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Red Sneaker                                      His Masterpiece
Dennis D'Asaro



it took him the whole winter of the blizzard of '77
bleak snow bleak soul
and an average cash worth of one dollar seven cents any given day
in this February he found himself on a barstool shoved into a corner of a diner
between the doors to the restrooms
singing for fifteen dollars

at 1:37 of a Sunday morning, two cabbies and a fry cook
arguing hockey at the counter
the clock disputing every second until two
the before-prozac depression screaming in his heart to go home to bed
read physics and poetry until dawn
there a tiny comfort entered his mind that he could lose himself in the next song
adjusted the capo to find the plaintive register in his voice
felt the starting point
plucked out of the strings the opening passages of Dylan's
"just like a woman"

and launched into it with all the angst of his discouraged 30-year-old soul
Nobody feels any pain
(when he was sixty he would have twice as much soul and half the need to express it)
sang the two verses about druggie life and
made his way for once through the awkward too-high bridge
then nongenius fingers miraculously brought the instrument around
without flaw to set up the third verse
the lines flowered from his heart, and that torch lit,
and all that pain nobody felt gusted up from the interminable winter of his life
and if we may wax omnicient and microcosmic,
the words before the end of the last line,
his voice cracking and stretching perfectly on the syllable "I, "
making a phrase out of it,
loading into the word "hungry" the very paradigm of the feeling
that four seconds was the very pinnacle of his art from the day he sang
in front of the second grade unto all the possible decades to follow.
and he breathed, and secure upon this platform of perfection began, effortlessly,
to pull out of the æther the words of the final chorus
right then the young waitress clattered up to him and whispered loudly
hey, make this your last song, okay?
a third cabbie banged in the door and yelled who's yer daddy?
and some girls in a booth raised their conversation to the level of shouts
the waitress said, okay?