Green Hills Literary Lantern

Falsetto

 

It’s pledge week again on PBS,

commercial-free, no-strings-attached TV

whose mission is to edify, enlarge, enrich,

and to periodically suggest that you are one

freeloading son-of-a-bitch.

 

You have held off this three-week siege

against your credit card, but PBS knows

what you deny: you like to get misty

and reminisce and sing falsetto

in your living room, alone.

 

In a phalanx of 60s nostalgia,

they’ve arranged one-hit bands

to take your heart in 4/4 time

and get you to pledge after Percy

Sledge hammers you hard.

 

If that can’t move you, they have saved

one sweaty singer who looks like you,

receding hairline, puffy jowls,

whose voice is still in its 20s,

and when he howls two octaves up,

 

you try to hit what you hit back then,

but you try too hard and settle down,

humming and tapping your heels,

eyes closed, the audience is on their feet

to let him know he still has it.

 

An operator is standing by to let you know

you still have it, but now it’s time

to give it up. Her voice rises

when she hears the raspiness of yours.

She wants to know you and your name

 

as it appears on your credit card,

and when you’re done surrendering

what she wants, she wants to know

if you could, please, confirm

the expiration date.

 

Oh-1, oh-4, oh-7 sounds like such

a lamentation to what was,

you ask if it’s too late to pledge

one level higher, one level up,

one level more – you’re not sure

how to say it, but you know it’s more

than you knew was in you.

 

 

 

 

John Pleimann, a former advertising copywriter, is now a professor of English at Jefferson College just south of St. Louis. His poems have recently appeared in Natural Bridge, The Evansville Review, Margie and The Connecticut Review.