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Eighteenth Day ElegyTo Candy M. Gourlay's previous piece

Jazz at Four a.m. 

'My cross of tales 
behind the fabulous curtain' 
- Dylan Thomas, To-Day, This Insect

Liquor wings flew him into oncoming traffic 
one cardboard night, late October. 
Bird squashed on a highway, I imagined him 
curled neatly on the passenger seat 
like a kitten on a windowsill-jolted awake 
by vehicle's zigzag waltz, then blinding light 
etching maps of his life into onion skin 
with headlamps of a ten-ton truck. 
It happened in Bethlehem, of all places. 
One of them walked away untouched, 
good karma-or a bad case of good luck. 
Driver's penance, a fractured femur 
(alcohol saved him, made him floppy). 
But not the sleeper: vegetable head- 
skull, mashed potatoes; hollow Halloween 
pumpkin.  Hands in-tact made no attempt 
to save his face. 

Casualty waiting room: flammable trash 
bin flexing with long-nosed woman 
sipping tragedy through straws, 
"What brings you here at this hour, dear?" 
Telescope eyes search posters, 'Aid 
for Relatives of Head Injury / Deceased' 
seething with memory of hard-boiled lives 
embedded like shrapnel in wallpaper. 
Polystyrene cups wreak of rancid coffee; 
stain shoes of perspective- 
years of celery caught between teeth 
of marriage find tears skeletons in a desert. 
But this?   Headline: wishing proves fatal. 
Imminent death lingers like smoke 
in a jazz club at four a.m. 

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