Bulbs by Stuart Greenhouse


Van Morrison, drunk on stage, mumbling at his shoes. I mean, eyes down so low his plane of vision doesn’t even cross the microphone stand at its base. He was really angry at us. Dressed all in black, collar buttoned up to the neck, face red like a setting sun.

“I think he’s singing ‘Bulbs’.” My boyfriend, Johan. Legs long like a cricket. Brilliant to my ordinary. I don’t know how he does it. He’s always making me feel dumb. His sentences better than my sentences. His ideas better than my ideas. If we use the same words, his letters are better in them than my letters. Whatever he says just shines. And while I’d been busy inside my head, trying to unravel what was wrong with me, that I wasn’t booing like the crowd was, he’d been listening to the man. As if we were there not just for a great concert, but for whatever Van Morrison had come there to say. It made me feel little. His generous, my meanness. I had to protect myself. I had to say something.

“I don’t think he’s singing, I think he’s just saying drunk stuff.” We were in the center front of the open-air concert field. We’d waited outside the ticket gate all day. We were his biggest fans. We could see his lips, but not really hear him. The crowd was louder than the sound system.

It’s said that every answer we give to the world, all our lives, is some shading of one larger, hidden, answer. Van Morrison’s face was quiet now, teary. I looked up at Johan’s beautiful brow, shadowed half by stage awning and half by blue sky — he was watching sensitively, listening as if he could hear the conversation Van Morrison was having inside of himself. The crowd’s anger was growing, pressing behind us. It was over, anyone could see that.

My first boo? The best I’d felt all day. The next one, the one Johan turned to look at, felt even better.




Stuart Greenhouse is the author of the poetry chapbook “What Remains” (Poetry Society of America), and the recipient of a 2014 New Jersey State Council of the Arts grant. Poems and essays have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in BoaatDenver QuarterlyLaurel ReviewNorth American Review, and Tinderbox.


(Next story: Clyde’s Other Work by Daniel M. Shapiro)

(Previous story: Huey Lewis and No News by Steve Bogdaniec)

Feel like submitting? Check out our submission guidelines

(Picture derived from this by Ian Burt)