Revolutions Per Minute

Photo by Jose Padua
Back then the most efficient way to get
the music to reach my ears was for the

record to spin at 45 revolutions per minute
on the turntable. 45, so I could listen one

at a time to the Rolling Stones, the Four
Tops, Arthur Lee and Love, to “Tears of a

Clown,” “My Baby Wrote Me a Letter,” and
“Can I Change My Mind.” It was better one

by one, and stopping by Record City downtown
where you had an entire wall of 45s

to find the song you just heard on the car
radio on the way to the dentist or the doctor

or the store and if you were lucky you found
the record with the picture sleeve where the singer

or the band just looked so cool and because
it was one by one it was like a letter from

Hollywood or Detroit or Memphis or Chicago
and the popular store clerk with the kids was

this middle aged guy named Jimmy—“What
do you got today, Man?” he’d ask “Or check

this out, dude” and one time he asked me
something like “What are you lookin’ for?” or

“What are you into?” and he brushed the back
of his hand against my crotch and all I knew

was that it was weird, I mean what did that
have to do with the record I was holding

by a new band called Black Sabbath, and when
I saw him walk into a dirty bookstore on

New York Avenue when my Dad and I were
stopped at a red light I kind of figured out

what Jimmy’s deal was. I was buying albums
now and the frequency was 33 and a third

and the names were Neil Young and Dr. John
and Curtis Mayfield sang “Move on Up.”

Then, when I heard John Coltrane for the first
time on WHUR Howard University

radio things were never the same again and
I was never really a kid again after that

even though I didn’t know that much and
I looked for records labeled ESP, Blue Note,

Prestige, Impulse! and was there anything
to be said after Archie Shepp’s Black Gypsy

and Sun Ra’s Magic City? Until the late 70s
I didn’t listen to anything but jazz, there just

wasn’t anything else I wanted to hear and no
other sound I wanted to know. Back then,

when there was more music and less product
and laissez-faire was for art not for the people

who owned you, when freedom was more than
the right to be a dumb fuck former DJ who’ll

pat you on the back for not using your brain
and rage was for the powerless and the hungry

and the sick who one by one refused to die.

-Jose Padua

A poem from around five years ago. I took the photograph somewhere in New Jersey earlier this month as we slowly made our way back to the Shenandoah Valley.

2 responses to “Revolutions Per Minute

  1. I love the way you combine the genres of memoir and poetry. I don’t read much poetry, more memoir, but I love your stuff!

    • shenandoahbreakdown

      thanks, Sharon! Yeah, my poetry usually has a narrative element, so a lot of it does have that element of memoir in it.

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