KRESS, LEONARD

A PALACE UNDER THE STARS

 

He wanders out one night without his pants.

He only knows because he feels a chill,

But still he doesn’t check—more important

 

Matters to worry about. Like how he’ll

Explain this lit-up place, this party he wasn’t

Invited to. Did he take the El?

 

Board a casino bus? Right now he doesn’t

Think he’s in Atlantic City, or even

Downtown. Yet what explains this event

 

He’s chanced upon—he counts all seven

Deadly sins enacted with ferocity

By well-dressed people. He thinks this is not heaven,

 

But he’s not so sure. The long walk through the city

Takes his breath away. He cannot shake a cramp.

This marvelous celebration makes him giddy,

 

Blinded by the headlight shine, the ramp

Down which cars fly, as bumpers almost brush

His legs and dent a van as if to stamp

 

Their sign. And then, offering all the cash

He has, he claims responsibility

For all the damage. He wants that rush

 

Of forgiveness, but only feels the crowd’s pity

And scorn. Someone offers him a drink,

Which he refuses. Sorry to spoil the party

 

He says—gallstones, clogged arteries, the brink

Of organ failure. No one remains to hear

As the ever-growing crowd begins to shrink,

 

Disappearing, it seems, into the sheer

Endless multi-tiers of a giant tent,

Invisible to all but him. He wants to share

 

This vital knowledge about the firmament

With his fellow partiers, but the canvas straps

Of the beach chair he’s sure he hadn’t meant

 

To sit in dig into his flesh. He must slap

Them hard to regain circulation. Oh what

Will his wife and children think, all the crap

 

He puts them through? Suddenly, his thoughts shut

Down, and a song he’s never heard croons

Up inside. A song with the power to cut

 

Life short—or lengthen it. He knows the tune

And knows he must share it with all the wonderful

People around him. So he sings—and soon

 

His voice becomes less tentative, a swell

Of falsetto-sweetness, leading to the chorus,

Which goes, All this in a beautiful

 

Place, a place right under the stars. As

His singing grows increasingly melismatic,

When he sings place it sounds like palace.

 

 

Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, Crab Orchard Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex, Living in the Candy Store, and Braids & Other Sestinas.  He teaches philosophy, religion, and creative writing at Owens College in Ohio.

 

 

LK

 

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