Matthew Lippman

Song Song

There is a song in my head that goes la la la.
When I sing it to my daughter, she sings
la la la.
In the middle of the produce aisle and in the middle of the world,
she says shh daddy, stop singing.
But there’s nothing coming out my mouth. Hush, I say,
it’s the scarlet tanager in the brown tree.


You should never tell a child hush,
even if she has a slingshot pointed
at a rock dove
and the sky is about to fold
into orange. You should never get down on your knees
without a song in your heart
that you could sing if the man above you
has a machete and is about to take you down
for being from the other side.


Think Victor Jara. Think Edith Piaf.
Think all the boys in The Harlem Boys Choir
who sang a hundred times louder
than the Manhattan pigeons
when the day was bright and Riverside Church was blue.


New York City is that stupid. It sings
so many songs
the earth has nowhere to go for quiet.


When I was eighteen I had no songs.
The song I played on my guitar went la la la
for the ongoingness of getting laid. For Jessica
who loved to whine. My song was
Then we got naked
in Manhattan
and that was one way to shut it up,
on the 22nd floor,
her parents in Florida and us, vigorous in honk,
to the beautiful hell of what comes after.


I’ll tell you what comes after.
My daughter in the living room, her head on the couch, humming.
I crawl closer to make sure she doesn’t know I’m spying.
That’s what parents do, we spy.
We are bastards for our binoculars,
our wire taps and our museums.
We put empty dinner glasses up to the wall and listen.


Today, I crawl to hear my daughter’s song.
It goes something like la te da
but for the life of me
I have no idea what it is.
If I listened for the rest of my days,
I still wouldn’t be able to figure out how she put the notes together.


All I know is it goes la te da
and it’s about the only one you could sing
acapella or with a band or with a piccolo
and no matter how it was sung it would sound the same.
It would sound like this.

Matthew Lippman