Michael's Writings


BARTALK

BS&M

(BLUE SMOKE & MIRRORS)

by

Michael Martel


 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

The Bartender:  Bartalk

Tracy: I Could Have Danced All Night

The Senator:  An Addict

Dianne:  I Used To Be A Princess

Frank:  Saturday Visitation

Margret:  Luck Loves The Lazy

Name Unknown:  A Presence Felt

Father Jack:  When God Drove A Big Car

Jimmy:  Memory With Lies

Sara:  "Phasing Out"

Andy:  A Reader And A Writer

Vince:  Lounge Lizard

Love And Perversion intro with voices

Larry:  Fetish

Maria:  Gone

Nassar:  By Night

Leslie:  First Love

The Lovers:  Heavy Weather

Jane:  He Kept On Shooting

Jonathan:  Playing With Love

Billy:  Prodigal Son

Nancy:  Violation

Russel:  Affections And Prejudices

Mickey:  Confession

Tracy:  Questioning The Heart's Intentions

Johnny:  The Countdown Begins At Thirty-five

Ruby Lee:  Can You Inherit Tears?

The Bag Lady:  Following Bread Crumbs


The Bartender:  Bartalk

 

      Some are refuges of sad apartments where walls must remain white

where a few crooked paintings hang because to put up more would cause trouble with the landlord. 

Some sneak out of homes they have never quite fit in or perhaps fit in too tightly

away from pets and televisions and lovers and troubles brought home from the office. 

To all this is their home away from tension and sorrow, all of them are bar regulars

here beneath the slow circling ceiling fans, elbows leaning on the bar while a glass sweats onto a soggy napkin

to have a drink but mostly to satisfy the hunger to be with other people.

      As they sip or gulp down their style of alcohol and play with their straws and as time passes relax and lean back in their stools

many talk to those nearby while others have come for silent company.

      I am the person they seek out from time to time urban mythology gives them the hope I

can offer more solace than the alcohol I give them because I care, I will listen.

      I care and I listen patiently waiting for I have learned that regardless of outward appearances of slick or shy

if I listen well enough

long enough

each has a tale to tell that will touch me like that no other could give me.

      Some come here to flee the tangle of our own problems and rummage through the rubble of those of others. 

We are the bartenders and these are the tales that have affected my heart.

 


 

Tracy:  I Could Have Danced All Night

 

      She comes in to meet new men while diluting the loss of another with white wine, and when one is not to be found she settles for the bartender who never takes her home but listens to the sorrows she has to take home alone.

 

      "Let me set the scene

an empty bed, mine of course

neon's tense dust glow

slashed by Venetian blinds

I never close

feel too closed in,

then I left my pillow

crushed, damp, behind

go to the kitchen for

a consolation of potato chips

and cold milk

I drink from the carton

back in my bed

fringed in last night's

cup cake wrappers

smelling of the night's sex games

that lover du jour

who closed the door so

quietly though knew

I was awake, waiting for

hesitation

might stay on

they never do

not for long enough.

 

Propped by three pillows

naked and Prussian blue

in that instable light from the t.v. tube

I wonder once again

how far

can I go into life before

the choice of day and time

of my own exit

becomes more than I can make.

If death

were but a long sleep

you can bet I would go

if you could guarantee me no dreams

I have dreamt too heavily

each day

faced reality each night

alone

or if there is a last judgment

can I appeal

an unfair sentence

will I reincarnate in the guise of

another's body to be suffocated

by yet another species

of loneliness than the one

I have at least made friends with,

will I be poisoned by another flavor

of despair?

Slashed wrists and sleeping pills

with eternal rest

dropping from the twelfth floor

but into what?

To find a manner of endurance

into another hour

too similar to the last

has become the task I am unable

to continue

well almost.

 

So I roll over on my self pity

to watch the t.v. as

Fred Astaire steps onto

the screen and is

rejected by one

then two

more potential partners

and I wish we two could sit in a bar

talk about our troubles.

Fred stands alone on the balcony with a gun

raised to his head

as Ginger appears

in equal melodrama

she contemplates a plunge from

the railing.

A measure of notes and life

becomes new and possible

as they "...Face The Music and Dance"

a silence of words

filled with violins

arms around the waist then dip

rise above the black Bakelite surface.

Fred has such style

Ginger this sensuous flow

and I without style, too many

partners who know the steps,

routines, too well to

feel spontaneous

when we dance.

I crawled across the wasteland of my bed

gave the set back that empty-headed stare.

Though Wilde once had

a despondent Dorian Gray

thank God for Chopin, I say

thank God

for Fred Astaire."

 


 

The Senator:  An Addict

 

      "In need of a fix

I wander out at night

into dismal streets

thick with dusty lavender shadows

hustling and spinning

with men and women

parted here and there by

street lights gushing thick yellow

sticking like honey to their bodies.

I head for alleyways

damp thin tunnels behind

night clubs and bars

where boys with chestnut skin

on the verge of perspiration

lean against a wall as little

avalanches of mortar sift out

of cracks between bricks.

Music scurries out of doorways

along cement until silence

gobbles it up.

On a window above

someone pulls up the blind, lets

stale white light fall down on us.

We retreat back into the shadows

hanging gray about us

like dirty laundry left out to collect soot

on a hot night.

The boy smiles at me

stained teeth his

tongue slids over

then slides his hands

inside my shirt to touch

warm, wet skin.  We move

lips touching as dancers

deeper into the darkness

where the boy undoes his zipper

exposing the syringe.

Night becomes blood red as flash

of neon

leaps past us

finishing up our sticky business

parting

until another night's calling

questing

not for sex, saliva, skin and shadows

but for a stronger addiction.

I am mainlining love."

 


 

Dianne: I Used To Be A Princess

 

      This bar is a transition point between work and home or

the apartment of a lover, between other bars suited to things other than quiet conversation.  She comes in to drink up a little courage, dress a few wounds, disguise her soul, fill her intentions with deceptions before she goes out to a night club to requisition new phantoms to haunt her heart.

      Dianne shook back her black hair with a few gray ones she had forgotten to pull out and told me of her ghosts as her ruby stained nails opened her purse and pulled out a mirror.

 

      "Oh darling please hold this for me, the light in the

ladies room is out and I just can't wait for the busboy to

change it to get my make-up on and get out of here

not that I don't love you

but honey you know you don't love me like I want.

      I still use Flamingo Pink lipstick

Ted always said it was the color he preferred

the color of our passion

well it wasn't the color of another bitch's lipstick

he just so carelessly left in his pocket

but why was I searching his clothes anyway

trying to find clues to his dreams as he slept with that

smile

that had just taken up permanent residence on his face?

If I had heart surgery they would probably find that smile

branded on my heart

that day he said `Bye kid!' like I wasn't throwing him out

`Bye kid!' I kept thinking no matter how much vodka

I drank that night.

