Apr. 25, 2009

Homage to Roy Orbison

by Irene McKinney

If I can touch the voice of Roy Orbison
singing "only in dreams" and if I can

swallow the sweet pudding of his song
then why shouldn't a piece of music

fill in for human contact? Maybe it does
for a second or two, but life is long, or we are,

in our minds, and the singing we do gives us
a taste and not a meal. And what would

happen without it? Would we reconcile
since there would be no contrast, no lift of

Roy's dulcet tones to guide us up to immense
heights of one-pointed ecstasy? So why not sing

as hard and deep as we can? Why not feel out
the song-nerve and trace its trajectory?

I think that in the voice's rise
and wail we finally wake and hear the voice

of an angel. "Sweet dreams baby" Roy throbs.
If so, we go past abrasions and promontories

of broken stony sounds, and emerge up here
where the guitar is a guru, and where Roy's

sweetness is the rule and his sense of form
shapes up this shard-filled life. "Move on

down the line." So there, do it, dance in
a strange way and who cares. When the

listeners judge by their sweetness gauge
and their sucked-in breath at "crying over

you," will anyone care that he dyed his
black hair and had false teeth? I thrash

and shout like a teenage girl for the duration
of the song. "I got a woman mean as she

can be." (I think that's me.) He told me
that anything I wanted he would
give it to me, and you know? He did.

"Homage to Roy Orbison" by Irene McKinney, from Vivid Companion. © Vandalia Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Padgett Powell, (Books by this author.) born in Gainesville, Florida (1952). He's the author of many novels, including Edisto (1984), A Woman Named Drown (1987), and Mrs. Hollingsworth's Men (2000).

It's the birthday of the poet and journalist James Fenton, (Books by this author.) born in Lincoln, England (1949). He wrote many collections of poetry, and his journalism has been collected in All the Wrong Places: Adrift in the Politics of Asia (1989).

It was on this day in 1953 that Watson and Crick published the article in which they proposed the structure of DNA. The article appeared in Nature magazine, and it was only about a page long. It began, "We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest." Their hypothesis about the double-helix structure of DNA revolutionized biology and paved the way for the field of genetics. Some science historians rank their feat with Newton describing the laws of physics.

Watson and Crick's discovery was actually the result of synthesizing many other people's ideas and research. They spent relatively little time in the laboratory doing experiments. They relied on the research of others, especially Rosalind Franklin, who had taken X-ray photographs of DNA samples. Their initial failure to acknowledge their huge debt to her caused a great debate in the scientific world. Many people felt that she should have shared the Nobel Prize, which Watson and Crick won in 1962.

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