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We talked about Baroness Pannonica

driving her Silver Pigeon to the Five Spot

to chauffeur Monk home. I was happy

not to talk football, the inventory of skulls

in a cave in Somalia, the democratic vistas

of the Cedar Tavern, or about Spinoza.

We were saying how the legs go first

& then from the eyes mystery is stolen.

I said how much I miss Bill Matthews,

that sometimes at the Village Vanguard,

Fez, or Small's, especially when some cat

steals a riff out of Prez's left back pocket,

I hear his Cincinnati laugh. Then our gaze

snagged on a green dress shifting the light.

If you'd asked me, I couldn't have said why

I knew jasmine from the silence of Egypt,

or how water lives only to remember fire.

As we walked out of the sanctuary of garlic,

chive, onion, mushroom, & peppery dough,

we agreed Rahsaan could see rhythm

when he blew wounded cries of night hawks

at daybreak. The heat of the pizza parlor

followed us to the corner, & two steps later

I remembered the scent of loneliness

in my coat left draped over the chair.

I had fallen in love with its cut,

how it made me walk straighter.

When I passed the young James Dean

coming out the door with my blue-gray coat

balled up in his arms, I didn't stop him.

I don't know why. I just stood there

at the table. But, David, years after

I circled the globe, I'm still ashamed

of memories that make me American

as music made of harmony & malice.

The Story of a Coat

Yusef Komunyakaa

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