WAY BACK IN THE VANGUARD
Compulsion. Not a fragrant garden stroll
among enthusiastic peonies.
And the hesitant piano soft-pedals
your prospects for finding a harmony
unhampered by busy signals and trash
cans bulged with yellow paper. An arch of solace
might spring up under heavy battered bricks,
a free ticket for sorrow’s lottery.
When lights are low and couples couple deep
in leather banquettes of fractured standards,
press rolls and rim shots, the refrain pays back
the verses for all their grudging work. Who
pays you, pays you back. Stay in back, standing
by the pay phone. Listen quarterless for clues.
Call people you used to know, collect. Call her.
Plead the poverty of an empty bandstand.