27 May 2009

Ed Pavlić

[from Ed Pavlić’s Paraph of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue, Copper Canyon, 2001]

You Sound Unseen

          -- for Phyllis Hyman

A red spot burns
    a cyclone on the cymbal's
       crown. Take

the night off. Give up
    the scar between
       hindsight &

the unheard. Save
    your ears for tongue-tips
       & the things

they do well. Let's
    don't disturb twisters
       of unspoken

brass. Leave sweat
    profiles alone on the
       sheet. Step

thru tastes & stain
    in the street. & nobody
       knows what

to do at the lakefront after
    a storm. Confessions wash
       ashore. Wave set

upon wave, knee deep
    in driftwood tangled & smooth
       as hammer

handles or ankle bones.
    & holding on means fingers

means we
    braid our own


The El sickles thru.
    Sparks shriek. Then glow
       in a low pulse-

ache. Shoves a grudge thru
    tight veins toward missing limbs.
       At night,

if I smell tobacco in the breeze,
    I can still feel my granddad's
       knotted hand

tuck me in bed, the firm
    press of his Y shaped grip.
       Not a sound

from his ironworker's stride.
    He told me about cold jobs.
       and high jobs

up in the Loop that floated blue
    on morning fog blown in
       off the lake.

Said by 3:30, he could walk
    a beam of light thru a smoky
       room for a shot

& a beer. Said the beauty
    or an open coke furnace was
       you always knew

how much fire your chest
    could hold, & exactly where
       the Devil was.


An old man
    mutters into his drink
       scalp silvered

ebony, dusted
    by a three day old

Sits alone at the end
    of the bar. A carnation
       in his green

lapel. By '87, you'd already
    begun to whistle thru
       a few verses

of "Old Friend." Not fooled
    by the sequin sheen,

a missing index finger
    when a mic-swipe cleaves
       your voice.

Whispers under breath into
    the rift.    I know your
       tricks now --

From across the room,
    a waitress sees him shake
       his fist

while candle-lit couples hold
    hands at tables up front.
       He lights

a cigarette & blows a cloud
    over his glassy-eyed

The cold traps
    a curl of smoke in the glass.
       A long ash

falls to the bar. Toasts
    touché    to the whistler
       & downs

the rest. With a wince,
    slides off the stool thru a red
       cloud behind

your silhouette & Welcome to
       in the bar

mirror. Turns to go, reads
    his own lips    Punish it woman,
       punish it.

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