The patrolman’s granite jaw cracks open
Into the wide fissure of a gap-toothed grin,
His mind’s tape rewinding twenty summers
To a cool vinyl car seat, pale chafed thighs
Trembling against his hips to the bump
And grind of wire and wood and drum-skin
Buzzing from the Chevy’s dashboard radio
(My song, back when my blood was clean):
A night dimmed to an ember, hidden
Deep under the cold ash of memory.
I still have the gift, Lord thank you
For my hands calloused beneath the fat,
And my voice’s silky glide beneath the rasp,
Telling him, Thank you very much, as I step
From the rear of the parked ambulance
Into the din of a different crowd:
A church choir of crickets layered
Atop a deep hum of highway traffic,
Distant, and broken by yelping dogs
(Hound dogs) and the laughter and shouts
Of people—vessels of blood and bone
Enclosing sadness, like a black pearl—
And I feel the joy of the old days, singing
Into the roaring crest of the crowd-sea.
I adjust my wide-brimmed hat, and tip it
To the cops and ambulance driver,
Trusting not in my words but the money
To keep them quiet about this Lazarus
Gliding into the symphonic night,
Stacks of hundreds in a canvas bag,
A swagger in those heavy, aging hips.
NICK KOLAKOWSKI is an editor and writer based in New York City. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Washington Post, Carrier Pigeon, The Evergreen Review, Crack the Spine, and a handful of other publications.