Is vodka fermented tears?

      Now my eyes with lots of mascara

Buddy, well you never met Buddy and I wish I hadn't

he liked lots of mascara

said it made me exotic, what do you think?

I waited night after night for him to come home

with all this stuff weighing down my eyes.

      These creeps, but it was Daddy who loved his Princess

best

but he lied to me and it has taken me years to recover from

it `cause he told me he liked my hair like this and that

I was the most beautiful girl in the world, his Princess

and I believed him."

 


 

Frank:  Saturday Visitation

 

      On Saturday nights as the crowd begins to vanish in the smoke that fills the air, I know Frank will show up and sit with his perfect posture that holds in his middle aged spread until two many drinks have watered down his desire to look like the handsome young doctor he must once have been and he seems to be crushed like his half smoked cigarette butt in the ashtray he spins on the bar.

      Frank leaned towards me as I wiped his ashes from the bar, his pupils swimming like drops of black oil in the water of his eyes, or with Frank I should say vodka, and asked me could he show me something.

 

      "I had the electric blanket on for the first time this

morning, it's cold to sleep alone, but Saturdays

I don't just hang around in bed.  I ran out and got a paper

and see, my finger is still black from going through the

movie times.

Disney, she's too old for that but I'm not taking her to an R

even though she wants to see some slumber party massacred by

special effects.  My stomach just can't take it.

      I shaved twice for her just like I'm going out for a

date but she's my best date of the week.

      She's there waiting at the door

opens it before I can knock, springs into my arms

feels so fragile there so I don't hug her tight

I don't want to hurt her, but does she know how I love her?

      School and friends and television

she tells me everything at once and I stand there like a

moron trying to remember it all, how could I forget

God if I tried I could probably remember everything she has

ever said.

      My ex-wife is there.

What a word, sounds like I've crossed her from my life

when...

When she's too polite I can take it but sometimes she acts

too warm, too intimate and once again I feel awkward

like a fool again, ashamed of this situation our love

a love that was

has created.

      But my girl seems to know and nothing gets rid of that

nagging depression better than when she slips her hand into

mine.

      Am I still her father though when I'm not the one who

helps her with her math problems

the one who chases away the monsters that used to hide under

her bed

      Am I still her father now when all I can seem to offer

is a new record player or tickets to an amusement park?

      We ate burgers in the car to get to the movie in time

years of french fries stuck down the car seat.

 

We always sit up front cause we both like to get devoured by

the screen while we go through the jumbo tub of popcorn even

though we just ate.

      At some point I looked around and saw all these fathers

with their kids and wondered are they divorced without

custody too

and what is it like for them, like it is for me, this day I

love and hate?

      I took my girl shopping and realized the clothes in the

children's department no longer fit her, she needs a woman's

junior and it struck me while I waited outside the fitting

room that she will menstruate soon, maybe she already has and

I could be a grandfather if...

and I needed a drink.

      We've tried those fancy places where I take a date but

pizza is what she really wants and always smiles as if

surprised when I can remember to order it just the way she

likes.

      I sat sipping a flat beer and her making noises her

mother won't allow with her straw in her coke while we talked

about her lost dog

and she slipped and called her stepfather Daddy.

      But am I still her father when there are no normal hours

between us?  She doesn't even know what I'm like in the

morning, all cranky and unshaven.  She was too young when we

were divorced to have memories I will never lose.

      Am I still a father?  I'm an amusement park open on

Saturdays, two weeks, if it can be arranged, in the summer.

      The ride back is always too short though I try to hit

all the lights to stretch it out even though I know her

mother will be waiting, worried, angry, while her stepfather

is out in the kitchen again.

      My girl, she is beginning to look so much like her

mother did back then

but she has my eyes and even if she never says good-bye and

wont' let me say it either

I am still her father, I'll always know that.

      I brought in the drawing of her lost dog she gave me

cause I thought you might want to see it.  And you can give

me another drink, make it a double."

 


 

Margret:  Luck Loves The Lazy

 

      There are always new faces and I greet them all the same but I do not approach them inquisitively. I have learned to wait for them to call out to me, to tell me what they have no one else to tell.

      But Margret grabbed my sleeve as I put down her drink and I watched my own reflection in her dark glasses while she whispered to me.

 

      "That's Frank Bell over there

oh I know him, I mean more than cocktail parties we see him

at

I mean know about him

his women

my husband talks to him almost every day and says Frank

always tells him about his women

his beautiful, young women

blondes, brunettes, redheads, that slid so willingly into the

warm bubbling water of his hot tub

into his bed with the cool satin sheets.

      See I know all about him and the porno films he shows

those kinds of women on his VCR

a collection of over two hundred my husband says for every

kind of fun

the kind of fun I call perversion.

      Oh I know Frank and I decided to come in tonight to see

him pick up a woman, see how he does it, how he persuades her

his hair isn't almost all gone, those bags under his eyes

aren't there, that he is young and slim and charming

I can't get close enough to listen to him, I don't want him

to see me, but have you heard him

is he charming, does he have a great line?

My husband won't tell me that, says he doesn't know

but I think he does.

      Why does a husband cheat on his wife

I use the word cheat as though it were all a game

as if love could be gambled away and then shrugged off to

bad luck, poor judgment, and then begin another game.

What's luck got to do with love?

When you look and wait and search for a man who seems to want

to hold you with his arms and his heart for ever, and you

finally find him?

What's luck got to do with love when you try to be careful to

make sure he knows you care for him, that you are there when

things go bad at work and that promotion doesn't come or that

bookshelf he just built in the kid's room collapses.

Why talk of luck when you worked so hard to please him,

willed so hard that things go right and then who should you

blame when things fall apart

like a recipe you thought you followed so close

but just didn't work, didn't rise, wasn't edible after

all those great sounding ingredients.

So what has luck got to do with love?

What makes a man think you don't understand when you tell him

you do

makes him notice the wrinkles when you ignore his

and tell him please turn out the lights and

I'll do anything he wants.

What makes a man want another woman when he should see how

lucky he is to have one devoted to him with her heart and

body even if her heart is a bit sore from trying to love so

hard, her body showing sings of wear from giving it so

relentlessly.

But I've never been lucky and

luck has everything to do with love

and Frank is just so lucky to have so many women to love him

when I can't even keep one man."

 


 

Name Unknown:  A Presence Felt

 

      The dust that is scattered by the cloth merely circles in the air until I am gone and then settles back like the words that have been spoken in this bar.  The shadows cross the room even when there is no one standing in front of the light but I am not alarmed.  The place is haunted as are all places where people have left behind a bit of their laughter and their sobbing.  This building was once a mansion, then a boarding house, and for many years now a place to gather and have drinks with friends, but it has always been occupied by people and their presence has entered the grain of the paneling on the walls so that you can almost see their faces, and in the creaking of the oak floor boards, if you listen closely, you can hear whispers when the bar is empty.

