“Piano Bench,”
Stephanie Lee Jackson
Dane Cervine


It begins in the public restroom at the parking garage, 
a woman and man in the far stall, the sound of zippers, murmurs. 
It continues as I waltz down the Pacific Garden Mall, 
saxophone lilting with moon, a night light as New Orleans 
when the side streets pour their slow syrup of patrons 
onto Bourbon, something fierce in every pleasure, every need. 
I saunter into a café, sip dark mulatto coffee, feel each vein 
fill with religion, the dangerous kind, where for a moment 
you swear the world almost makes sense, and you, harbinger, 
filled with premonition, could walk out the door, spill the secret 
everywhere. Then it’s gone, and beyond the window I see 
the sadness of parking meters lining the streets, how you pay 
just to be here: bits of skin, confidence, falling into empty slots 
for a little more time. Always, 

this smudging of dark and light, how chocolate tastes better 
when the coffee is bitter, how those with everything become 
so lethargic, or ravenous for more—as though it were desirable 
to be insatiable so that one could still long to be filled. 
And so it goes,

the shifting chimeras in bar patrons’ eyes as I pass 
Costa Brava’s wide windows, the mischief in the young boy’s fiddle 
as finger and bow prance along string and fretless wood.
It never fades, like a badly behaved seductive siren
swaying her hips round the corner, and all I have to do
is follow, find out what waits down the muted dark
of alley: bit of jazz, red of lip, pleasures so stark 
I’d swear there’s a chance of coming out
the other end alive.