It’s jazz, it’s a club, but there what once was is no more, there are no ashtrays on the table, overflowing early into the second set, no cloud of cigarette smoke descending from the too dark ceiling. There is no recognizable odor of a freshly lit Gaulloise, in the trembling fingers of a young man trying to look cool, trying not to cough on each inhalation, in the calm fingers of a young woman who you know speaks the fluent French of her homeland. It is none of those things but it is jazz, it is a club and in this city, now, it must suffice.
She parked her cart across the face of the bin, she fills the only gap. She has a look of determination that says “give me space if you know what’s good for you.” She examines each banana with the care of it gemologist and you imagine that she wears a loop. She pulls bunches apart, finally picking one, then five minutes later the line behind her in awe and frustration, another one. There is almost a third, until as she places it in her cart she sees something beyond our comprehension, and back it goes amid the host of rejectees. I glanced at my watch, realize how long I have been on this few item shop and grab three of her misbegotten, then seeing her head for the grapes, make my own mad dash to get there first, so I might get home for dinner.
She says you should not put all of your eggs in one basket. I remind her that I’m not terribly fond of eggs, and only rarely have more than one, and in any event, I keep them in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage. She says, so why is it we have no TV, no phone, no Internet, tell me that, wiseguy. I steer away from eggs and baskets and simply respond, because we have yet again been stranded on that barren, fruitless island known to all, hated by them, as Comcast. We both shrug our shoulders in resignation to our fate.
She plucks the odd loose thread puts it on the table and finds another and a bit of what could be twine. She weaves them together loosely, with seeming abandon until they are an ill formed braid barely hanging together, a jumble of color and fabric, a true hodge-podge. But when she says to all of us gathered, “look at the amazing tapestry I have woven, we all nod approvingly and for a moment, when we look away, we see the intricate story she sees so clearly and believes she has so carefully told.
a winter night clouds digest the moon cars drive turning lights out disappearing neon signs stare beckoning vacancy open space super condensed matter she moans I love you to starched sheets shrouds wrap her loins a cat scampers into a bush dragging the sun melting the highway electrons run crashing into nothing quantum leaps
First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019 at Pg. 43
The woman at the next table stares at her fork with eyes which appear bottomless pools of sorrow. She picks at the noodles, raises and lowers the glass of wine without sipping. She is lost within herself and even the waiter approaches with trepidation for fear of falling in and drowning in her sadness. In her eyes are pools of cabernet spilled from glasses cast aside by retreating lovers, the blood of a mother who died in her birth, tears of a father hopelessly alone. You see him returning to the table and a smile of faint hope crosses her lips, lingers a moment and is drawn into her eyes. She watches him finish his wine and with a nod of his head, hers, and she sinks back deep within herself.
First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019 at Pg. 41
She is sifting through photo albums deciding which pictures to keep, which to discard, questioning why she kept some in the first place, blurred, ill composed. She sets very high standards now wondering why some were taken, the sun she says, all wrong here, the background in that one just swallows the subjects. I left my photos behind when I moved out, so many of the woman I was leaving after finally admitting to myself that she said she had left me emotionally two years earlier. Now I sit here and sift through memories, deciding which to keep, which I wish I could discard, questioning why I remember certain things in the first place. She will have far fewer albums with only the best pictures when she’s done, I will carry a mind full of memories that absolutely refuse to be discarded.
She is a small woman dressed in white, save for black platform slingback pumps and cherry red eyeglass frames. She hunches forward in her seat seeming as though she might collapse, pouring over tables and graphs – biochemical research papers. You measure the depth of her attention by the frequency with which she pulls single strands of hair from her banded ponytail, strokes them gently, then, as if noticing they have gone astray, tries to tuck them back in. She pauses this ritual only to annotate the paper’s margins in mechanical pencil in a small, cramped hand, barely legible. You know she has reached the paper’s conclusion when she strokes that soft space between those in upper lip as though a teenage boy hoping one day soon to grow a mustache.
I sit in the window staring out over the rain slicked streets to the passing of the occasional car and the three men who glance furtively at the door of the “Adult Entertainment” club. The old oak floors are scarred by too many heels. The railing along the window is bolted into the floor, suspending the white lace curtains. The young woman sits at the next table, Players cigarette nestled between her fingers, trying to conceal her anxiety. She nurses the cup of coffee, staring at the two menus resting on the table. She pulls at the hem of her pink ramie sweater and glances periodically at her watch. Her leg, encased in stone washed denim swings like a metronome as she stares at the Detroit News, not reading. She lifts her head, and a smile creeps across her lips as her friend enters, skirt dripping water, forming a small puddle on the floor under her chair. The waitress, robed in a black satin pantsuit brings the escargot, on their bed of linguine, and the evening washes on.
First Appeared in Eratica: Half a Bubble Off Plumb, Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter 1999.