The Piano Man

This guy on the piano here,
with his cap on frontways
so you know he’s serious.
He’s grinning like he’s hopped up,
his fingers working bass and keys
simultaneously, the sway of his head
shaking the whole room.

There’s chatter and the cheers-clink of beer bottles.
From the smoking room
comes the occassional raspy cough, and beneath it all
the crowd moans and sighs
as this piano man takes us
places we can’t put our fingers on.

Then there’s a second,
or maybe twenty,
where something clicks.
The drummer knows it,
as does the bassist, and the
piano man knows it, because he got there first. For a second,
or maybe twenty,
the band has found IT. That elusive
Kerouacian IT.

Beer freezes on the tongue
mid-sip, and a trickle
of sweat stops half-way
down our backs. A cigarette
delicately poised between mid
and fore-finger crinkles
quietly to ash and its flame
is licked. There’s someone
ascending the stairs, whose
feet stick, whose head
tilts down and back to look
almost over the shoulder.
The air is empty of oxygen,
it is filled only with notes.

Then the second, or maybe
the hour is up, and the
film is unpaused. I can
see on their faces that
nobody’s quite sure what
happened – though they all share
a smile. But I know;
I saw it. I saw IT. And

the piano man avoids my gaze.

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