Robert Lietz
from Memorial Day


For Leroy Griffin, lead singer of The Nutmegs, whose first recording,
"Story Untold" presaged a national career that never quite achieved
its promise. After shifting personnel and re-naming the group The Rajahs,
Griffin and his friends made several demos without a band to promote
Griffin's songs. Some of these were released later and provided impetus
for the popularity of acapella recordings in the early 60s.

Griffin was killed in either an accident, according to the liner notes
for the Rajahs Cd, or, as some allege, an altercation at Kopper's Coke, during
which he is said to have slipped or been pushed into one of the furnaces,
and never benefitted personally from the oldies revivals of the late Sixties
and Seventies. Having written hundreds of songs myself in the Sixties
and been victim of a hit-and-run accident that left me in critical condition
for several days, I felt a closeness to Griffin that compelled me
to address this homage to the man and his memory.

 


Well under eave-shade the house-wrens nest
in the bag-planter, sharing the impatiens there,
the shin and knee -high sunflowers near the feeder,
conceiving how pretty might compound,
measuring the lulls, the many moods of obsolescence,
the samplings of smoke / of pollen
downdrifting over pond-lilies - a reasonable enough,
if mild philosophy, said in the zillion sums,
in these voices the jugband woods have made a tune by,
as natural (we think) as wind-downed limbs
and sudden wingings, as hundred and hundreds
of lyrics once, bringing the news around
from New Haven, Africa. I think how the words belong
and rearrange the hollows, a language
beyond the gadgetry, beyond the demands the gadgetry
will make of its beholders, making a thing
of holidays, of you, Leroy, and love at fifty-three, seeing
this owl and leaf-weighed perch where it is waking,
earlier (we think) and hungry / incomplete - joined
by this other now, in the first of their complainings.
And what would you make of being here - sharing
our watch for orioles - of this prominent orange
set off against the deep ruff of the jewel-weed, prefiguring
the slants, the orioles, and of the coming light,
enacting an idea, let alone what words become, the voices
from pick-ups and sedans,
behind us on the stone road, since there is light enough,
and stillness enough at last in greening light for fishing,
because there is stylish and, still - time
to be signing / signing off the lethal postscripts,
cutting rehearsals slack, out of the way, apart,
from all of the clockwise orchestras?