Michael Salcman

Bye Bye Love — i. m. Don Everly (1937-2021)

In nineteen-sixty we were called to an anthem
of rejection and pain
whenever Cathy’s Clown was played.
It was played today
(Don wrote this one alone) at news of his death
and I felt the same sweet-sadness learned years ago
on a pink-topped Victrola
in the only wood-paneled basement I ever saw,
too weak to dance the dances and voice cracking
at a harmony too hard to ape.

My experiments in Brooklyn were lessons in innocence,
kisses dropped on cheeks like little pieces of heaven
from high-school girls I never had a chance to thank
or say goodbye to. They practiced slow-dancing
to Silhouettes on the Shade and used Bill Haley
and his Comets to tune up my awkward Lindy Hop
into a heavy stomp in which we bent and spun
before a graceful glide apart unlaced the bower of arms
we’d made above our eyes and heads and hearts.

When lyrics were as clear in an ear as a song’s beat
it was more than simple harmony that held us in the sway
of Dream and the hard rock edge of Bye Bye Love
those puberal rites were both prophecy and memory.
As we twisted unknowing in that sweat-filled room
the moment of our youth already brief
even its space disappeared beneath our feet.


Michael Salcman was chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum. His poems appear in Arts & Letters, Barrow Street, The Café Review, Hopkins Review, New Letters, and Poet Lore. His books include The Clock Made of Confetti, The Enemy of Good is Better, Poetry in Medicine — his popular anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors, patients, illness & healing — A Prague Spring, Before & After (winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize), and most recently, Shades & Graces: New Poems, inaugural winner of The Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize (Spuyten Duyvil, 2020), and Necessary Speech: New & Selected Poems (Spuyten Duyvil, 2022).