 

      "No one notices, touches, smiles to, curses at, breathes

on, is rude or polite to, even indifferent to me for that

would imply some recognition of my presence but no one

notices me

in my yellow dress as pale as sunlight, my hair as dark as

storm clouds, my eyes as cold as snow

No one calls to me, laughs with me, cries for me, holds onto

me, runs from my arms

no one hears me whisper (or was I crying?)

hears my sigh, scream, giggling, silence

No one is there caring, waiting, needing me but

the shadows that keep passing in front of my eyes so I cannot

see clearly,

but the silence that sucks away my words,

emptiness that crawls into my heart,

darkness that seems too familiar, too intimate for

comfort.

      Passing between the tables and reaching out to tickle

the hair on the back of their necks,

placing my mouth on their's to draw in their breath,

even then

no one notices me and I wonder if once again I will have to

take the rope I purchased at the hardware store across the

street

and, when no one notices, go

up the stairs and test the posts in the banister until I find

a sturdy one, then tie my new rope onto it with the knots I

learned so long ago in Girl Scouts and make a loop that will

fit over my head, around my slender neck and slid my body

over the railing and let myself fall down into the stairwell

again, hoping that this time someone will notice me."

 


 

Father Jack:  When God Drove A Big Car

 

      Suburban Sundays begin with church services and then in the afternoon go on to barbaques or family dinners, but city Sundays begin late because of the sins commited the night before, begin late with the Sunday paper then continue on in a bar where friends meet for brunch.

      But when Father Jack came in he did not eat.  He sat at the bar drinking snifters of Courvosier and taking the kind of confession people waiting for a table are likely to give out.  This Sunday however was slow and it was I who heard Father Jack's confession.

 

      "When I was eight years old

God drove a big bottle green 1956 Pontiac Fire Chief

omniscient in the rear view mirror

as I teased my sister on the seat beside me as he drove us to

church

where he waited patiently outside sitting in that

chrome heavy automobile I could see glowing through

the stained glass windows

knowing that the church was vacant of any deity

less fictional than Santa Claus

who at least ate the cookies you left for him.

      God carried us safely on the highway I was not even

allowed to cross

back to the security of our suburban heaven

surrounded by wonderous beings called adults wielding marvels

like gas powered lawn mowers, power tools, television and

telephones,

orders and protection

spanking and hugging

and my God knew just the way I like to be tucked into bed

was the one that I ran to and crawled in with

when dreams and darkness and the future

were too frightening.

      When I was twelve years old

God's 1960 Pontiac caught fire

as he waited outside of St. Leo's for us to emerge

and we came to watch him throw gravel on it,

confused as to how to put it out, angry as to why it started,

but with no one to take his wrath out on but us.

      It was not many Sunday's later that he spent the

afternoon hacking at the front hedge with his electric sheers

because he said it had obstructed his vision, as if it had

not been planted seven years before and just now stepped in

his way causing his new car to back into the neighbor's red

Ford as it came up our street.

      After God finished washing and waxing the sleek black

1965 Pontiac one Sunday afternoon

he lay down to rest and found that antacid tablets

could not relieve the pain that he kept telling us

was only gas

until Mom called the ambulance even though he told her

it was all right

but he was wrong and it wasn't and though God died

at the hospital that day

I drove my fragile father home two weeks later

in the car I had polished again the day before

my new driver's license he had helped me earn

in my pocket.

And when the worshiping him was over

I found there was room for love.

      I left behind the crumbling idols

of suburban life and came to the city

where church is just next door and the bus outside the door

and I don't need a car at all.

      I found another God who drives a great big planet called

Earth through the universe He has created,

but as time passes with cruelty and starvation,

with disaster and the threat of global war

I wonder how long before this God I have devoted myself to

will no loner deserve my devotion,

but then will He deserve my love?"

 


 

Jimmy:  Memory With Lies

 

      Just as each drink we take enters our body's systems devised to stay alive and vital in this hostile world, so each thing that happens to us enters another just as vital system called the mind and soul and there it always leaves it's effect.  Memory, forgetting, being able to recall events, is a manner our system has of surviving in a hostile world of emotions.  Sometimes the proper light through the window, the precise amount of alcohol in our blood, the right person in front of us to listen brings back memories that we are never certain are the result of real events or the sifting through them by our imaginations.

      On a rainy afternoon when an Irish Coffee was the best defense against depression, Jimmy sat at the bar stirring the whipped cream in his drink and speaking just loud enough for me to listen.

 

      "I have vivid memories of those summers between the ages of five and eight my mother, my little sister, and I spent with my grandparents while my father was off on some mission for the Pentagon.  All those summers except one, isn't that strange, the one just after my sixth birthday though I know we went that summer to Iowa again because in the family album there are pictures of us with my grandparents.  The memories from that period seem diluted in confusion, a kind of queer anxiety and they slip from my grasp, while at the same time I feel as though if I could recall them clearly I might drown in them.

 

      The sound of his breathing out of the dark caverns of his nostrils, or his near whistle like a tea kettle about ready to let off steam.  Though there are only two others in the car this strange new uncle who has married my Aunt Jesse insists I sit so close beside him in his huge car with the sticky black vinyl seats I can feel his sweat soaked shirt damp on my arm.  And the heat, the oozing liquid of his hand on my bare knees.  Yes, my aunt and sister sit a great distance behind us in the back seat and I am alone in the front with, what was his name, I think it was Uncle Sy.

      How many days later is it now?  What was time then except a measure of impatience.  Am I waiting for him to leave?  The light is like creamy melted butter, the porcelain white and wet as the full moon I had watched cautiously pass by my window the night before.  As I try to float my body in the water in the bathtub until my mother comes back Uncle Sy comes in to shave and insists on asking me questions about silly things I don't understand.  I stop listening and try to slide as low in the water as I can without putting my head under.  I am afraid to put my head under, that the water will rush in my nose and ears and fill up my head.  With the shaving cream still drifted like snow against his ears his face is above me as he kneels beside the tub and picks up the pale green wash cloth.  His hand, crawling with thick black hairs, holds the cloth in front of me and I watch it dripping into my bath water because I cannot turn and look at him because I know he is smiling as he says, `I love you so much I could eat you.' I don't remember anything else except I must have been frightened because I slid myself down in the tub until the water was over my head.

