by Michael Miller
One century (which time let go)
lives on stubbornly in this room.
The speakers hum with tales
of Sunday gospel, police dogs on the shoals,
bootleg whiskey at the back of a bus
in Chicago after the war.
Thirty chairs and a light turned low
give shelter from the cold outside
where the word ‘legend’ is scrawled in black
by the photograph on the window.
Hoarse, white-haired, he squints at the figures
who watch him back from the crooked tables,
his fingers conjuring the notes from childhood,
his foot on the case tapping rhymes.
You’re healed now, say the thin girl’s eyes.
I’m out of change, says the man with the jar.
A couple sways in the dark by the counter;
the boys sit up front, eager, taking notes down.
Their pens sustain him. At ten, alone,
he walks by the ghosts of a college town,
the bootleggers painted solemn on
the gallery walls, Chicago beamed
into the multiplex, the gnash of police dogs
pantomimed through a flickering reel,
the bus stopping by the curb to take him
to his next one-night stand, the headlights gold
as the waitress shuts out the light,
and heads for the dead of home.
Last updated March 20, 2023