Electric Blues

“I just want what everyone wants. To be seen, and heard, and admired for nothing other than my shining existence.” A lyric essay that contemplates doubt, and the struggle for self worth…

by: Jacqui Donaldson

mercurial temperament,
my ego.
Coming unstrung,
looking at my empty, upturned palms,
I ask myself,
what have I done?
I sought an electric connection
to revive me.
I found it
in a musician,
a lonely player.

is the church organist.
He operates a double-keyboard six-in-one-monstrosity.
Depressed keys are corresponding trackers
feed wind into pipes and oscillate the air.
His burning hot atheism
swells to a reverberating crescendo.

He kicks off his shoes to play the bass notes with his feet
and slams his fingers down on the ivory keys.
He said it’s a good reminder of what it feels like for a beginner to use both hands,
it's like walking a tightrope.

He said if the note head is up near the top of the staff,
the stem points down. If it’s near the bottom, it points up,
for graphical cleanliness.

It tells you on the music
how many beats are in a measure,
you can see it on the page. 
But if you’re listening to a song,

you can feel it.

I didn’t care that he was cold
because inside his vocal folds, 
between his register and range,
in the places where he extends his vowels and moves his words together,
it was warm and pleasant, 

fluent, and articulate.

He said things like nobody really knows me 
And not everyone can be friends with me.

In Playwriting: Brief and Brilliant, Julie Jensen writes that the best characters are “off balance in some way. They’re excessive in one direction, deficient in another. And they are tenacious; they don’t give up easily on their imbalance”(1).

I think I was the one who was too excessive, deficient, and imbalanced. 
I was wasted,
eyes fixed
on the black typeface
of off-white pages,
held up to my pallid ennui like a hand mirror,

why Achilles wept
when he lost Briseis —
was it grief that moved him?
Did he ache,

the way she ached,
when she was forced open like a Jericho Rose
for her captor,
the man who slew her parents and brothers?
Was the pain of loss as excruciating
as when Achilles learned of the death of Patroclus,
and Antilochus clutched Achilles’ hands together
to prevent the Son of Peleus from slashing his own throat with an iron blade?
Priam knew it was within the realm of possibility that his son would die,
but he could not have expected that inconsolable Achilles
would drag Hector’s body from his chariot, around the city of Troy,
for twelve merciless days.
In 1995, there was an accident.
The Fox River Grove bus-train collision.
A substitute bus driver stopped at a traffic light,


that the rear of the bus was extended over the tracks.

The bus was struck by a train, traveling at approximately sixty miles per hour.
The impact was so powerful
it ripped the body of the bus from the chassis, 
catapulting the wreckage into the intersection,
killing seven students(2). 

Whose job was it to tell the parents that their children were dead
because they rode the bus that morning,
and the regular driver called off that same morning, 
and the warnings provided by the traffic signals were insufficient that morning.

Who told them?

Grief drags us
like Lena Horne drags the tempo,
the way a foot is dragged across the floor to meet the other,
like it dragged Hector’s body through the dust.
No matter how many times we face it,
it still manages to hurt in new and unexpected ways.
The day he left he said please take some time.
I know it’s hard.
You’ll feel better.
I don’t feel better                                              	
I feel disgusting
like a cigarette in summer,
sucked down to the teeth.
White smoldering malignancy.
I’ve strung together all these days 
like a tessellation of blank paper hearts.
Goodbye to sex and poetry,
synecdoche, metonymy.
I just want what everyone wants.
To be seen, and heard, and admired for nothing other than my shining existence.
But I am just the foliage in a bouquet of flowers,
an abandoned dog waiting for someone who no longer wants me.
I try to focus on the sad parts.
He said he felt a connection with me,
just not enough of one.
He said he could fall in love with someone,
just not with me.

Anne Carson, in Glass, Irony & God, writes that it’s common to feel so bad you think you’re going to die(3).
We were unmasked,
risking virulent disease.
There was rosemary dying in the window
when we split the mattress from the wall.
The double nine-volt battery snap.
Our sheer limbs splayed out like frayed wires,
flexible conduit, unsheathed cables.
A conductive path, a source, and a load complete a circuit.
We buzzed with prickly electricity, again and again.
A sulfurous bruise spread over my heart
from when he lunged at me, ravenously,
and pushed into me with his palm.
I liked the mark.
The only evidence that we were solid things.
When we finally pulled apart,
my soul was dragged from my body.
It drifted up near the drop ceiling
and mingled with the diaphanous lavender curtains.
My naked body was pressed into his side,
amassing clarity in the morning light,
I was radiating pure joy.
I was high like the bright notes.
Maybe if I were hard,
And not soft,
I could have just let the moment be what it was.
I could just let it go.
I want to sink into something.
Psychotropic numbness.
Hot, black, catharsis.
The floor.
I think the point of life is that it ends.
Play the exit music.
  1. Jensen, Julie. Playwriting, Brief & Brilliant. Smith & Kraus Pub Incorporated, 2007.
  2. Wikipedia Contributors. “1995 Fox River Grove Bus–Train Collision.” Wikipedia, 6/03/022, 1995 Fox River Grove bus–train collision.

  3. Carson, Anne. Glass, Irony, and God. New Directions Publishing, 1995.

Jacqui Donaldson is a graduate student of English at Eastern Illinois University. She writes essays, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Her work has been published in Loud Coffee Press, The Vehicle, and a zine called Flow. Connect with Jacqui on Instagram and Twitter @Jacquiverse.

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