To My Fellow Poet, Charles

We chose to meet at Starbucks,

near where Charles teaches poetry

at a community college.

I got there first, I assumed, seeing nobody

looking like the Charles I remembered.

After 10 minutes, considering how sure

he’d been about his exact moment of arrival

I got out my iPhone. Oh, nuts!

No listing for Charles.

Would I ever learn?

I found his last email. I felt proud.

In the subject line, I wrote, I am here,

Then touched the arrow and off it went.

His email came just seconds later,

“I am here,” his reply.

Only one man was sitting alone.

I supposed Charles could have gotten

chubbier and grubbier, my own memory

faulty, not that it was ever great,

one of many reasons

I kept notes about everything.

“Are you Charles?” I asked.

“Yes,” said this chubby, grubby person.

I sat down at his table for two.

“Can I buy you a drink?” I asked.

He held up his glass. “Nah, I’m good.”

“A pastry maybe?”

“Maybe later,” he said, then loudly slurped.

Boy, Charles has changed, I thought.

“So, what’s it like coming back to Tucson

after being gone 20 years?” I asked.

He looked at me strangely,

slurped once more,

then said with a shrug,

“You’re not the person I’m expecting.

My middle name’s Charles, so everyone

calls me by my nickname, Chuck.”

Chuck? Chuck?

Was The Cosmic Imp chuckling?

I sent a fast email,

to which The Real Charles replied

with his Starbuck’s address a few blocks away,

 plus “grey shirt, black stocking cap, sitting inside.”

His cell phone number, too!

Yes! Yes! Yes! That was the Charles

I’d trust to review my cosmic poetry!

When we finally met, Charles as nice as when

we both wrote for a since defunct Tucson

publisher, I joked about Einstein laughing

somewhere in The Great Everywhere 

about our relative here.

That happened early spring, 2019.

In August, 2019, on a 104º Wednesday,

I sent Charles an email, confirming our lunch date

for ‘tomorrow,’ would be fine, and a request

he choose what time and place seemed best.

In his email the next a.m., I read

Beyond Bread on Campbell at 1 p.m.

“See you there and then,” I emailed back.

At 1 p.m. at Beyond Bread  I reasoned,

someone always gets there first.

At 1:05, I checked my emails.

None from him. It was still early.

At 1:10, I phoned his cell.

I left a voice mail. I sent a text.

I imagined him driving, stuck in traffic,

Listening to classical music or NPR.

At 1:20, I sent an email, thinking

maybe he went to one of Tucson’s

other two Beyond Breads.

At 1:25 what must have happened

 dawned on me,

unless he’d had an emergency.

At 1:40, I started on my half BLT.

Like clockwork, my cell phone rang.

“I thought you meant tomorrow, as in Friday,”

he said, in apologetic surprise.

“I realized my email probably didn’t reach you

until today,” I said, and in my head

Einstein in that great Everywhere

was teasing Hawking, Feynman, Bohr,

and the whole edge of reality physics crew

over who best knew relativity, my meeting

Charles ,or was it Chuck, revealing not so much

bad luck as how relativity exists in both places

and times, in a universe alive with rhymes,

yesterday, today, and tomorrow,

and here and there and everywhere,

creeping at a pretty fast pace

for a species on the brink

of new ways to think

about energy, matter, time, space,

and the whole meshugana human race.




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