MAN, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN, WITH PIANO
Adrift on a cat’s-paw of chords, swizzling
his scotch between every tune, the man plinks
at ivory rescued from a dowager
not sold for scrap but sunk. The Chart Room hums
to the sound of cash registering
above chorus, bulbous noses buying
bluehairs yet another round, the vague snore
of buried engines throbbing out a wake.
Notice here the multikeyed preserver:
how bars of music and money keep him
from his waving kids and wife, how the float
of nowhere clips along like some salt-teared
movie—with him the last-reel loser
everybody loves—and finally how songs
redeem their singers when no one listens
to the words. This one goes out to the one
who got away. This one goes to Audrey
and Max on their anniversary voyage.
This one’s for Monk, who wrote charts that keep me
up at night, my fingers bruised and tongue-tied.
The pay is rich and every other drink’s
on the house. The cigarettes, duty free.
Still, each noon, he’s out in his blue-suede shoes,
swabbing the decks of his expectations.