A Jazz Quartet Life

I hear a tight jazz quartet
smacking out lead-bottomed bass
tinkling a shaker, with a half-open hi-hat

some soft-fingered ivory tickling
peppered with a gritty groan
and cigarette smoke

I sit, and listen, and
I think to myself:
why can’t life be just like that?


Of Turtles and Birds


They walked to the pond
and the sun was warm,
it encouraged them to sit on a bench
and they sat awhile and talked.

A turtle sat on a log that lay
like a waiting crocodile in the pond,
while herons tred in outward arcs
in search of primordial nourishment.

“True enlightenment,” he said, “is a turtle sitting on a log.”

“Yes,” she said, “but reality is birds pecking your face.”


Back on Earth


~Part Nine~

You are close enough, you decide. You wait.

The men share a glance between themselves. The larger man returns to the truck and sits inside, behind the wheel. He waits.

The first man walks to the back of the vehicle, which must apparently be empty and open. The man confirms this by dropping the rear gate and waving you to come.

Like a dog, you think. You don’t know what the phrase means, because you’re not sure what a dog is. The words simply come to you, as you continue forward toward the man.

He pats his hand twice on the bed of the truck and stands back and says, “We’ll get you to town, and stop wherever you want. You got an address around here?”

You pause before climbing up onto the truck. You say, “I can’t say.” It is the best that you can think to say. You climb onto the flat-bed and sit, facing back to the open gate and the bearded man, who is studying you with hands on hips and thumbs hooked into pockets.

“You don’t got any more of your clothes with you?” he asks.

“I don’t think so,” you say.

He breathes in deep through his nose. He sighs, and says, “I got a jacket in the truck. You might get chilly back here.” The man walks around to the open door and retrieves a plaid jacket of hard, blue and black wool. He throws it to you and you catch it, and he slams the gate closed and slaps it twice with the palm of his hand.

He says, “We’re gonna take you to the hospital, if that’s all right with you. You don’t seem like you’re hurt, but if you can’t remember your address and you got no clothes with you, then you gotta reckon you’ll want somebody to take a look at you. Take care of you.” He waits a moment, then nods his head once and says, “Okay?”

“Okay,” you say. You have a feeling you should say more.

Back on Earth


~Part Eight~

You make a decision. You move one foot, then another.

The grass is pressed down in twin footprints where you were standing. The new grass is cool on your feet as you walk toward the road.

“That’s right,” says the first man.

The second man has yet to make a sound save his chewing of gum, rhythmic and deliberate.

You are less than fifty paces from the truck, and you can now make out more of the men’s details. The first man, the one who speaks to you, has a thick, red beard covering his face.

You don’t think you have a beard. You realize then that you haven’t yet touched your face. As you walk, you allow your fingers to come up and touch your cheek, your jaw, your chin. You do this quickly, then put your hand back down at your side. You don’t have a beard.

The first man is wearing a plaid shirt with buttons, a belt and blue jeans. The second, larger man is dressed very much the same, but does not have a beard. His face is smooth, like yours. He might even look something like you, but you can’t be sure. You don’t even know what colour your eyes are.

The first man fidgets, kicks at the gravel on the road. The second man watches you the entire time you make your way across the field.

Back on Earth


~Part Seven~

You don’t move. You wait.

The other door of the truck opens, and the second man steps onto the road. He is larger. You cannot see his face. Leaving the door open and the truck’s engine running, the second man walks around the front of the vehicle. He stops to stand between the beams of the headlights. You can see particles of amber dust floating in the light. He posts his hands on his hips. You can see the man’s belt buckle, large and round.

The first man calls, “It’s all good, Mister. You just come on with us, and we can drive you anywhere you like. You need to go to the hospital? We can take you there, it’s not far.”

You don’t move.

You know you can’t just keep waiting. They will come to you. If you do nothing, they will come.

Back on Earth


~Part Six~

The man ducks his head back inside the truck. You notice for the first time that the man is wearing a baseball cap.

You vaguely know what baseball is, but you’re not sure. Presently however, you can’t devote any attention to attempting to remember baseball, you are too consumed with trying to hear the two men talking. You see their heads bobbing, but you can’t make out what they say.

The country field is still and quiet, with not even a breeze blowing. You listen to the truck’s engine rumbling low.

The man draws his head back out. He calls to you again.

“So, you’re okay?” the man asks.

Okay. You know what the word means.

“Yes,” you say.

Another pause, and the first man ducks into the truck to talk with his companion again, and then turns back to you.

“You don’t look like you’re okay, Mister. You sure you don’t want a ride?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

The truck rumbles. You wait. You don’t move, not even your hands that hang at your sides.

“Well,” the man says, “I reckon Mister and Missus Tablowski wouldn’t appreciate any half-naked strangers, okay or not, hangin’ around in their pasture. How about you come on over here, and we’ll take you back into town?”

It doesn’t sound much like a request.