 

      It is night and a dog is barking, no, just growling, maybe about to bark but that can't be because I know that no one who lives near my grandparents in this little town has a dog.  I must have been awake when I heard the creaking of tight leather shoes across the floor of the parlor on the other side of the door where I slept in the quest room downstairs.  This was the first summer I was allowed to sleep alone downstairs while everyone else slept upstairs.  I was a big boy now.  Light slid like a puddle of urine under the door and across the floor until it stopped at the side of my bed.  I am too frightened to move and pull the covers over my head when the door swings soundlessly open and I stare at the dark figure of a man against the light.  At first I think it is my dad because when he comes home late he always comes in my room to kiss me good-night, but then I hear that breathing, that whistling, and I know it is Uncle Sy.  He must know I was awake because he says something I cannot hear as he closes the door.  The moon is just moving to my window and I can see him, his chest all dark like there is a hole in it.  I can't remember, can't remember what happened next.  Was he there long, or was it just after he entered the room that I heard more footsteps in the parlor and knew it was my Aunt Jesse, no one else in the family was silly enough to wear high heeled shoes while staying in a rural town like Grandma lived in.

      Uncle Sy stands in the doorway again with it open and I hear him say, `I just had to say good-bye to the little tike, he really will miss me you know.' The door closes as I hear my mother's voice.  She is arguing with my aunt who keeps saying they have to leave.  `Keep your voice down,' I hear mom say, `You'll wake mother.' There are some more whispers like static on the radio, then I hear the big front door open and close.  I remember hearing the engine of that big old car starting up and then I must have hidden in sleep.

 

      I woke just as the blue of morning had begun to bleed red.  I lay there and felt good in this house, the way it smelled, like the lilac bush outside the window, Grandma's sweet perfume, Grandpa's tobacco, even the smell of Grandma's chocolate chip cookies clung to the wall paper.  But when I rolled over there was this sour smell and I knew it reminded me of Uncle Sy.  I jumped out of bed.  I had to make sure his car was gone and he hadn't come back while I was sleeping.  I couldn't see the front yard out of my window so went into the parlor.  There, in my grandpa's chair, sat my mother in her night gown.

      `Did they leave?' I asked my mother as I climbed into her lap.

      `Yes,' she told me sounding very sad, `But I don't want Grandma to know they had to leave in the middle of the night because it will upset her.  I'm going to tell a little lie and I want you to help me.  I'm going to say they got a call early this morning and were sorry but they had to be in Des Moines by noon so had to leave.  Will you help me?'

      I nodded I would but I didn't really understand because my mother had always told me never to lie just like George Washington.

 

      It must have been late in the afternoon because I can remember how the light came in the window and settled on the piano keys and made them shine in the afternoons.  I can remember what happened next now very clearly, like I said the light, and the way the house was so still because my grandparents had gone off to the store and my mother was sitting in the parlor rocking my sister to sleep.  I was supposed to be taking a nap but instead was trying to figure out why the wallpaper looked more like faces then roses.  I heard a car drive up to the house, then two car doors opening.  I had to know if it was him coming back.  I jumped out of the big bed and skidded across the floor into the parlor as my mother was going out the front door.  I caught the screen door before it closed and went out in the yard where there were two men looking real hot in their gray suits.  It seemed real strange to see men in suits like my dad wore to work way out here so I went up right behind my mother and held on to her dress to watch as they showed her a photo.

      They were asking about my Aunt Jesse and my Uncle Sy like they were looking for them.  My mother said they had left the day before and would they mind not coming back again because she didn't want my grandmother to know that these men were looking for them.

      `Do you know where they were going?' one of the men said taking a notebook out of his pocket.

      `Nope, they didn't say, Jesse never says where we can get in touch with her, didn't even tell us when she married this new husband,' mother said sounding all sad again.

      Then my memory suddenly broke loose from something that had been holding onto it and I heard Uncle Sy whispering into my ear the night before, `I'm sure going to miss you, you sweat thing.  Guess I'll have to buy you something nice tomorrow when we get to Minneapolis and send it to you.'

      `Minneapolis, that's where Uncle Sy said they were going,' I screamed out.  I thought the men were going to laugh at me but one of them just mumbled that they should have thought of that and then patted me on the head.

 

      Uncle Sy, he was in those pictures I saw when I was visiting my parents over Easter.  I asked my mother what ever happened to him.  I just felt this need to know where he was, to keep away from wherever that was.  She didn't know, my Aunt Jesse and he had been in trouble with the law over a car or something and she divorced him and married another husband, this one a Bible salesman.  Uncle Sy, there is something about him that I'll always be frightened of even though I'm a grown man, something that you wouldn't think I would ever forget but I just don't understand why I can't remember why he scared me so."

 


 

Sara:  "Phasing Out"

 

      "`Phasing Out',

mother's words, not mine

for what she does

with life,

washing it from her clothes

cleaning it from the high corners

of the rooms.

Phasing Out

she says again

as the words fade

with the beating of blood in my ears

a distance to her pupils

open wide enough to

hold eternity

portals

through which I will

one day

step

as she plans her arthritic steps

now to the edge of the abyss

I turn away from

      Mother

      I can't be left behind

words that know no voice

and I listen as her words

dig her way out of life

shovelful

by shovelful

I cannot help her with this chore.

 

Before the mahogany and glass

cabinet of her china

she planned inheritance

of each goblet and plate

asks would I like to take

this crystal platter now

I would get so much more use

of it

than she

these, the spoils of her life

to be assembled

in the lives of her children.

 

Sitting down to a holiday meal

me age thirty but suddenly seven

teasing my sister as though

she were not a grown woman

father scolded, but now with laughter

mother urged

no longer demands

we eat more potatoes, more...

the hands that passed the dish

spotted with age

hands that reached down

to tie

the hood of my new winter coat

the winter

the snow drifted

all the way up

to the roof

hands

white as snow

warm as the cups of hot chocolate

she had waiting for us inside

hands spotted with the residue

of years

quickly gone

into age

about my father's eyes

cobweb that time gather

about my eyes

but never old enough

to accept

`Phasing Out'."

 


 

Andy: A Reader And A Writer

 

      Like light bouncing off the surface of still water, Andy's eyes gave off the reflection of things, not those seen in the world around, but seen only while looking in his eyes and letting those images rest on yours.  Every person that he sat next to found that, instead of staring into their drink, or across the room at a swirl of smoke when he talked, they took the normally embarrassing pose of looking him straight in the eye.

 

      "I find myself the victim of moments

I could only describe, since I was a child,

as magic

when the present clamps securely on the past

like the glass lid of an old aquamarine Mason jar

container of atmospheres I could only find

in special books, The Wind In The Willows, The Little Prince,

ones I read in my sleep

in lives lived in other times

where sunsets were acknowledged as

the fall of angels or

descent of dragons.

Then the weather was the internal

made visible and my mind did not search

for meaning in a profusion of symbols but smiled,

nodded, accepted.

Time is brown with the memory

of a golden era past.

I fit best between the covers of a

well-bound book where I savor

the odor of the hide, the parchment, the

wilted rose pressed between the palms of my hands.

