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Neil Shepard: That Sad Clapping

after the horn goes silent – 

applause that crushes the way the singer comes back 

into the song – something undeniably sad 

about those clapping hands, historical, pressed into the grooves 

of Body & Soul

as permanent as the singer’s voice 

or the bruised trumpet, coaxing something 

from her – some ache she didn’t know 

was hers – and she was 

answering… before the sad 

clapping cut her off – something 

almost mindless about that clapping, 

obligatory, as if  

paying the cover charge, the bar tab, 

not at the center of things 

but trying to grease the wheel,

etch the groove,

so it’ll spin out another day’s

blandishments before time

goes dark… But she knows  

time as well as God does, knows  

it because she’s human, knows

how to measure it – how to 

parse it and hold it 

and parcel it out, and God’s 

demoted to the swish  

of the drummer’s brushes 

against skins. God’s no longer

even a slurred order    

for another round

of effervescence, or something 

fiery, light on the water.

No, he’s just a brace 

in the song’s bridge, 

where the horn comes in

and bends the tune almost

to breaking, then doesn’t,

leaving it for the singer to do –

and those sad hands clap right through

it, as if they didn’t know

it was a bridge to the far

side of what makes

feeling felt, as if

they hadn’t heard the call

and response – or as God

might say, the annunciation

and ascension – and really,

for most of them, it does

passeth understanding,

doesn’t it? And isn’t that

exactly the point?

They’re glad there’s a blessed 

thing in this world  

that says it for them,

that plumbs time for them, 

that plucks up a millionth of the mystery, 

rolls it around the bones, the throat, 

and eases it out, into the world –

to which the name Body & Soul

has been given. And even if

they can’t quite name it, 

maybe that’s enough. 

Copyright 2020 Neil Shepherd. First published in Brilliant Corners.

5 comments on “Neil Shepard: That Sad Clapping

  1. rosemaryboehm
    December 31, 2020


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barbara Huntington
    December 31, 2020

    I am there with the records I don’t play anymore because the old Brunswick was wound too tight and a belt in the ancient machine broke. But the records still sit in their cardboard albums and brown paper sheafs with their grooves of song and clapping, pain and laughter ( 4f Freddie the frantic freak) waiting for the time someone will donate grandmas weird old records.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. loranneke
    December 31, 2020

    I second Bertha Rogers!


  4. Bertha Rogers
    December 31, 2020

    Another wonderful Neil Shepard poem! Thanks, Neil; thanks, Michael Simms and Vox Populi! Happy new year!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2020 by in Poetry and tagged , , .

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