I woke up with Duke Ellington in Pines

like there was nothing else: no muesli nor porridge,

just Ellington and Pines and so it seemed

I needed to write you a postcard

telling you I am okay. That, yes,

it’s been a sacrificial three years, but then

I come across the smell of pink soap, pine sap

stuck between cords or a greyhound

snuffing my hand and I think

I ought to write a long letter that says:

I am doing well, the forest is high

with berries that stain my boots red

like our room used to feel. And yes,

I am in woods – literal or metaphorical,

you can put me wherever is easy – in a room

where wind always wuthers or in the trunk

of a dead tree. I always put you in a dress

you never wore but I used to touch

everyday getting my shirt or tie

or sometimes I would open the door and look

at the lichen thing, wonder why it had to hang

like an unwatered fern, wonder if it ever wanted you

the way I sometimes wanted you. And, of course,

it was just a dress and it could not say and, of course,

I was just a young man and I couldn’t say,

even about a dress that did nothing but hang.

I couldn’t talk about it. So, what chance

was there for us when I would walk every night

and count one thousand street lamps? If I ever awoke

with Ellington and pines you know I would not

wake you and tell you, would not write it on scrap

paper and leave it for breakfast. I’d just keep

Duke Ellington in Pines in my mind; would walk with it,

take it to the pictures, buy it a pop, let it rest on my shoulder

during long journeys. I would smoke Duke Ellington

in Pines with friends and so I am today, smoking

Duke Ellington, wanting to write him, in pines, to you.


First published in Valve, Issue 3, October 2013