Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Mission of Love

The other day, thinking about my friend Dave, a Neil Diamond song played in my head.

I rummaged through my CDs, found Three Chord Opera and selected A Mission of Love. It’s jazzy, happy, and heartfelt. I know it’s about losing a relationship, but the words rang true for the Caring Bridge set up for Dave: “We got a friend in a hole/we got to help get him out/this is a glorious day/we’re on a mission of love.”

Then I got online and went to the Neil Diamond site. Somehow I found the YouTube video list of his performances and watched a few. The duet with Barbra Streisand, though out of synch with the music, mesmerized me. The connection between them was so electric, so sexy, so palpable it filled me with yearning. I could watch it only once.

It brought up memories, good and otherwise.

In 1980, on a run from Oregon to Maine and back, I memorized the 12 Greatest Hits album. It was a dark time in my life and that tape along with a couple others probably saved my life.

A year or so later, a coworker and I talked about our favorite musicians. I claimed Neil Diamond and Paul Simon.

“I don’t get either of them,” my coworker had sniffed.

I wrote her a poem.

She said she didn’t understand
Neil Diamond/Paul Simon -
the words don’t rhyme,
make sense to your mind,
fit into the party line.

I said you must sip, savor,
then swallow them whole –
musical soup for the soul.
Your heart understands
when your head lets go.

I wrote some other poems using words and song titles from Neil Diamond albums, but most are lost to me now.

For me, Neil, Paul and others (the Beatles come to mind) – somehow condense experience into lyric poems set to music, the words as wonderful as the tunes. For me, they have captured the changing essence and the essence of change through the last fifty years. I often catch myself singing one or another of their songs because the lyrics are perfect for the spot I’m in.

But Dave’s situation reminds me that, healthy as I am, I do have an expiration date. Like kids who participate in Make a Wish programs, my wish – rather than go somewhere exotic or do something crazy – would be to meet Neil Diamond in person, to thank him for saving and enriching my life. And then faint dead away!

At the store yesterday I found another Neil Diamond CD, his duet with Streisand included.

Neil – you always bring me flowers!

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