I swirled the last of the amber liquor a couple of times then tilted the glass back and drank. But I didn’t just drink, I held it in my mouth, I savored it. I inhaled deeply, with my nose in the glass, as it flowed and, I swallowed slow – enjoying the heat as it spread from my throat outwards, warming all the way down to my toes.
I glanced up on the shelf. Checking the statuette of ‘Black Jesus’ that I had bought at the Goodwill when I was ten years old, I was very protective. Fifteen dollars, it had cost, but in my eyes he was priceless. Carved obsidian; about four inches tall with one hand holding his robe and the other held out as if to welcome me, to bless me, or to forgive me for sins I had yet to commit.
I opened the small box on the coffee table and gazed at the cassette tapes it contained. Bootleg recordings of poetry. Some read by the poets themselves and others read by a proxy. Among others, I thumbed past Dickinson, Frost, Yeats, and Whitman. I removed and set aside the tape labeled “Rich”. I knew what this tape contained and thought that the symbolism might be just what I needed tonight, but it was too early to commit.
I looked deeper into the box and came across Angelou whose simple truths I always found enlightening. I set this aside as well. Thumbing through several more, I was nearing the end of my collection when I came across Thomas and Neruda, whose tapes were side by side in the box. Thomas might be too cerebral for an evening with 12 year old whiskey, or maybe not. I set him aside as well. It was not an evening for love poems so I left Neruda in the box. Not tonight, not tonight.
I had pulled Rich, Angelou, and Thomas, so it was from these that I must choose. My hand hovered over each in turn until it finally came to rest on Rich. I returned the other two carefully to their box.
Placing the tape into the player I depressed “PLAY”, closed my eyes and waited until the voice of the poet, reading her own words began to sooth me. The poem was “Diving into the Wreck” from the book of the same name published in 1973.
I allowed her words to wash over me in waves, to transport me, until the final stanza when I leaned forward and increased the volume:
“We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
our names do not appear.”
I hit “REWIND” and listened to the sounds of the tape backing up until I got to where I believed the final stanza began. I listened to it one more time and pressed “STOP”.
More whiskey appears in the glass that I raise to ‘Black Jesus’.
“Here’s to Ms. Rich,” I tell him, “Take good care of her. She’s a treasure.”
He smiled ever so slightly and nodded his head.
No prompt – Just something I needed to write.