When the phone rang in the hour before dawn

he knew it could not be good news.

A melancholy thrumming of liturgical music,

“an echo of the invisible world,”

came from a black stretch limo outside his front door.

He stiffened in fright like long johns

frozen rock hard on a backyard clothes line.

A somber voice bade him “Hurry up, pack everything essential.”

Like a man running from a burning house

he grabs what is most important: his father’s Parker pen,

a bottle of ink and packs of paper for writing poems.
He slips a cell phone in his pocket just in case

there is service, gathers envelopes and stamps

hoping he’ll find a mail box.

He digs up his rod and reel, flies and hooks,

assuming there’ll be ponds and brooks,

seizes his Selmer silver trumpet and stock arrangements,

confident he’ll find cats to jam with.

He takes his Bausch and Lomb binoculars

to check out where he’s going and where he’s been.

Wondering if he’ll be gone for a while he includes

a mouth guard, Sensodyne, cranberry juice, saw palmetto

and a jar of ajvar, assuming there’ll be a bodega

to fill up on yellow rice and black beans.

Before flying out the door he remembers to take

a Trader Joe’s ten pound dark chocolate bar

he’d stashed in his wine cellar hoping polyphenol’s

anti-aging properties would prolong his life.

When the guttural voice reminds him to get moving

it reminds him to take his Ricola cough drops,

worried he might catch a sore throat.

He also hauls a case of bottled water,

concerned there might be rusty pipes at his destination.

The voice urges him not to disturb his sleeping wife,

suggesting he leave the Prius hybrid key-less keys

since where he’s going there are no roads.

(Just like Fire Island, he thinks.)

His arms are loaded with favorite CD’s and books

he always meant to read.

He brings along a photo album to remember who he was

and who once meant so much to him.

In case his wife should follow, he packs their double down

sleeping bag.

A man of few words, the driver wore black shades

and pointed to a document for him to sign,

full of legalese with lots of wherefores and therefores

and to the party of the first clause and to whom it may concern

as they waited for the bank to open to have it notarized.

He figured if this was going to be a bon voyage

he asked if they could stop at a liquor store

for a magnum of Moet.

As he gradually surmised the nature of this trip

he requested an extra large pepperoni pizza

for his imprudent brother whose myocardial infarct

did him in, a supply of knitting needles and spools

of wool for his mom who loved to crochet afghans

for the color blind and a carton of Luckies

and a Wall Street Journal, sure to please his dad.

Before being dropped off at the ionosphere station

with rhomboidal shaped thingamabobs,

he had to pass through security.

The servomechanisms required his stuff be stowed

as carry-on luggage, so he squishes it all

in the overhead compartments, smiling serenely

as he takes a seat in the solarium, humming softly

“I’m on my way, and I won’t turn back…”

Milton P. Ehrlich 199 Christie St. Leonia, N.J. 07605