On a warm night in upstate
New York during the summer
of 1948, Charlie Parker got out
of a brand new Pontiac, the bass
player from his quintet was behind
the wheel. Clubs along 57th Street
were an hour behind them. Parker
had grabbed the case with his sax
in it from the back seat and walked
out onto a field. He was off drugs,
clean for at least six months
but knew he’d never be clean
as the air he breathed.
A herd of cows watched him walk
in front of them, place the case
on the grass, open it and take out
a bent piece of sky the color of dawn.
Then he blew on it as his fingers
like a flock of small dark birds flew
up and down. The cows listened, stopped
chewing but couldn’t prevent their tails
from swinging like the Basie rhythm
section. Sounds they never heard
came out of a hole in the sky.
Then it stopped. He placed it back
in the box and walked away. Within
hours the green grass they began
chewing again turned the milk in
I hear a cape flapping over
my head, convinced this time
it’s Superman. When I look up
to greet him, it turns out to be
the flag over the doors of the Second
Avenue Post Office. The wind
is so strong I notice it lost a star
and wonder if maybe Utah is now
floating over New Jersey.
The traffic is heavy as cheesecake
and sounds like the Basie horn
section tuning up before a gig.
A guy walks over with a cigarette
in his mouth and asks if I got
a light. As I search my pockets
I notice his boots and cowboy
hat and figure he must be from
the West Side. I can’t find any–
consider the torch I’d been carrying
around for my ex but remember I put
it out a few days ago, tell him sorry.
And she was the same woman
who told me if we ever broke up
I’d be lost without her. Before
I got involved again, I made sure
to know every section of the city
until I knew it like the back
of my hand or when most of Second
Avenue ran down my index finger
towards my wrist. On cold days
like this, I can warm up my hands
and at least thirty blocks by simply
putting on my gloves.
Most of my relationships
last as long as a drag
on a cigarette. This time
I gave up on Christ
then Buddha but now
pray to Elvis since
he died for our songs.
And when a friend said
I have a big appetite
I told him he should see
how cancer eats.
In the bakery across
the street there are loaves
of a bread lying in a pile
in the window like baseball
bats. Today I bought one
then headed to the park
to hit a few balls out
or get into a game.
By the time I got there
I had eaten most
of the loaf, until it fit
in my hand like a club.
So I took it home to make
a sandwich, knowing
this way I’ll never get
to first base.
The truth is I like to travel.
Last month I met a woman
with a small birth mark
on her thigh that’s shaped
like France. How easy it is
to go there now, if only
to touch Paris with my tongue.