You know when darkness seems to pour
from the sky, driving tense
even a mile from your own front door, two black
lanes with a centerline oh
so easy to cross—flashing lights, red in those days:
police. I think I was behind
the wheel but it could have been Royce who
pulled off Augusta Road
between the paved Ten Pin parking lot
and the mud track leading
to the Saratoga Club. We eased onto the mud side
where we’d never been before,
because that’s where the crowd was, where something
had happened, cop grinning,
and more than fifty years later I can’t say
whether I knew him, though we
had only four then, I think, in Garden City.
All the eyes had that look
eyes have when the ordinary hour breaks open
and shines a spotlight
of extravagance into dark routine. Headlights.
Until this moment—this moment—
I have not asked if my own eyes looked like that.
How can it be this moment?
Penny loafers, Wingtips, Converses arced
round a man face down
on the sludgy shoulder. Do I remember
a disappearing rivulet
of blood? I can’t ask Royce. He’s dead. I seem
to recall a joke about catching
a fender instead of a bus. Saturday night, right
in front of the Saratoga Club.
In my head how can there be only white faces, faces lit
with a kind of joy, jazzy
amusement—an accident, therefore, a gift. And so,
killing time, waiting for the useless
ambulance. To the south, Royce and Bobbie and I
clustered often in the parking lot,
palming a beer, sometimes going in to knock down
a few pins, but mostly circling
the nine ball table, talking trash. To the north,
the mythical, mystical
Saratoga Club, set back from the road in year-round
Christmas lights, shadowed
on the weekends with fedoras and long skirts, dark
people keeping their distance
even now, not one kneeling by this utterly still man,
from black umbrellas, muted music behind them, inside.