“False Memories That May Be Traced to Bourbon Street, Toronto, Ontario, June 14, 1983” — a poem by Stefán Sigurðsson

September 10th, 2021

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photo by teakwood/CC BY-SA 2.0/ via Wikimedia Commons

teakwood (CC BY-SA 2.0), CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Lenny Breau’s Custom 7-string guitar at The Guitar Shoppe, Laguna Beach, California

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False Memories That May Be Traced To Bourbon Street, Toronto, Ontario, June 14, 1983, At Evening (In All Likelihood)

Thinking of Lenny Breau
Special thanks to David Young for plucking the double bass
and to Ted O’Reilly for being there and pressing the “record” button

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I

Dim dusk breaks down
the receding light and one after another
strands of the passing hour unravel
leaving behind an existence beyond time
that opens the doors to another world:
It’s late in the evening in a foreign metropolis

I have arrived in familiar parts
and toward me a pungent smell
of cigarettes and alcohol
wafts, coiling
down the damp street

I recognize the landmarks
yet the path I’ve taken
won’t retain my footprints

Out to the rain-wet street float
faint guitar notes, double bass notes
through the clatter of drinking glasses
and clamour of inattentive patrons

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II

You were like a tree stripped of bark
wrapped in a resonant tonal raiment
and from out of your fertile depths
you created your music and
from you streamed skinless
notes that rang like
divine creek babble
trickling down from heaven
and mirrored
your defenselessness

You built tight layers of tones and sounds
created a unique murmuring mildness
tonal glory nearly an embodied spectrum
that in its perfection hovered
impressionistic
sound-images dissolving into
brushstrokes of Monet and Van Gogh

Oh island

It’s as if your music were engraved in the heavenly vault
and resounded in the guise of a thousand
angel voices in the heavenly distance

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III

From the cup of life you gulped down
gasps of darkness
and wandered on the border
between life and death
Yet beauty sat fast within
your heart – unto your final day

When summer changed colour
and autumn cast its deathly pallor
on your soul’s soft green nook
your life subsided toward corpse-white winter
and at the clutches’ grip the snow
swiftly hid your tracks

Your notes still glide
far below the surface
of present pieties
Mortal men sow them
in the parched acreage
warring against alienation
by market mentality
And one lone person turns back
to bask in memories
nowhere to be found
and jots them down

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(Mr. Sigurðsson’s poem was translated by Sarah Brownsberger)

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Stefán Sigurðsson was born in Kópavogur Iceland, where he now lives and works as a translator, translating mostly technical texts from English, Danish and Norwegian to Icelandic. He has published three collections of poetry and one collection of short stories. His fourth collection of poetry will be published in October/November 2021.  

[email protected]

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Listen to Lenny Breau (with David Young) play “Blues in My Case,” from the live album Legacy, recorded in Toronto in June of 1983 and released posthumously in 1984.  

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Click here to learn how to submit your poetry

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