And Another Thing

By Gregory Djanikian

Featured art: Still Life with Violin by William Harnett

Such dislike for the woman who’s come late
to the concert making our whole row rise just
as the tenor sax hits its high E-flat and now
she’s sitting next to me and texting—my god!—
during the drummer’s lithe percussive
rhythms which are not my rhythms judging
by my heavy foot beats and my fingers
bending into little arcs of stone and I’m thinking
of some way to annihilate her phone invisibly
maybe with a squint of my eye and how lovely
to imagine the stark O of her mouth
her pretty hands holding nothing but the air
I allow her to breathe O most merciful zapper
that I’ve become father-confessor for all her sins
committed impending unthought-of
her stubborn knees bent to the spectacle
of my very unblind justice which I’d like to take
on tour now-and-then accosting scofflaws
speedsters unholy maître d’s smug
people of all sorts and let’s not forget
the dry cleaner who’s ruined my favorite shirt
through some occult chemical mishap
and of course this woman sitting next to me
whose soft knit-covered ribs I’m trying hard
not to jab my elbow into but she’s smiling now
as if she’d rather be here than anywhere else
riffing with the pianist moving her hips in time

and okay, maybe her lateness wasn’t her fault
maybe her husband needed a significant operation
maybe it was poor Aunt Lavinia texting her
that the vicious dog she heard at the door
was really her own little Shnoozy,
and shouldn’t I maybe introduce myself to her
say what a grand concert this has been judging
from the thunderous standing ovation
everyone’s giving the band including me

though didn’t the set-list seem so short
did they at least play “Splenectomy Blues”
or “Dry Bone Breakdown” and why are we
all filing out when there’s so much more
to be mulled over like an old song of the heart
you’ve carried with you a long time
but can barely hear above all the noise.

Gregory Djanikian has published seven collections of poems with Carnegie Mellon, the latest of which is Sojourners of the In-Between (2020). His poems have been published in numerous journals and anthologies and have been featured on Fresh Air and NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He was for many years the director of creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania and now lives with his wife, the painter Alysa Bennett, near Philadelphia.

Originally published in NOR 22.

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