She walks slowly, the streets she once knew well, so much changed by time and memory released into the fog. It is hard going back when back is no longer there, where the store you owned, a place where you spent countless hours is now a sandwich shop, and so many others gone altogether for modern brick, concrete and glass. Still there is a T-shirt which she will wear as a badge of what was, a play she will never forget, as I remember the park in Salt Lake City were mescaline and blotter acid made the maples float above the ground and we sat in the summer rain and imagined golden butterflies but that too is gone as are all of the coconuts that once filled this grove.
The moon has gone past full and as waning as I write, it’s slow retreat hopefully taking with it the burden of winter, that we now must measure in feet, the inches having been heaved up, one upon another. Spring will come soon for a taste of it, for spring is an inveterate tease, preferring to appear only long enough to let the melting snows floor around, and to occasionally into our homes, so that we, maps and markets in hand, pause to dream of the summer which we now doubt will ever appear.
For three days I was
a short order cook
a change from my table duties
when the regular guy decided
that a night of drinking didn’t end
when the bar closed
and broke back in
through the rotting back door
that was always next
on the list of things to be fixed.
The owner, my boss, said he’d wait
three days for the cook
to dry out in his cell,
but my cooking made him reconsider.
Yet the customer still came, paid
Were patient, and after
the three days past,
and the old cook couldn’t make
even his nominal bail
the boss hired a new cook
and I went back to dishes
and filling coffee, and looking lovingly
at my dishwasher, my friend
for a too long too long summer
until I went back to college.
The moon hid from me last night in a cloudless sky, and only a week from full, so we both knew it was there, peeking for a brief moment from behind the old oak in the neighbors yard. It wasn’t the first time the moon had done this, it will not be the last either, I am certain, but I do remember the time in 1970, the heat of San Antonio in mid-summer more oppressive than usual and only the old barracks for the moon to use as hiding place. Yet it hid, and that night I didn’t mind Lying in the base hospital, where the nurses ignored me for the seriously wounded, as they should reading the orders issued that day transferring me to the Reserves as my fellow air policemen in my training squadron were calling home, most in shock, to announce that their plan to avoid Vietnam by enlisting would soon be scattered on the tarmac of Da Nang Air Base.
They said it was essential for a writer to have a substantial platform, one built high enough to be easily seen by those passersby who might just give a passing glance, even if it was a typo landed them here, updated, regularly changing with time, tide, and fashion always ready, always accommodating. It must be a composite, the better to handle storms, ill winds lacking the ennui of winter, curse of summer. It was no small task to build, everyone offered plans, templates, none ever quite right, but he built it, and when the time came, like most writers he knew, it would suffice where they put the noose around his neck and hung him by his words, his truth that they came to hate.
She isn’t used to the cold, she never will be, and she hates it with the sort of passion she once reserved for people of a different political philosophy than hers. She grew up here, but she left. She has never regretted the departure. She visits only in late spring or in the heart of summer, or early autumn and is here now only for a funeral, which she hates more than the cold this winter. She wishes that the death could have occurred in late spring, early autumn, the heart of summer. She is certain she will die in one of those seasons, or at least in the deep enough south that no one attending a funeral will have to freeze and curse the winter. She has no intention of dying anytime soon, for she has a great deal left to do and some of that clearly involves cursing winter and hating the cold with a passion.
The night wraps us in the faint light of the glowing moon. The snow falls, reflected in the street light’s glow, and settles on the snow fields of recent days that obscure the earth that suffers beneath. We will flee tomorrow and leave the snow in our wake, hoping that on our return a week hence, some if not all of it will have washed into the lake, and we, having borne the brunt of the sun, will remember what summer will eventually offer us.
An evening summer retreating in the face of autumn, two garnacha, a piano, bass, drums, her voice lifts the weight of the sky and we float up on a melody, unchained. In heaven George and Ira smile and we, here, smile with them.