Page 22 - WTP Vol.VII #3
P. 22

 sheila carter-JoNes
One stiff knee by one stiff knee
he leans on a shopping cart as a walker. A random old guy wearing a ruby-purple watchcap
looks upward. I can’t tell if he enjoys the warmth of sunlight streaming through the glass ceiling or if he thinks it is his time to walk toward the light pushing his cart full of various items strewn
about in his thoughts.
I watch as he comes back to now.
Sees me looking. He stares. Squints his eyes.
Stretches his periscope neck toward me. Begins walking. His steps are measured stumbles of balance.
The closer he gets, I see
that he is brittle. A curved back. Faded grey eyes. His face, putty wrinkles of lines and small x’s. A coat hangs on him. He is like my grandfather,
a man who came from a time when nothing
was thrown away. When small things meant a lot.
In front of me he stands silent. Leans in, close
to my face as a lover, and asks Do you sing? I tell him I sing my Buddhist prayers.
But, do you sing Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughn? You look like you sing, he says.
I don’t know what that look-like-you-sing-look is. But, I guess he can’t forget the look
of a black woman singing.
This man’s face hangs in my darkness, close to my earth. Stale breath says,
Well, have you ever heard of Harold Betters?
I tell him the Betters Band played at my prom
back in ’68. He says he was the piano man.
I don’t say how disappointed I was that the band
wasn’t funky enough for me to shake my booty down,
get a good sweat on. Instead I say,
We were there together, like it might mean something karmic. It doesn’t.
The old man just smiles, turns and walks away saying,
There’s very little jazz being played anymore. It’s terrible what they’ve done to jazz.
Carter-Jones is the author of Three Birds Deep (winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Book Award) and the chapbooks Blackberry Cobbler Song, and Crooked Star Dream Book. Her poetry has been published in Crossing Limits, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Pennsylvania Re- view, Tri-State Anthology, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, among others. She earned her BA from Carnegie Mellon University, and both a MEd and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh.

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