Most people know Al Basile as a musician: a singer-songwriter and cornetist who has had a long career in blues circles and whose discography as a solo artist is extensive and internationally celebrated. His work with blues great Duke Robillard has led to his participation in two Grammy nominated projects under Duke's name, and he has been nominated twice by the Blues Music Foundation for BMAs as best horn player. As a child, however, he was fascinated by theoretical physics and balanced the beginnings of his musical training with early efforts at writing blank verse. At Brown he abandoned the physics program and spent his time writing fiction, poetry, and plays, including musicals for which he provided book and lyrics. He began his professional music career with the pioneering Rhode Island based jump blues band Roomful of Blues in the mid-Seventies. Later he taught English, Music, and Physics at the Providence Country Day School in East Providence, RI. His writing, particularly of poetry and songs, continued unabated throughout.

How to Skim Stones          (click bar above to play)

On windless sunny days I skimmed alone
to hone my skill. The still pond surface was
a promise that a perfect throw could keep.

First step, selection of the stone, the shape
fit to the finger tip and knuckle crook’s
deep curve, and flat on top and bottom, so
it sat beneath the thumb, above the rest,
nestled along the index, of a weight
to curb an overthrow - the heft enough
resistance to the snap of wrist required,
and of a pleasing smoothness all around.
The throw, a sidearm sweep from parallel,
the verge to earth beginning at release
and gentling down to contact, force opposed
provided by a sweep up from the knees
in follow-through to soften the descent.

There was no kidding with correct: you saw
in the first skid what you had done. The ones
too sharply dipped would simply disappear,
the thunk the sound of water swallowing;
less angled throws would jump up, veer, and plunge,
cutting the surface like a fighter, hit
and angry-engined, spinning in the drink.
Then some, the ordinary lovers who
could be content with small successes, stole
their kisses, three or four, and then fell quiet.

But I lived for the ones where skill and luck
conspired to click: the skips, all urgency,
arcs shading into grace which made them seem
slow-motion, marked too many points to count,
progression rushing to a stretch of touches,
separations imperceptible.
Website Builder