Poetry: The Other Dozier | clivejames.com
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The Other Dozier


Two Hollands and one Dozier. But I have here
a faded promo bill that names a second Dozier:
Lamont's cousin Montal. He's the one
who had nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide
his systemic abreaction to soft gospel and pop discography,
who couldn't get a witness at any price, just couldn't take
the break of Soul or the ache of Tamla to that old heart of his,
like the one gun-shy Earp or the only flying Wallenda
with vertigo. Turns out he had a tin ear
for everything except irony,
so his lyrics all emerged as modern verse:
reworked tales of Bathsheba in a cool style that exploded
to no one, a murky, uncharted Petrarch,
while his cuz and his two best buds cruised the Detroit streets,
inside a petrol blue, stretch limousine
glazed with rain.

So much depends
on which ending you favour, which of the many
that may or may not have befallen this extra man
whose name was written in square brackets.
There's an old guy with a corner tobacco shop
who plays nothing but Rachmaninov and Mahler,
who'll tell you, if asked, yes, he does know
what the word Tamla actually means
and who the fifth Top was, or that he had a poem,
one time, published in the Midwest Express .
Of an autumn night he sits on a small balcony
high above the motor city—
the urban inversion, the gasoline wall of sound—
writing poems of loss to a Vandella.