(by Daniel R. Jones)
Poets have a tendency to play hard to get, in the literary sense. They speak in riddles, only to gripe about dense readers who misunderstand them. Or worse yet, they tire of explaining the very lines they themselves constructed. There’s really no placating them.
I was working on deciphering just such a poet’s verse when Jack interrupted my thoughts by abruptly turning the stereo dial full-blast.
“It’s Whitesnake!” he said, elated.
The rest of the van was asleep on our long commute home after a particularly long graveyard-shift. I nodded, absently, unversed in ’80s glam rock.
“I used to have this CD I burned, and all 15 cuts were ‘Here I Go Again’ by Whitesnake,” he continued, with no loss of enthusiasm. “Every time I got fired, or had a girlfriend dump me, I’d just jump in my car and pop that sucker in the stereo. I’d drive for hours like that if I had to. By the end of the drive, all the bad stuff was behind me, and I had a new start. This song was the rebirth. It’s like…the Phoenix rising.”
He bellowed out the lines he remembered and hummed through the rest.
It was no secret that Jack was going through some personal struggles. His girlfriend, who was 8-months pregnant, had just left him. He was trying for the life of him to finally get clean; all while staring down the barrel of what looked to be a vicious custody battle for his first son.
Still, Jack sat, contented, drumming on the steering wheel, singing off-key.
And there, on I-94, just as the sun rose, I saw it. Out of grease-covered, musty Carhartt’s, Jack was being reborn. And a big old, campy Phoenix was rising.