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Kent Leatham

Fake Book

The seventeenth-best lounge pianist
in my hometown is going blind.

Look how you care.

Did I mention he's also the third-best poet,
twelfth-best painter,
and a jazz drummer of slightly more
unquantifiable repute?

Did I mention his children
and the children they have?
Do I dare disclose the name of his wife?

"Up here in the woods," said Thomas Merton,
"the wind comes through the trees and you breathe it."

Last week in my basement, the third rat escaped
the trap completely except for the skull.

My friend writes poems longhand,
sets them to songs he composes longhand.
One song was about seeing Sandra Bullock
in a bar, or someone who looked like her.
Sometimes it's hard to tell in a bar.

"What I do," Merton said, "is live. Who said Zen?
Wash out your mouth if you said Zen.
If you see a meditation going by, shoot it."

This was Merton's private journal,
Sometime in May, 1965.
It's easy to keep a private journal
when you can see.

The quick, bold rats of my friend's hands
will still be able to play piano
when night falls like the trap's yoke
in the basement of the bar, I guess.

It probably wasn't Sandra Bullock.

Sometimes living isn't enough.

Poet and translator Kent Leatham's work has appeared in dozens of journals nationwide, including Ploughshares, Fence, Poetry Quarterly, and Able Muse, as well as being featured in the 2013 Global Poetry Quarterly Anthology (Vehicule Press). He holds an MFA in Poetry from Emerson College and served as a poetry editor for Black Lawrence Press. He teaches at California State University, Monterey Bay and lives in Pacific Grove, California.

— posted September 2017

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