Kicking Russell Out of the Band

When he got there, a ring of us
were leaned on cars outside Terry’s garage—
guys around forty and me, twenty-seven—
when he got there in that little pickup
frail with rust, an aquarium of tools
through the truck cap window. It was
Terry who told him—for once in weeks
no anger in his voice about
the lagging tempo, or, That’s not calypso!
And then there was a silence not unlike
the half-a-sec at the end of a tune, mouthpiece
at my lips, not yet
the clatter of life again and Russell
went blank as a lottery winner—

Russell, who banged at two-by-fours all day
so he could play drums at night, who had been
with them since the first
cow-pasture-fests at Jason’s farm,
me always finding out after,
their names in a myth
of sunshine and hippy girls. “Chris,
did you go along with this?” he asked,
which, I remember, surprised me— 
I was still on the theory of people just
driving away. And when I saw him

at the bank last week, thirteen years later,
and asked him, “Are you playing any music?”
there was a moment in which
we were still standing there at Terry’s garage,
me leaning back on a car like a shy boy playing
cool at a dance, saying, “Yah, I did,”
believing this was a decision
about lagging tempos, thinking
it was actually an option to side with beauty.
And then Russell looked at me and said, “All the time.”
And then I just drove away.

From In Someone Else's House (BkMK Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Christian Barter. Used with the permission of the author.