Into the Night

Suzanne Cleary

for David Sanjek, 1952-2011

Do you have good light? Good kitchen knives?
A fish market? A Thai restaurant like the one
on Olive Boulevard, with yellow Formica counters,

an endless cup of tea, poured as you walk in?
Were your hundreds of CDs and books
already up there? Unpacked, and shelved?

Are your parents there?
Are they young? Is there time, up there?
I don’t mean enough time. I mean time.

Didn’t we talk late into the night? Remember,
If there were no time, could there be music?
There is music up there, right? New music,

by someone nobody’s yet heard of?
Definitely Autumn Leaves, by Mr. Julian
“Cannonball” Adderley, I’m In the Mood 

for Love, by King Pleasure and Blossom Dearie?
Have you met Roy Orbison? Is he still blind?
Have you met Milton? Ditto.

Do you still wear rimless, thick-lensed glasses?
Do you wear the Greek fisherman’s cap
you left on the train, circa 1987?

Do you know that I wanted to burn your baseball cap?
That I hated, sometimes, your capacity
to retain every fact you had ever learned,

no matter how arcane, refined, popular, or just
plain weird? That I did not always want to know
how the scene was shot, the special effect produced,

or the sauce was made? Do you know
that when you held the spoon to your lips, and
slowly named the ingredients, you taught how to live?

Remember the Friday night radio program
that ended with Ben Webster’s Chelsea Bridge,
with the DJ who called himself The Man in the Red Vest?

Have you met him? You may expect me to ask
if he wears a red vest, but I don’t want to know.
I want to know, has he asked you for a play list?

Have you scribbled for him, on a paper napkin,
a column of the songs you love, and
a column of the songs you almost love, because

you love the deep tenderness that resides in the flaws?
As your new friend read the list, did you
stare at him over the top of your glasses

as you would stare at me, as the movie’s final credits
scrolled, and the screen went black,
the house lights rose?

Can you believe that I have never stopped using
your single-word charm for avoiding the long goodbye,
to which we both are given, okseeyoubye? 

After the movie, you would look at me
and lean slightly away, so as to see me more clearly,
and then you would ask, Well? What do you think?

I think you do not know
that I have never forgotten, from the late 1970s,
your brief, unfortunate penchant

for cheap Hawaiian shirts,
that I think those shirts the sole instance
of your loving anything lightly, and not forever.

Suzanne Cleary‘s poetry books are Keeping Time and Trick Pear, both published by Carnegie Mellon. Her honors include a Pushcart Prize and inclusion in several anthologies, including Poetry 180 and Best American Poetry.