Kevin Pilkington: “Mingus”


I take taxis just to get somewhere
learning foreign languages the drivers
speak. My Spanish has gotten stronger,
Arabic gets stuck in my throat, German
goes great with sauerkraut and I still get by
on the English I’ve been practicing for years.

I once saw a fisherman on the docks
beat his catch with a club. Sometimes
the city is a fisherman with a club
in its hand and I’m the one who catches
a beating. At other times the entire city
gleams like the gold chains around the necks
of guys who tunnel and bridge in on Saturday nights.

The sound of sirens is how the neighborhood
tightens its belt, and the oil cooking in fast
food joints and diners makes things easier
whenever I need to slide through another day.
The best bars are at the end of my block on Second
where I can drink until I’m Jesus and cure
the leper I find in the mirror.

The few good jazz clubs are gone now,
although I can hear wind improvise
rather than gust along the street. And those
horn arrangements? Forget it. They are nothing
more than traffic in rush hour. Even though
it may sound like him it’s never Mingus
no matter how much I want it to be.

Kevin Pilkington’s most recent collections of poetry are The Unemployed Man Who Became A Tree (2011) and Where You Want To Be: New & Selected Poems (2015) both from Black Lawrence Press.

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