I wrote this short piece for "Welcome to Storyville" (2005, Xlibris). It came back to me today as I was listening to Chet Baker play his horn, as pure as an angel, with the devil racing through his veins. We're all walking contradictions, reaching heavenward, hounds at our heels. That's what the guy in this piece is talking about - good intentions, earthly vices, regret, and a glimmer of grace. He's probably a jazz musician, but he could be anyone. Thanks to Lou Reed for the title...and for not suing me for lifting it.
Set the Twilight Reeling
If I could just get my hands on five hundred dollars. Tonight. If I could just get my sax out of hock. If I could hold you one more time. If I could finish that book. That song. That thought that never made it out of my head and into your ear. If I could find the right drummer. If I could have pulled off what Oedipus did. If I could remove this guilt like a skin. If I could check in for 30 days and get clean. If I could get some junk in my veins right now. If you’d have listened. If I had found that hook when I needed it. If God was home and checking His mail. If grace had dominion and sway over these demons. If I could just get my hands on two hundred dollars. Tonight. If I could just find my Velvet Underground tape. If I had been clean when I met that agent in Soho. If I hadn’t thrown up on her shoes. If I could forget your name, your face, your fingerprints. Your sex. If I had been born somewhere east of here. A hundred years from now. Or fifty years ago. If I had been Bobby Kennedy. Or Malcolm X. Or even Bird. If I had been a gunslinger. If I could just get my hands on fifty bucks. Tonight.
I could take my words. Those notes. This moment. My battered faith. Your bruised heart. All the troubles of the world would rest just fine on my shoulders after I turn that corner. I can see that corner. This time, I can see it. You’d see, too. I’d make it all up to you. I’d gather up all the stars and the sun in my arms, and I’d set the twilight reeling.