Susan's Voice

One More Silver Dollar

gloria patti onstage

By Susan Lilley

When I finally get the car radio to myself,
one hand roams the satellite
and I almost miss it.
And I’ve got one more silver dollar . . .
In a dark, heart-cracking moan,
Patti Smith brings Midnight Rider
in a way the young Allman Brothers never
could, despite their harrowing half-lives
lived to the wailing hilt along these
highways from Florida to Georgia,
roads that pulled two girls
through the rabbit hole of legal
adulthood and up to Atlanta. No one could
tell us no, not even the outraged boyfriend,
his voice in the pay phone swallowed
by sticky chaos in the ladies room
at Alex Cooley’s Electric Ballroom
(You’re WHERE?).
Because Patti Smith Group played
two nights running in a bright
forcefield draped in gauzy smoke.
You didn’t need drugs to climb
on Patti’s silver vocal cloud
and be turned inside out
by Lenny Kaye’s steely hypnotics.
Little sister the sky is falling, she told us,
and we witnessed, we believed—slain innocents
under the shine of whiskey and ginger ale.
Come back tomorrow night, she implored,
We’ll learn more songs!  We came.
Seared with the stark glamour of
Mapplethorpe’s album cover shot, we put
Horses right on top of the red, white, and blue
bicentennial phone book covers, souvenirs
we tore out of little towns and piled
in the back seat, hoping they’d
be worth something someday.


This poem is part of the collection Satellite Beach, (Finishing Line Press, 2012). My obsession with Patti Smith is also explored in The Long Slow Crush, an essay which appears in and in the nonfiction chapbook When We Were Stardust (There Will Be Words, 2014).

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