By Roger Sippl
Henry Mancini opened the show, and played piano
with a full orchestra of Hollywood studio musicians,
some brass, but mostly violins, cellos and bass,
pouring out his movie-sweet love songs,
filling the outdoor Greek Amphitheater with clear simple syrup.
The glycerin of Moon River’s major chords,
found a spillway down the bluffs to the flat river-delta floor
and fingered up the streets
to cover the point lights, people and cars
of Los Angeles with this studio-commissioned
theme that he played from his author’s memory,
convincing me that he wrote it for himself after all.
The ooze deepened, too clear to be seen and so dense
that it slowed down time in the LA basin
and the surrounding hills.
Lani Hall was next, singing with Sergio Mendez
and his jazz band, seductively in her native-looking role,
as if she were eighteen again, unmarried, back in a Brazilian bar
looking and longing for a new lover.
She sang Mas Que Nada synchronously alongside a long-legged Latin beauty,
both in the same black, one-shoulder-free, one-strap dresses,
attacking each note together in one doubled voice.
You sat next to me at that concert
above the big valley of former farmland,
southern, warm-night lovely, young in love and locked
in that moment for sure
as music was your primary medium.
You could stretch your own songs from
high alto to true soprano and I wished to hear
your full, slow and rounded tones with no separate vibrations
revealed by your shy captive voice.
Lani finally sang So Many Stars—
Which one to choose,
which way to go, how can I tell
how will I know, out of, oh,
so many stars, so many stars?
And so many stars
were, my dear, offering above
all futures, but Lani sang of our just one choice—
so, given the breadth of our future and our velocity going through it
our chances together were humble and slight.
We looked up at our real stars from within her song,
not stoned, too young to drink even,
interlacing fingers, my arm inside of yours,
and you pressed against me like a drug, my drug, and
the mental image of the above shutter-clicked for my lifetime
of not knowing whether to forever choose
or to take the risk, with time slowed down as it was,
to tease the fabric of the black part of the sky into strings,
and use more than one thread
to choose more than one star,
including the one that would come back to you singing your choices
and chance to find you, after all,
with some version of me.
Original lyrics “So Many Stars”, Alan and Marilyn Bergman
Roger Sippl studied Biology at University of California at Irvine as a pre-medical student, where all pre-meds were required to also take the Humanities Core Sequence. After surviving this he found himself voluntarily taking poetry writing and fiction writing courses as well.
Upon transferring as a Junior Biochemistry major to UC Berkeley, he was diagnosed with Stage IIIB Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which, in 1974, offered only a twenty percent chance of survival. Medical schools did not want his application with this handicap so he changed majors and received a BS degree in Computer Science in 1977.
While at Berkeley he was able to sneak in one class in poetry taught by Thom Gunn. As a Computer Science student he also studied the linguistic aspects of computer programing languages, and began designing English-like languages for information retrieval and storage. He subsequently spent the next forty years in the enterprise software industry, but is now returning to his passion for writing.