A train will rumble like the distance that wants

me to be it's familiar, whispers,

You can go

you can come

you have life

a plot with a beginning, middle, end

a purpose, a passage, a meaning.

So I read voluminously

searching out those fragile wings of magic

an archeologist among words

hoping to find a temple rumored of

in my childhood

and I took to be true.

At night I sleep between starched sheets

between the pages of a book

sleep on the sound of the train into

the distance of dreams kept from consciousness

there to find myself dusted by the enchantment

that is lost when I wake and all that is left

is dust spinning

in the intrusion of sunlight

so I go to my desk and write

for the reason we all read

to find a beginning, a middle, an end with a meaning

in our lives."

 


 

Vince:  Lounge Lizard

 

      "All my moonbeams are neon,

all my best lines stolen from the love songs I sing

in that lounge at the Ramada Inn while the

cash register at the bar sets my rhythm

that's where I met Melissa

held her eyes from the stage

contracted my heart around hers

till she abandoned me for some languid song

in another lounge, cross town.

      That's where I met Her last night

noticing she was listening to my songs

while the other's just listened to their own sighs,

so I pressed my lips to the microphone and sang for her,

slicking back my hair with my palm.

      When the set is over I go to her

hands in my satin pockets

she nods carefully, so not to muss her bleached hair,

holds a toasted almond tightly,

smiles with cream on her upper lip,

and I slip my best lines into her ear and out

comes her best lines for me,

and suddenly I am wondering to myself if I could really find

love behind this craving.

 

      When the lovin was done, no,

when the sex was done

and she had hidden from me in sleep,

I snuck out of the motel room that I keep

for just such occasions and headed home

`cause I always sleep best by myself.

My well phrased lines that tether me to the lives of others

now spoken

expelled enough breath to

leave me weightless, drowsy

and sleep sucked the stars from heaven.

 

      I woke after three this afternoon

a rush of spring

through the cracked window

across my naked body as I lay there

and I could almost see her stealing

in and out, between my thoughts

with an urgency that

makes me want to cry

me of sentimental lyrics and contrived emotion

has found real love

it was there in the night with her

so I jumped from the bed

and searched through matchbooks and

cocktail napkins

hoping I had written down her phone number

`cause all I have left of her is a first name

Dianne,

but then Goddesses never have last names."

 


 

Love And Perversion

 

      They speak to their bartender of the weather, of taxes, of politics, and of sports, but more than any one thing they talk of love, something so individual and unique it sometimes appears strange and even frightening.

 

Voices

 

      "Love is the subtlest form of jealousy for what we cannot find in ourselves we seek to acquire by the strength

of our love."

 

      "Love's greatest enemy is our fantasy lover, the one

that the person we might love will never live up too.  So me

I find love in the palm of my hand, beating like my heart."

 

      "I've always loved my chimeras more that the reality of

my lovers."

 

      "The greatest danger is love for think how vulnerable we are, to what lengths we will go for it."

 

      "Where are my waking wet dreams?"

 

      "Love is the only wisdom worth acquiring.  It's the only wisdom every I. Q. has the chance to comprehend."

 

      "Sex without love is like sleep without dreams, and I'm a dreamer."

 

      "Love is confusing."

     

      "Love is a bitch."

 

      "Love is just damn weird."

 

      "I like love despite everything that tells me to stay clear of it."


 

Larry:  Fetish

 

      "Wearing the softest kid gloves

I touched the softest kid

I will ever

never touch

in bed

not for sleep

when my hands are bare

for I love to feel the texture

of dreams

crushing down upon me

but for foreplay

to cover my calloused hands

and heart

with tender, yielding animal skin

for animal acts

sensation of the inside of gloves

I wear

gloves to bed

but not for sleep."


 

Maria:  Gone

 

      "Knowing that the moments

that gave his life

breath

have now been few,

an eternal tension remains

upon my lips to have spoken

his name

and my soul has, in startled cry

gasped

unable to release

the terrible pressure

those few moments have

left with me.

 

I am undone by a sure yet

trembling kiss

of night and sorrow."


 

Nassar:  By Night

 

      "Not between sheer sheets

of electric lamp light

nor within a neon web

      pulse of candle flicker is too impatient

      sunlight too revealing

but within the shadows

I find my pleasure

wrapping darkness around desire

where a drop of sweat,

                  or tears

                  or blood

are all the same to me."


 

Leslie:  First Love

 

      "A distance of sadness

comes of late, how strange.

Though moon rise crystal

in presence clear

this feeling remains

as night lies below the day.

Though much is gained

much is lost

and he who brings such

wonder to my soul

destroys the past.

For once I am upon a time

I have never known before."


 

The Lovers:  Heavy Weather

 

      "In light sour as old milk curdling with clouds,

in silence that chokes

bird cry and insect mating signal,

in the still after exhalation

before the need for inhalation,

in a decadent world gone over ripe

where tomato skins burst secretly

and ooze like venereal sores

soil succumbs to dark odors

worms crawl through the carcass

of the earth and out her pores

in this rotting beast

we become animals

finding the conventions of

this decaying society

irrelevant

discovering the subtle wasting away

of our senses, once sweet, grown bitter

wallowing in the comfort

of flesh

the rise and fall of the temperature

of our blood

tossing and turning in each other's arms

as though disturbed by dreams

floating on our body fluids

sinking below the weight

of summer weather

wondering if love

will finally go sour."

 


 

Jane:  He Kept On Shooting

 

      Jane is a regular but only coupled with her husband Ben who was even more of a regular because of Patty and Carol and the others who drank sweet drinks with names like Pink Lady and Sloe Comfortable Screw.  He played target practice with her heart for four years shooting a bulls-eye each time without aim.  Jane was left with wounds never let to heal into scars she might wear like medals from their battlefield, their bed.

      Then one night after not having seen her or her "other half" for weeks she came in with a smile on her face like a crack in porcelain.

 

      "I need a drink, a new heart,

mine is a sloppy heart like an unkept garden filled with

weeds

an unmade bed

cluttered with love and other untidy emotions like guilt and

shame and that's the villain, my heart

not him, Ben who would stab at me when we made love

and then cry I was suffocating him

and go off with his gun to the police shooting range

or so I thought

now I know he was finding breathing room with another woman

I know because they were there at the funeral and didn't cry

the tears friends cry

they cried my tears.

      Who will punish me for loving that man

the indulgence of my heart

my mess of a heart?

      I hope God is kind to Ben because he was a mindless

sinner, but why should He be kind to me

when I should have had the smarts to clean up my heart

and toss Ben out long ago.

      Oh we can survive the sins of others

but seldom recover from our own."

 


 

Jonathan:  Playing With Love

 

      The old oak piano with the worn ivories sits in the corner of the bar, a picturesque antique to most of the customers but to Jonathan a necessary extension of the personality he wishes to be known by.  But all those in the bar now have heard him play before and have already asked him where he learned, so he decides to tell me the story though I have heard it again and again.

