In Vain

 Kim Cope Tait


Last night Ben Harper, bathed in indigo,

gave himself to a sold-out crowd in Geneva.


Six encore ballads, and still, he couldn’t find

his way. The music was perfect—simple gift of


self—but his consternation— as he looked out

into the darkness, this is what he saw: misdirected


enthusiasm, passion for sound and not meaning. 

Love of the body and not what breathes it. 


We saw it—in the triangle between

someone’s jaw and their shoulder, in the flickering


image between arms raised in adulation, we saw him

stand still—how a dream of compassion


can disappear into a smoke ring.  Being rooted to

the floor by the closeness of bodies all pressing in


made us sleepy.  And profoundly sad.

The incongruity of our reception with what you gave…


it was like the spotlights moving over the bodies

in the mezzanine, how they moved quickly,


indiscriminately, too fast for anything to come into focus.

Though there was light,  we still couldn’t see their faces. 


And neither could you when you gazed up from your microphone.

When you stood at the edge of the stage and launched


your blessing into the smoke-filled air, unamplified,

we thought we could see you for real.  We stood very still


and took you in, though it hurt.  When you stepped back

and waited for the cheering to end so you could say


God’s name, that was when we knew.  You.

You who had discovered our limits.     

Kim Cope Tait  lives and teaches in the Swiss Alps. Kim earned her MFA  from Vermont College. Her poems have appeared Southern Indiana Review, Blue Mesa Review, Karamu, Bamboo Ridge and are forthcoming in Iota and Magma. She has a chapbook, Element (Leaping Dog Press, 2005).