreak vs. boogie woogie
Les Paul guitar vs. Steinway Baby Grand.
The Friday Night music palace seeps age and glory–
rows of faded velvet seats, wooden backs worn smooth
from decades of sweat and delight.

The balladeer’s got the guitar: his fingerwork is a cheery stroll,
his second-tenor-muttered lyrics walking us around the yard,
down the block to the intersection of Heartbroke and Wanting More.
We’re referees: our seat-shifting and half-yawns call it:
no way is that round going to him.

Then Reverend Billy stomps on stage
in a cowboy zoot suit and kickass boots.
He pounces on the ivories, his hands
the tarantella, the electric slide, the St. Vitus dance of boogie woogie.
We hoot and jive in our seats.
It’s a musical K.O.

God, it feels good to get shaken this way,
after months of putting the house to sleep,
forcing a coma on one room at a time.
Rev says he want to slow it down, play somethin pretty.
Melodic and melancholy, it takes me
to my mother’s back room
where her old upright Gulbransen sags unsold, untuned.
She filled the house with show tunes and old standards–
South Pacific, Annie Get Your Gun, her low alto tremolo.
It’s been mute for years.

Rev caresses the Steinway.
Behind him the velvet curtains are crenelated, ballooned.
Above him the stage lights are blue as my mother’s eyes.

Gianna Russo is the author of the full-length poetry collection, Moonflower (Kitsune Books), winner of a Florida Book Awards bronze medal, and two chapbooks, including one based on the art work of Vermeer, The Companion of Joy (Green Rabbit Press). Russo is founding editor of YellowJacket Press, (www.yellowjacketpress.org ), Florida’s publisher of poetry chapbook manuscripts. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has published poems in Ekphrasis, Crab Orchard Review, Apalachee Review, Florida Review, Florida Humanities Council Forum, Karamu, The Bloomsbury Review, The Sun, Poet Lore, saw palm, Kestrel, Tampa Review, Water-Stone, The MacGuffin, and Calyx, among others. In 2017, she was named Best of the Bay Local Poet by Creative Loafing. She is assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University, where she is editor-in-chief of Sandhill Review and director of the Sandhill Writers Retreat.

 

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