The Photograph of Jay Dantry at the Entrance to Jay's Bookstall

Your standard issue khakis crisp as a street corner
and all the young men around you. The shadows
of aircraft are small ghosts at play on the ground. And
your eyes the same as ever betrayed the memory
of an old joke, the joke you would still tell as a sign
of love. Where have those dance halls gone, Jay,
that music that held you together so far from home?
We never truly appreciate the things we should. Harry said
your last words were I'm sorry so you must have known
even in the fog of successive strokes since sorry was something
I'd never known you to be. I still walk past the old storefront.
They sell lottery tickets and loose tobacco. They've refurbished
the whole place and it's clean and well-lit and there's
no old man at the counter to tell you a joke or toss you out
on your ass according to his whim. No porno mags
and no Shakespeare. No photos of the famous keeping your company.
No more glorious mess. It was the mess more than anything
that confirmed you were alive. The hundred times a splinter
from the broken window frame stabs your palm, the endless
parade of cockroaches brazen enough to loiter in the open,
every time you ran up the basement stairs and dust rained
down from the rafters, each afternoon salad oil stained your pants.
You were alive. We were all so very much alive. The city
was gray and dull and filled with ugly snow, but our breath
in the air was proof we were, in fact, here. And now that
you are not here I am sorry too. Winter is just about over,
but I can still see the pale play of my breath lingering
and your voice telling me I am here. The shadows
of the neighborhood trees and my shitty moods are only a hint
of those ghosts almost solid on the tarmac and ready for flight,
ready with a terrible joke and later the music already striking up
in your ears, the arms of young strangers waiting, the world
as I will know it years and years from there.

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