 

      "I could have been a concert pianist, that's what my

teacher had planned for me, could have been well known, yep,

if I'd followed through on her plans for contests and

recitals.

      I could have been in love (I think that's what you'd

have to call it though I'm not like that), but it was with my

first piano teacher, Mr. Hill, because he could play Chopin

and Chopin is just another word for love and I just loved the

Polynaise Opus fifty-three.  I found this recording of it in

my parents house.  Yep, no one ever knew for sure why.  My

parents seemed to have given up on music when I was born so

moved the big old record player into my bedroom to get it out

of the way and that's where I would play that record again

and again.

      I could have been doing something evil and nasty behind

my locked door when I listened to Chopin my parents must have

thought cause they would knock on the door and yell at me to

come out, which of course I wouldn't.  But they were pissed

because one day I found that record broken and in the trash

so I fooled them and got them to let me take piano lessons so

I could play that Chopin piece that was on the record so they

heard it anyway in time.

      The first day of class I asked Mr. Hill would he play

the Polynaise Opus fifty-three, and he must have been a

little startled, I mean I was only seven then, but he did

anyway and that was how I came to love Mr. Hill.

      I could have died for him when after our first piano

recital at school he took us all into one of the rehearsal

rooms and there was this beautiful grand piano an opera star

he had played a tour for had given him when he had gotten

drafted. All black and golden and angels.  On that marvelous

instrument that was too big to keep in his apartment he

played my Chopin piece and before everyone dedicated it to

me.  See why I loved him?

      I could have died when he moved away and I got this new

teacher who was all metronome and arched hands and no

passion, I mean cold.  I stayed with her though because I

needed to learn that Chopin piece and it took years before I

could play it at a recital where I got all carried away and

played it through twice and would have a third but my teacher

stopped me.  All those notes like heartbeats and tears that

she stopped so I stopped the lessons.  Why go on and become a

professional when I could play all I needed to play?

      I could have still been married if the music had lasted.

Ladies fall in love with you when you play those notes but

you can't play all the time and all you are left with is

clumsy words and the relationship falls apart.  What good is

love with a woman anyway if it can't ever be as passionate as

the music of Chopin?  Would you like to hear me play that

Polynaise again?"

 


 

Billy:  Prodigal Son

 

      "Kneeling before any deity

that would claim me

I filled my hands, blue with the cold,

shaking with secrets,

full of the soil from the grave

and stuffed it into my mouth,

enough to choke the sorrow

from my throat

for mother told me,

if I had read her arthritic handwriting correctly

that father was there in the grave

dissolving his wisdom into the earth

as once he tried to

instill his morals in his son

while holding back his love

until now when I knew

it was there

he had given it up finally

to the clumps of dirt

I tried to swallow."

 


 

Nancy:  Violation

 

      A bar is a place on which to lean your elbows, cover your face and look at the ice dissolving into your drink along with the tears that are so easy to cry here where no one questions your reasons, no one expects any shame, only comfort in their company even if it is wordless, even if with words, it does not matter how ineffective the words may be.  The tears of sorrow and circumstance are questions no human can answer, but meant for God, and He is silent.

      These were the tears that Nancy cried at the bar late

one night.

 

      "Why did he have two guns

when one gun, one bullet

was enough to force me

into oblivion's coffin?

      Why was I unafraid

as he drove me in this electric blue Dodge van

license plates smeared with mud

into the bowels of darkness

down by that slimy river

squirming through that excrement of beer cans and soda

bottles?

      What happened to the guns

penetrated into my parched dreams

as his anger attempted to enter me

his sweat collecting pools

in my pores

stinging under my eyelids clamped shut so

tight I could see the stars

his saliva tasting like terror on my lips

as I shivered on the steel bed

he ground me against?

The stench of that stagnate water and him

were like a chloroform and

I listened carefully to the

contented croaking of frogs

a very distant siren

creaking of his worn shock absorbers

lust struggling from his throat

my heart ceasing to beat.

      Where was fear

as I tumbled through the headlights and alleyways

and finally found my car

God drove me home

and that's where fear was

diluted in tears

dripping from my insides all night

on the john as I tried to sweat him from my soul

until dry of him?

      And when it was all over, the night, the nightmares, the

fear, why was there nothing left of myself?"


 

Russel:  Affections And Prejudices

 

      He had been an institution around Washington as much as the bean soup at the Senate dinning room for the fifty-two years that he tended the bar at the Democratic Club until he was retired at the age of seventy-two.  Over those years he collected amazing tales of political wheeling and dealing that only the intimate in Washington government circles knew about.  But that was not Russel's most interesting story to me.  It was the one he began one night as we were closing and continued over the next couple of months.

 

      "She calls me gramps.  Kind a ole fashioned, but that's my girl Beth.  Oh she wouldn't like to hear me call her my girl, she's not my daughter, haven't got one I know of at least, she only lives in my apartment building, and prefers to be called a woman though she's not quite...  I don't mean `cause she is only twenty, but, well, she lives with this other woman named Leslie and they are what are called Lesbians, female homos.  You know I don't know if I believe male ones really exist. I heard they do and even met some guys who were a bit, you know, but I can't understand what a man would really want to do with a man.  Now two women I can understand a bit better `cause I sure like to do it with a woman, they're so soft and all, but a man!

      Beth and Leslie sort a adopted me maybe `cause they needed someone around, just up and moving here from Iowa where they said they felt strange being Lesbians.  I guess they don't allow them out there or something though I can't imagine why, they are so nice and it's not like they hurt anyone.  I take care of them, help them out when they need someone to show them how to get around the red tape at the telephone company and get their bill straightened out or fix up an aerial for the radio.  I won't let Beth walk alone home from work here after she gets off so I come to meet her.  A girl, I mean woman, could get hurt in this neighborhood, it's not what it used to be."

 

      "Male homos, well I guess they exist all right.  See that waiter over there, Tommy, the tall masculine looking one, well you would never know it.  He just moved in my building and I met him in the hallway.  I asked him if he might like some old Playboy magazines, oh I'm not too old to look at them, just throwing out the old ones. He just comes out, not even whispering, and says sorry but he's gay.  That's the new word they use for it.  Then he said he only buys Playgirl.  Imagine that, a guy right out and buying that.  They're becoming so open now, not like the old days when you heard people whisper about it but never really knew they existed. Guess they don't want us to forget they exist now.

      I won't forget you can bet on that.  My boy, well he's a man of thirty-six now, came out to visit me yesterday, no, not visit, really sit down and relax visit like friendly.  We haven't spoken to each other in five years since his mother died and he got mad at me and moved to Frisco.  Well he didn't really have any ties here anymore.  For some reason his marriage to his high school sweat heart, real fine girl name Linda, ended in divorce.  I've heard tales about the kind of men live in Frisco and I guess I was right.

