Susan Schultz

Weeknights At the Piano Bar

--One found the Lord in a piano bar,
another sparred with angels--
aloof, enigmatic--behind palms
that never contrived to pray,
but stood guard over lovers
sharing mai-tais past sunset,
red as blood, but not half so
serious. I was there; I watched
and made of watching my excuse
to be part and parcel of a story
that emanated as if from the up-
raised arms of sails in the harbor.

--Allegory is your friend,
arguing compulsively for meaning,
just different from the one
you intended, eery displacement
of, like refugees walking toward
what? Camp, way station, shelter:
it's all a matter of degrees,
or worse, the euphemisms told 
to quiet the heart, suspicious
and with such good reason. War
over, we return to plain speech,
housing our griefs in bungalows,
even those by the beach, surf's
lament a paradoxical calm.

--The target audience is younger
than we are, never knew the 60s,
hardly even the 70s, except
through artificial screen memories
concocted like bad love songs
to make us think of nostalgia
not as anodyne to absence but
as truth, if we only knew it.

--I've learned to replace "candy
stores" with "crackseed," acquired
a taste for salt, rock plums
my antidote to heart's slow
burn, its unseen ash dropped
in grates, pomegranates standing
in as comic hearts, left on shelves
awaiting someone's return. Can
it be the Lord, his long fingers
flashing scales on the electric 
piano like a latter-day Eubie
Blake, himself the redeemer
of silences too hard to be dis-
tilled, the pure virtue of benzine
unable to work its magic on stone,
leaning to give counsel infants
hear as milk, absolving all
of sins not fit to print . . . 

--I walked the beach's dark spine,
muttering incoherent spells--just
syllables--at whatever sighs
the sea dissolves toward, knowing
no voices agree on terms, though
harmony's not entirely out 
of the question. The dark tower
pierceth light, and knights of no
name do battle to keep emblems
alive that carried them across
the plains, epic in proportion,
act. Praise the Lord and pass--
the word dies in no chivalry
of tongue or lexicon, but praise--
that's what the palms do--
in singleness with the odd
intent of blue sky.