Musical Monday: Dancing Barefoot by Patti Smith
It had to be this song. Gavin found in Patti a muse, gazed daily at the postcard of her on his desk, a NYC Rimbaud, a true artist, a puzzle his own age. And Patti was mine, too, legend said she was at the root of the punk rock I loved even if she was a damn poet and easy to mock, Gilda Radner singing “Gimme Mick,” as she pulled out a hairbrush to work on her armpits.
Parody aside, we both could have been her. Beautiful, sexually ambiguous, her own woman.
Dancing Barefoot is a love song that’s not afraid of death. At its climax she reads:
the plot of our life sweats in the dark like a face
the mystery of childbirth, of childhood itself
what is it that calls to us?
why must we pray screaming?
why must not death be redefined?
we shut our eyes we stretch out our arms
and whirl on a pane of glass
an afixiation a fix on anything the line of life the limb of a tree
the hands of he and the promise that she is blessed among women.
It just had to be this song: perfect. A eulogist, the best man at our wedding, and his wife suggested it to me when I was coming up blank.
We played it as the recessional at Gavin’s memorial service, a hot day 3 weeks after his death.
First the minister strode up the aisle, then me, nearly running, as the service thank God was finally over.
(I know. The service was actually short. We cut off the testimonials. But I really wanted to get out of there.)
Crying just outside the sanctuary, a hug from one of my oldest friends, and my wonderful minister’s warm arms and iridescent green robes.
For months after Gavin’s death I played Dancing Barefoot over and over again, part of a “weepers” playlist, as the start of my structured nap/alone time, when I could get it.
This celebration of life, cry of passion, meditation on big stuff will always be part of my mourning.
Thank you, Patti. You'd become part of him and his art, he loved you, and you helped me sing him out.
* * * Comments * * *