      At lunch after I picked him up at the airport he just announced he was gay, while I was trying to relax and feel comfortable with him and eat.  Then he says that.  Well why?  I mean when he said that I realized I had known all along but just hadn't thought about it.  So what was I to say, sorry, sorry `cause I caused it?  That's shit!  Or he had caused it?  Well he went through too much hell deciding to leave Linda so I can't believe he chose this, not with the way people talk about homos, so I just said, so what? 

      He must of thought it sounded like I didn't care but I just didn't want to make it a big deal and we started arguing, this power struggle we used to go through and went right back into again even though I don't think either of us wanted it.  But we couldn't help it, we have just done it for too long.  Next thing I know he either got on the return flight `cause I told him to or he wanted to.  I don't know.  Went back to all those homos, I mean gays, and I don't know when I'll hear from him again.  He may blame me for everything."

 

      "Haven't seen me much lately have you?  Well I've had a sick boy on my hands but I guess everyone here knew Tommy was real bad off for awhile.  You'd think his parents would have come out to take care of him but their flower shop back in Beulah is more important to them and with that fever the doctor said he shouldn't fly.  He didn't have any insurance yet to go to the hospital so someone had to take care of him.  I finally got his fever down, that shit the doctor gave him wasn't what did it, it was the sponge baths I kept giving him cooling him off.  And that strong chicken broth Beth made helped too.

      With the fever it hurt his eyes to watch T.V. so I read to him some of these old Mickey Spillane mysteries I still have and he really liked those.  Now he's sitting up and reading one on his own.  Tonight for dinner I'm fixing us a roast, not like I expect him to eat much yet, but I'm inviting over Beth and Leslie.  I think he could use a little company beside me, we've been in that room of his now for weeks.  So this afternoon I thought I'd come in and see you.  Can't stay away from a bar for too long after all."

 

      Weeks later, after Tommy had started back to work, he came in early one day to ask for the night off and to talk to Beth who had moved with Leslie to a new apartment for the same rent but in a safer part of the city the week before.

 

      "In that room with the cracked plaster and the ripped shades pulled down, me all crazy with fever, frightened `cause I was so sick, Russel would just sit by the bed so when I woke up I would know someone was there to take care of me.  We didn't say a lot but I felt real close to him.

      Then I got better and started going to work and after work going out and I hardly ever stopped by his door to see what he was doing or to borrow a mystery like I meant to do.  Until today when this awful smell was coming from his apartment and I knew what it was though I took a hammer and broke off the door knob to get in like it was a life and death emergency.  He was there alone in that lonely room and I hope he died in his sleep because then maybe he was dreaming of people he loves and so wasn't alone.  I called the police and they asked me if there was anybody who they should call but I didn't know of anybody, do you?"

 


 

Mickey:  Confession

 

      "I have to tell you straight out I'm an addict, and it's

my Grandma's fault.

Now she may look sweet and harmless but it's her that got me

in this mess, her that got me addicted.

It started years ago when she went in the hospital, first day

of her life she was sick only she wasn't just sick, she was

real bad off and in a lot of pain and no one could figure out

why, and you have to do something for pain.

My mom calls me and tells me Grandma is getting real

depressed, and who can blame her, I mean on all the doctor

shows they know what is wrong and can tell you what little

pill to take for it, and Grandma is becoming withdrawn.

I thought it might just be she didn't want to talk to my

mother which can be a pain in itself sometimes, so I went to

see Grandma.

She lay there all still and didn't seem to be listening when

I tried to tell her about my daughter, or the dog, or the

latest cereal, or her other favorite subjects.

Then I noticed it was three and time for her favorite show,

General Hospital which she had watched from the day they

opened the doors to all those horny doctors and nurses, but I

knew she was real bad off `cause she didn't even want me to

turn it on.  That bad.

So I went home and adjusted my schedule around so that every

afternoon for a week I watched General Hospital.

That Friday night I went into see Grandma who was still on

their mystery case list and tried the usual subjects.  No

good.   But then I mentioned the names of Luke and

Laura, two of the more notorious characters on her soap, and

she perked right up, couldn't resist asking me what they were

up to.

Couple days later word came that they had figured out that a

sack packed full of stones had formed on my Grandma's gall

bladder and the x-rays hadn't picked it up.  I suspected they

just wanted to keep her a bit longer and add a new chapel to

the wing they were building on the hospital.

In no time Grandma was fine, but as for me, well I had been

turned into an addict.

Which is why I'm talking my lunch hour so late and why I

would really appreciate it if I could get my fix and you

could turn on the set to channel seven so I can find out if

Luke and Laura are all right."

 


 

Tracy:  Questioning The Heart's Intentions

 

      Tending bar for years in the same place, you see the same faces again and again. From time to time someone will come in who no longer looks like the person whose problems you have listened to over the years.  Something about their smile is different. Their eyes are anxious to tell you a new tale they have learned to tell.

 

      "One day

not much different from another

externally at least

it suddenly occurred to me to wonder

what is a lover?

Is he or she made of flesh that warms

to the touch

the lick

someone who can speak softly,

barely a breath in your ear

who folds comfort around you

fills you with all kinds of emotions

drains you of your fears

drives you away from madness that loneliness inspires

leads you down into your soul between

forgotten illusions of times when

you were without the power of poetry

to smooth your senses against sleep?

 

A lover is but the mirage

that rises from the desert of your existence

an image at whom we throw the darts

of desire

a capsule containing all our wishes and

hidden dreams that we hope

to rent open with our lust

devour like a tranquillizer for our dread

of loneliness

metabolize into our flesh which becomes damp

with thoughts of sex

lips quickly licked with expectation

arms with the nerves communicating want

along their live wires to tense muscles

waiting to cling to the fantasy, the security,

the fulfillment of dreams we have dared

not let ourselves remember

when we wake with the slap of morning

stinging on our face.

 

There are tears that are now warm

as a mother's milk on my cheek

there are words that are like children playing

without the watch of adults.

 

A lover

not another person

but ourselves in our deepest moments with ourselves

when the vessel we have chosen

to carry all this is but a

will-o'-the-wisp

in comparison with

the person we have found in ourselves

when we find a lover."

 


 

Johnny:  The Countdown Begins At Thirty-Five

 

      Some toast to life, some toast to health, others to good will, to success, to many things, but some can only lift their glasses and toast to the good times, to the past.

 

      "We sang in the streets when I was nineteen

while cops we called pigs watched with clubs in their hands,

we sang in lobbies of Federal buildings before they

dragged us out,

we sang while lying on mattresses on the floor in our

own little commune,

we sang with Jim, and Janis, and Jimi

while part of the crowd, a generation

when it was not that I had grand dreams

but they had me

the way a lover I loved so desperately

never loved me quite enough and I was had in more ways than

one

the lover my life rotated around

spun out of my galaxy like a comet

whose tail fires scorched my life

and the singing of the spheres was over.

