Gospel — Peter Mladinic

Schaeffer writes to Tasia:

“Rhythm & blues, nothing like it!
The languid lovely haunting sound
I heard back then, and now
when I see music I see a long
narrow shop, walls lined with
’45 vinyl discs sometimes red
or yellow, mostly black, inlaid
with labels: blue, green, pink,
black and names: Chance, Duke,
Peacock, Checker, a montage
of color and design.  Up front
across a counter sat Dennis:
dark eyes, rosy cheeks, sensuous lips
and a few thin cowlicks spilled
partly down his forehead.  Dennis
knew R&B very well, not
R&B as we hear today, but stuff
from the late 40’s, early 50’s.
he was fortunate to be at the heart
of all those languid melodies,
not jump tunes, but the ballads.”

Schaeffer saw him in later years
only once before Dennis passed.
A different record shop, where both
were visitors.  Dennis’s opened black
leather revealed a waist that had
thickened, and instead of rosy cheeks
there was a puffiness to his face.
Somehow gospel came up in their
talk, Schaeffer said the Swan Silvertones
to which Dennis replied, Oh,
they’re the best, a wry smile
in his eyes.  Schaeffer felt he’d
been right all along, these past
few years, since he began listening
to gospel, that the Swan Silvertones
with their tenor lead Claude Jeter
were the best.  Dennis corroborated
Schaeffer’s feeling.  He thinks—
when he sees Dennis up front in
a corner of the long narrow shop—
music is feeling, you feel the music.

Schaeffer’s Notion of Beauty

Bombs turn a building to rubble,
rescuers find 
an arm, a leg.

In a mall a maniac fires a rifle,
leaving in his wake
dead children.

Hate manifestos 
all over the Internet,
in the world there is danger:

a racist shoots Satyajit Chandra
at a bus stop
and nothing is done.

Still, even now, beauty 
is with us.

©2021 Peter Mladinic
All rights reserved

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