Refrain is Living Twice by Dennis Mahagin

"Lightning Crashes" by Mark Wilson
“Lightning Crashes” by Mark Wilson

When I sat down to write this blog post, I logged faithfully onto the Internet.

Now I’ve dialed up Pandora Radio, and I’m listening to the 90’s Alternative Station.

My aim is to let a great song inspire the writing.

I won’t have to wait long.


Music: surely, one of the best ways of reaching for the past, while still rocking the Now.

Do you remember that song, “Lightning Crashes” by a band called Live ?

… forces pulling

from the center of the earth again

I can feel it …

Now the writing must kick in.


The 1990’s laid me about as low as a human can get, without actually shuffling off the coil.

I was a musician, but only played at it, really — until the addictions kicked in.

Looking back, I see that I could not help myself.

Because I would not listen.


And they say that the addict can’t be satisfied, and that’s true enough, I suppose.

But there’s more to the story than that. Of course. Suffice it to say that I survived my 90’s; but those years still live, wrapped up in psychic scars like girded purple ribbons. I’m better now, yet listening, really listening, is still no mean feat for me. I wonder what it must be like, to compose and record a song that is truly, truly great. To be a part of all that:

The bass line in the bridge: stately 16th notes create a phrase full of strange import, but one that is also a kind of contempt, for Time. Then, they do that bridge all over again, they do that bridge.

all over again …

which is exactly what the song requires, exactly in the moment.

And the singer. Oh, that singer.

He starts to wail so plaintive and ethereal, in the newly-forged key– but what’s he really saying?

I listen, listen, listen some more:

Get my act, together oh Lord, take us back

to the path. It must be kicking in…

The drums arrive then, like an avuncular angel, banging the ineluctable defibrillated beat.

Not a moment too soon, and the thing is nearly done.

Got a little sidetracked there, oh Lord,

in my time, my 90’s — but I can feel it, 

coming back … 


Like a rolling thunder, chasing the wind

it saves me, and serves me right again.


I believe the best writing always aims for this electrical meeting of the minds, the past butting right up against the moment, as the artist risks absolute imminent disaster, then pulls it off, like a wounded Cessna dodging multiple lightning bolts. It is struck, it’s forged, it’s done again, well nigh re–run, of a hit…


We know it, when we feel it. Coming back, to really, really listen…

Heart, rhythm. Electrons and tropes in white space, and all the right choices.

Exactly what the living thing needs, at exactly the right time.

And again.

It’s as near to the way music is done as anyone can conjure, and be sure.

The song, and the post (and the past) nearly done. Adieu.

And I’m thinking of a new poem I hope I can make, now – a logical extension of my characters in the two previous verses (Aubergine, and Eulogy) which I was fortunate enough to publish in Change Seven’s inaugural issue.

A new poem I would like to get to – next:

About reconciliation, an electric bass line; and a bottle.

See 1990’s … A Coda. 

Because being the poet is probably as close as I’ll ever come, to really listening.

Dennis Mahagin

DENNIS MAHAGIN’s poems have appeared in Evergreen Review,  Absinthe Literary Review, Exquisite Corpse, Everyday Genius, elimae, The Nervous Breakdown, Corium, Stirring, Juked, and Night Train. His latest poetry collection is called Longshot  & Ghazal, available now from Mojave River Press.

Read Dennis Mahagin’s work in our debut issue of Change Seven here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s