Background Singers We Never Knew by Steven McCabe


Soaking you up like a sponge

A background singer’s nightingale voice warbles


Drying you like driftwood


Filming in Kabul, farming in Haiti,

Finally divorced in Montreal, a little cabaret

Here and there

Getting along

Getting older, getting greyer

A freighter docking in the fog


 The voice you were in love with

“Do-wah do-wah”

Swoops and dips beneath a bridge

The brightest carnation in the lead singer’s jacket

Transmitted with static

Her voice spotlights the background –

A medieval painting exhausting perspective


The freighter crashes into a support

The bridge buckles

That beautiful song by the girl-group on the oldies station

Dissolves into chaos


You spread her legs

She hears the bridge collapse

“Doo-lang doo-lang”

Her mouth a half-hidden oval

Cloaking you with hope


Before Giotto or double-tracked stacked vocals

Or stone Buddhas in Afghanistan

Somebody discovered that wee spot

Where the Big Bang originated

Unlocking all of the voices sea-to-sea

“La-la-la” and “Shooby-shooby-do”


The background singers we never knew

Growing in strength and volume

And you betray the one you wanted

With an ice-age princess

Wearing an obsidian necklace

Lifting her hands wet with menstrual blood

Bleating into the moon’s aureole


In the still of the night a starburst of wonder preserved

An eye within the word seeing sound

Everything since shadows that voice


 Translucent lamentations in three-part harmony

Initiated into the temple of voodoo


We are the background singers

Filling ourselves with slanted ale

The melody of those we never knew

Swooping in white satin or pink chiffon

Backing the lead singer

Smooth as a gleaming marble column


Shade cast from pillars washes across the working lips

The unison of singular


Dipping into a groove

Swooping and sliding

Needles lift

Singles rise

And fall

Free falling


A collapsed bridge and a cloud of dust

Quieter than your lovemaking/ the soft absence

Of your beloved

You see the moon through a crack of stone


from Hierarchy of Loss – Ekstasis Editions – 2007