Panther, by Ned O’Gorman

When the panther came
no belfrey rang alarums,
no cleric spat his tea.
When the panther came
the sky and lawn were still.
The panter came
through forest,
through field,
up to the wall
and my one blossoming cherry tree.

I had constructed
the world as it was
and had pared the body
from the customs of languor.
It pressed its nose against
the pane and its gears
ground me away into ribbons
of dissonance.

It turned and sauntered
into the shadows. Its
paw marks on the earth
like cherries too ripe in a white bowl.

On 52nd Street, by Philip Levine

Down sat Bud, raised his hands,
the Deuces silenced, the lights
lowered, and breath gathered
for the coming storm. Then nothing,
not a single note. Outside starlight
from heaven fell unseen, a quarter-
moon, promised, was no show,
ditto the rain. Late August of ‘50,
NYC, the long summer of abundance
and our new war. In the mirror behind
the bar, the spirits—imitating you—
stared at themselves. At the bar
the tenor player up from Philly, shut
his eyes and whispered to no one,
“Same thing last night.” Everyone
been coming all week long
to hear this. The big brown bass
sighed and slumped against
the piano, the cymbals held
their dry cheeks and stopped
chicking and chucking. You went
back to drinking and ignored
the unignorable. When the door
swung open it was Pettiford
in work clothes, midnight suit,
starched shirt, narrow black tie,
spit shined shoes, as ready
as he’d ever be. Eyebrows
raised, the Irish bartender
shook his head, so Pettiford eased
himself down at an empty table,
closed up his Herald Tribune,
and shook his head. Did the TV
come on, did the jukebox bring us
Dinah Washington, did the stars
keep their appointments, did the moon
show, quartered or full, sprinkling
its soft light down? The night’s
still there, just where it was, just
where it’ll always be without
its music. You’re still there too
holding your breath. Bud walked out.