Was that a wink, I said leaning over to whisper in her ear,
And then the piano began playing an old gospel blues song,
From so long ago,
So far in my past and down a lonely dirt road,
Where sour weed, we chewed and the cicada sang lullabies in the shadows.
A melody which blossomed in the heavy humid Carolina night,
Then blew through shutters of someone’s, somewhere back porch resting place,
On those stained battleship-gray loblolly pine boards which graced this home and burned memories in my heart and soul.
It was almost like I was somewhere,
Maybe here before, but alone, without pretentions,
Knowing that she was near and hoping that this time I had arrived in destiny, on point, and with a spirit willing,
While the music played, and everyone in this moment,
They still danced.
Like the heartbeat that kept Ms. Holiday on stage,
Her morphine holding her slender body draped in black taffeta, steady but slurred,
Tonight, was a mystery to those in the flock who went down to the river,
They went down to that river to pray,
Leaving past sins in rushing waters washed towards God’s sea,
Seeking salvation promised by the pounding fist of their pastor and cleansing souls from sins committed just today or one night before.
1938 was the year, and that pimp banged out tunes on ivory from someplace in the sunrise which lifted crushed hearts of lovers soon one,
And then abandoned in this nightly ritual.
Now, when was least expected silence drifted past the wide yawning birth in life’s harbor,
Releasing savage thoughts and horrid memories from the past,
Memories which melted dark moonless nights where a thousand searing white stars fell from the heavens in silence.
Tonight, like every night, rye whiskey poured freely down on Duval Street,
And we watched through dusty cracked windows as he-she’s pranced by outside hoping some unexpected soul might mistake their nightmare concealed in obscurity and dime store face paint,
As something of beauty.
Private cues held in chalked hands, razors stuffed in socks for safety,
We bonded within the darkness of our souls and the history of our ancestors long forgotten and centuries before turned into dust.
Vigilance our soul mate when holding our families close, tight and in guilt, inside that paste board walled one-bedroom roach infested shack we children called home.
Hungry when work was short and alone for those who spouses and children had left in frustration or through death they sat,
Staring at the stars in the dark sky asking God to spare them from the pain strapped across their broken shoulders
By taking all from this place into a dreamland filled with honey and promise, safety and opportunity.
A place where the waters of the spirit cleansed their minds and washed all that was evil into ditches of blood-red mud drying in the bright golden sunlight of July.
“Can’t you see the water?” she asked as I pulled her from the brimstone and fires of hell? “Can’t you see the windows, and His people, they’s asking for me to come?”