like this or that?
samuel saint thomas
the man at the door said, “jazz and poetry, man.”
“you want to?” i said.
“sure,” she said.
two minutes later, two whiskeys, two straws, two packs of smokes, and whatever was on our minds, the two of us stood, on one foot each, in the window , against the wall, at bleeker and thompson. coltrane’s ‘soul dance’ wove between the bawdy lines like hot oil down the back of wanton pleasure. i sparked a natural. i pushed the smoke toward heaven as a buxom poet in red spoke in seductive tone on love and genital pride.
my partner sparked a camel, shifted her weight to the other side, and said, “do you have a piece of paper?”
“yes i do,” i said, digging in my sac o doe.
i handed her the whole book. she ripped a piece across the bottom like a knife drags butter over toast. fifteen seconds and less words later she folded it like a love note premier and lowered it to a safe place. i had curious thoughts.
“do you see yourself doing something like this?” i asked.
“like this or like that?” she asked.
“well, you’re already doing this quite well,” i said, “i was thinking more of, ‘like that’, like reading some poetry to jazz, or playing your guitar up there on a stage.”
“yeah, i’ve done that, yea, it’s great,” she said.
“did people like it?” i asked.
“armando did, he was a vietnam vet, but he died,” she said in a downward sliding tone.
the mic crackles just then. “that’s our show,” said the poet, “thank you very much.” the band moves off, the poets fidget and move about the place in short hushed steps from table to table in a bending over conversation style. seems as they may have more readings than the band had material. i got the idea there were thousands of writings in cue. then suddenly it looked as if a decision had been made. “we’re going to do the poems on here,” the announcer said, pointing at an old black podium, “you have two.”
a clunky fan hums and buzzes. a poet delivers. three people at a corner table clap. my partner and I smiled deeply at each other. we always do. she’s not only a poet, i mused, she’s a mystery.
“he’s happy,” a woman at the next table says, discussing someone else's love life.
“she’s fucked up,” her man says.
“this poem is called 'why do we bother?'” says the poet.