THE LOBBY BAR AT MIDNIGHT

Ann Arbor a certain diffidence
Butte born of three rum Collins
Carmel the Gucci show windows
Duluth darkened, foreboding
Erie escalator rattle
Fairbanks a sound coffin
Grapevine grand piano
Hilo the restaurant empty
Ithaca seeking diners
Jacksonville by the exit signs
Kalamazoo conventioneers drool
Lincoln and slobber
Memphis over the ankh necklace
Natchez girl cross legged
Oakland engulfed in smoke
Providence the ficus droops
Rehoboth in the shade of the bar
Salem laughter turning
Toledo into controlled sobs
Urbana highball glass slips
Vidalia off the table edge
Wausau and falls
Xenia dropping slowly
Yuma through the night
Zanesville into sleep.

MY ANNA

Along the banks of the barge canal
in the village park, a man
older, his hair white, almost
a mane, sits on the breakwall
feeding Wonder bread
to the small flotilla of ducks.
Tearing shreds of crust
from a slice, he casts it
onto the water and smiles
as they bob for the crumbs.
He tells them the story
of his life as though
they were his oldest friends.
My Anna, he says,
was a special woman,
I met her one night
in the cramped vestibule
of an Indian take away
in London during a blackout.
We heard the sirens and then
a blast, not far off.
She grabbed my arm in fear.
She was from Marlow-on-Thames,
she lived in a small flat
in the Bottom, she worked
days in a millinery,
and at night tended bar
at the Local, until the war.
She’s been gone two years now
and I miss her terribly
especially late at night.
A goose slowly swims over
awaiting her meal, she
looks deeply into his eyes.
How are you, dearest Anna,
it is not the same without you
late at night when the silence
is broken again by the sirens.

First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021

COUPLING

Walking through the art gallery,
she frequently pauses to look
at paintings of couples in a bar
or a cafe, engaged in conversation.

I tell her they seem sad, as though
whatever romance they had
has waned, they having grown
apart, this a parting of sorts.

She laughs and says that I mistake
wistfulness for sadness, men
so often do, and adds they are
lovers falling ever deeper in.

She takes my hand gently, with
a look I might have deemed sad,
but knowing better. I realize
that I, too, am continuing my fall.

SUMMER, THEN

For three days I was
a short order cook
a change from my table duties
when the regular guy decided
that a night of drinking didn’t end
when the bar closed
and broke back in
through the rotting back door
that was always next
on the list of things to be fixed.
The owner, my boss, said he’d wait
three days for the cook
to dry out in his cell,
but my cooking made him reconsider.
Yet the customer still came, paid
Were patient, and after
the three days past,
and the old cook couldn’t make
even his nominal bail
the boss hired a new cook
and I went back to dishes
and filling coffee, and looking lovingly
at my dishwasher, my friend
for a too long too long summer
until I went back to college.

ANOTHER BAR, THIS ONE TOKYO

This poem was recently (February 5, 2019) published in the Beatnik Cowboy.  Check them out at: https://beatnikcowboy.com/

 

“Another,” he said,
his knees pressing
against the mahogany panels
of the old bar,
“and keep them coming
until I can take no more.
There won’t be
a last call tonight.”
The clatter of caroming
billiard balls cut
through the cigarette smoke
that curled against
the etched, streaked mirror,
over the din of karaoke.
As the bartender rinsed
and wiped the glasses
with a beigy cotton towel
and walked to the storeroom
he lifted the shot glass.
“This one’s for you Ginsberg,”
as he had earlier for Lowell,
Reznikoff, the others.
Much later as the sun
rose slowly, as his head
rested in his left hand,
he struggled to grab the small glass,
lifted it painfully
from the ash littered bar top
and in a sodden, slurred voice
whispered, head falling
against the wood, “and this
is for you Corso.”

ANTWERP

It is seven in the morning
Antwerp arises slowing in winter
the small bar along seldom
used quays of Schelde
is almost empty, one old man
tottering on his stool
swaying to breath
head pressed on the counter.
Young couple, she brown haired
pale white skin against white
sweater, he long blond
woven into a ponytail
draped over the faded
denim jacket.
Her fingers
entwined in his, they stared
now, again sipping , she
Stella Artois, he Duvel.
He would paint,
when there was light
and when not, his fingers
would play across her belly
her breasts and mons
as they had in darkness
slowly receding, touching
canvas mind filling
with images cast in oils,
she would cast words
as ancient runes, telling
of times gone, to come,
and in night he would rise
into her, interlocked
sweat running across
his chest, pooling
in his navel.
She touched
his lips, sucked her finger
and put match
to cigarette, drawing
deeply of the morning
carried on river breezes.


First Appeared in Coffee and Chicory, Vol. 5, 1997.

IN SOLITARY

A solitary lentil
wrapped in its sauce mantle,
having escaped the fork
for the duration of the meal,
stares up at me, perhaps defiantly
my wife suspects it is merely
bored at having been moved around so.
I stare back at it in what I hope
is my most threatening look
as the waiter hovers by the bar
watching us both, waiting
for my fork to come to rest on the plate,
the universal sign his tip
is then immediately impending.
our stares go on several minutes
(until my wife finishes her meal)
and I shrug, say to the lentil
“I’m in a compassionate mood, I
let you live!” And place my fork down.
The waiter swoops in and carries
both plate and pardoned legume
to the dishwasher in the kitchen.