      I was thirty-five and the countdown had begun

abandoned by dreams as I lost my footing

could no longer sing

as the future slid out from under me.

      At thirty-five you eat when you are depressed

not because you have the stoned-out munchies

so I went to the grocery store

where I started humming to myself

while others hummed along

to the song "We Shall Over Come"

that played over the Musac speakers

music I would have sung to die by

now music to spend money by."

 


 

Ruby Lee: Can You Inherit Tears?

 

      "Just not my style, just not like me, so didn't drink a drop at all, no just not my style, until it became mine, until I met him.

      Coming to me through the cigarette smoke shinning all orange and green from neon beer signs floating against the walls, his jaw line sharp as a knife shadowed by blood stains, looking me straight in the eye and just coming out and saying `I want to have sex,' and of course I know he means me `cause what else was I put on this earth for, but him, he says it so nice, so polite, like an angel, and adds, `Sorry to be so blunt mam, but I just don't have enough time left to be any other way.'

      But that slow way he had moving his lanky body between the tables makes me think he really ain't in no hurry, not like some, so I stands up and runs these hands that I keep so smoothed and creamed down over my deep blue satin dress so it fits oh just so nice over my hips, then says, `Come on honey, show you a good time, come on honey follow me,' as he watches with steel blue eyes kinda lazy and half closed like an old moon hanging in the sky, no, with those pale lips smiling, like he was having some dream he would never tell about.

      So he follows me upstairs where I keep this room with a bed and an old lamp with a red plastic shade, and in that light thick as blood I recognize that screw of the mouth, that angle of the eyes, and don't even have to ask but know real sure that this here boy's father comes to me when he says things at home are just too crazy, the big guy who slaps me and talks real rough, but always begins to cry when he is on top of me doing his business and all I know to do is go on pretending to moan and close my eyes so he can have some privacy.

      This boy here is so light and slow, each movement dissolving into the next as he removes his clothes and folds them carefully at the foot of my bed as I wait there naked and wondering.  `I wish you loved me,' he says standing there, and `cause I'm nervous I laugh and say, `I wish you loved me,' but stop laughing when he whispers, `I might,' and I know he isn't lying.

      The smell of a boy, all fresh and warm like God just pulled him from the oven, like baked bread or cookies, that smell that needs no cologne or after shave, that wonderful smell that starts me to thinking of a boy long time ago as we lay on the couch in the front room while my mamma was at work, that smell I tried to melt into like butter when I buried my nose on his neck, and I'm thinkin of that boy who is in God's hands now, of the way we loved into exhaustion and dreamless sleep and I hear `I love you' suspended on the damp air, and first I think it is the boy's words, but then I realize it is me, and he answers me with those same magic words, and it's all different, not just money and dirty sheets, it is love and God I feel him inside me and I am loving him.  His head rests on my breasts and I feel hot liquid running down over them.  For a moment I think it is sweat, but I know it is tears.

      After he has come, after he has risen and dressed as I lie on my bed listening to the traffic below us, to the music in the bar, to the beating of my heart, real fast and remembering what it was like to beat so fast, he says, kinda sad, `So that's it?'

      `Yeah,' I answer wondering what he wanted. I suddenly feel embarrassed so pull on my dress.

      `Oh you see I just thought there would be more,' he says.

      `More what?' I want to know.

      `Just more,' he says so softly I can hardly hear him as he takes a twenty from his wallet and lays it on the foot of the bed.

      I turn to pick it up and when I look back to tell him maybe this one is on me, he is headed out the door.  I notice that this gym bag he had carried in was by the bed still so I pick it up and go to the door and yell to him that he has forgotten something.

      `Maybe I have,' was all he says so I hand him the bag thinking Jesus this thing is heavy, and then he walks down the hall.

      I stand there a minute deciding something, I'm not sure what, then go after him, but he is already down the stairs and heading into the men's room.  Then real quick I hear one shot from a gun and even before this old guy comes running out of the john yelling about the kid who just shot himself, I know that the boy is dead.

      So what else was there to do then, what else was there. So I go over to the bar and ask for a drink `cause suddenly drinking became my style."

 


 

The Bag Lady:  Following Bread Crumbs

 

      Her age is undeterminate, her poverty apparent, her past a mystery to most who see her come in with her old wool coat the only thing to keep her warm, her life stuffed into an old shopping bag from one of the more fashionable department stores.  But I welcome her because though she complains continually, it is only mumbled under her breath as was the story of how she came to decide to live her life on the streets.  There was no one to go home to anymore.

 

      "Bartender slip me a drink,

something warm, something to ease my aches and pains,

something to make me forget,

slip me a drink so no one will know, bourbon in coffee

it's cold out there, wet to chill you to the bone

and at my age they are brittle enough already

broken often enough by the gangs of what look like kids

but sure enough are the Devil running free

`cause God gave up on this world long before

I gave up on him.

 

      Slip me some crusts of bread, stale as you like

it's not for me but the pigeons that are there

waiting for me in the park

make the best pets you bet ya

better than dogs leaving their mess in the grass,

bad enough in the winter but try stepping in some

in those open toed shoes like I used to wear.

 

      If I had my druthers I'd outlaw dogs with their sewer

breath as their tongues hang out,

their tails wagging waiting for you to love them

jumping all over you when you come home at night

like you was the only person in the world

just `casue you feed them.

 

      If I had my druthers they wouldn't be begging

for a nibble of your canned stew as you sit

trying to eat in peace in front of the tv set

or wake you from a good sleep barking

at some creep rattling your door knob

then falling asleep up against your legs

so they get all warm and sweaty.

 

      If I had my druthers wouldn't be no kids either

which would end the human race

which would be a joke on the Devil

leaving him with no play things

and God, doubt He'd notice the absence

especially little kids,

following you around all the time, hanging onto you dress,

making you little plaques with their hand print on it in

school which always breaks when you try to hang it up in some

corner of the apartment you want to cheer up,

they crawl in bed with you just like a dog does

only they smell much better

kind of sweet and lazy

sucking her thumb even if she was seven.

No God don't care about kids otherwise he wouldn't

let them age with disease and die on you.

There aught to be a law that says your kid isn't allowed to

die before her mother even if she never knew that bastard,

her father.

If I had my druthers wouldn't be no dogs either `cause all you

do is get to love them like they was your kid

and then they only live long enough to

break your heart.

 

      But I ain't got my druthers so

I'll spend my love throwing bread crumbs to the pigeons

in the park `cause I didn't bring them into the world

and they didn't follow me home one day,

but they are there waiting for me and that's

the only thing I can depend on

so slip me that drink bartender,

and don't forget the bread."


  


 
 
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