Sandra McPherson

Tenderly
June 9, 2012 McPherson Sandra

Tenderly

 

I played hymns, rhapsodies Hungarian and Blue.
Yet my “Tenderly” humiliated the evangelist.

When was it, months later? he told me I’d never get a job there.

That big old redwood hall came back as I practiced this morning.

I was the accompanist so couldn’t play the melody line at the same time Terry did.  Just maybe
when his sax laid out.

I can’t remember if he sang a chorus in his Mel Tormé voice.

Fifty years later, he says we rehearsed just briefly enough to pull it off.

There were parts of my solo

that were not mistakes.

I started with its intro, backing in. Why don’t poems do that more often?

Is a bridge never backwards?

And some listeners may have been moved by it, and relaxed, and tenderly touched one another.
And the redwoods, which we save in other ways, big things, found their innermost tender rings.

Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole, Chet Baker, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett,
Miles, Ellington, Bill Evans, Johnny Mathis, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell,
but not Terry and Sandy.

They had jobs — famous work — singing it.

The rest of the time the worshippers sang, “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling.”

Sandra McPherson’s 21st  book, Quicksilver, Cougars, and Quartz, is forthcoming in 2018 from Salmon Poetry Press. She is retired from teaching 23 years at the University of California at Davis and 4 years at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Among her earlier collections, 5 were published by by Ecco, 3 by Wesleyan, and 2 by Illinois.