Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

A Night in Tunisia

by Donald Levering

+++++++++is not the name of the stone-&-timber
+++++++++former silver mine jammed with grizzled hippies,
+++++++++feisty dykes, buckled bikers, jazz-&-black-tar

+++++++++junkies who can point to the stool
+++++++++where last week one of their own
+++++++++slumped into his rush and never rallied.

+++++++++Packs of dogs patrol the bar, as if we’d arrived
+++++++++in some dusty African outpost
+++++++++and not a revived mining town

+++++++++of the American West called Madrid,
+++++++++which you just mispronounced in your head;
+++++++++the residents stress syllable one like an upbeat.

+++++++++The band is wrapping Scrapple from the Apple
+++++++++as los perros squabble over scraps.
+++++++++Near the Mineshaft Tavern sign a fan

+++++++++calls out Dizzy’s tune; the group dismisses
+++++++++their set list to confer about
+++++++++Tunisia’s key and chord changes.

+++++++++They strike up a long introduction,
+++++++++cool & meditative, like Miles Davis
+++++++++nodding off on smooth steel rails to Copenhagen,

+++++++++before the tempo changes and we ride
+++++++++the syncopation train to Tunis.
+++++++++Why this combo turned up here

+++++++++with their East Coast nuevo bop
+++++++++the locals are too stoned to grasp
+++++++++is not danceable,

+++++++++weaving cobra-charmer arms in slow mo
+++++++++to sax prestissimo.
+++++++++How the house percussionist hustles

+++++++++to keep pace; how the keyboard player
+++++++++turns Tunisia into a revelation.
+++++++++How the lanky bass gambols through it all,

+++++++++even while the whacked-out hooker
+++++++++mounts the stage to shake her bazooms.
+++++++++Shrill whistles penetrate applause and cheers,

+++++++++but the band has rolled on into Perdido,
+++++++++standing before the maw of the played-out mine,
+++++++++a breeze from within blowing through them.