The morning glory –
that will never be my friend.
…………… — Basho
Rain has a way of darkening the bark on trees,
deepening the wood cracks in fences.
Grass appears softer, envious of clouds
that tease with their rootlessness,
their promise of travel and a good night’s sleep.
Normally, I’d have a little Johnny Hodges
playing in the background or Casablanca
splashing silvery-blue against a wall,
but today I’m listening to a vintage radio
broadcast: Bing Crosby banters with Jack Teagarden,
the cool cadence of Crosby’s voice
complementary to the sound of fat oak leaves
pounced by rain. I can see them:
Bing still boyish on the verge of fifty,
placing a hand on the rawhide shoulders of Teagarden,
who periodically grins at the floor,
fidgets with the slide of his trombone.
I smile at the plate I’m washing, the tension
slackens in my neck and my apartment warms
with the admiration in their voices.
Both men have been dead for decades
but somewhere there’s a place, a park bench
looking out over a lake or a table at some café
left vacant, unused since their passing.
Not an homage to where they once had their lunch
but a space that encompassed
what they knew and never knew of each other.
Not heaven or a memory (nothing
we can’t touch or prove), but a room
behind a locked door behind which we can stand,
a spot on a map we can point to.
Somewhere we know exists and leave alone.
by Joshua Michael Stewart
from Vintage Gray
Puddinghouse Publications, 2007