I was in the barber’s chair in the basement of Carnegie Hall
hanging with Tchaikovsky, the evening’s guest conductor
and a solid cat.
He was telling me Montezuma “quaffed” a hot mix of chocolate
and chili peppers from a gold chalice fifty times daily.
I told him I was embarrassed by the women at the supermarket
who gave out free food samples,
who wore the fear that I would stop
and speak to them like an apron.
Peter Ilyich told me that lightning strikes generated heat
greater than the sun’s.
I told him, from the side of my pinched lathery mouth, that I felt
the desire of the boys bagging groceries to be anywhere else
like a hairnet about my temples.
He told me that in remote China relatives buried things
imagined as useful to the corpse in the afterlife with their beloved,
and so dead unmarried women commanded high dowries.
“What if these grave-mates knew each other in life and bristled,”
he said, “what if they would have loved this?”
I told him about the guy at the end of the conveyor belt who called me,
called everybody, hotrod.
I told him, Tchaikovsky, that he, the bagger and car enthusiast,
told me, the ringleader, he worried about me.
I said that can’t be true, can it?
The conductor strode to the high window, pointed south.
“There at the cloudy top,” he said, “of the tallest edifices,
men will build dirigible stations, and men,” he said, “will ride
in wheelhouses to work, guy ropes whipping beneath
the gangway in the breeze. ”
I told him that when I was in the supermarket my new sobriety
fit like a wool suit in summer, that while looking at cans it hit me
that what I’ve lost, what I’ve given away, are the same.