AT PETE’S HUT
Cue balls scatter,
clicking through the Marlboro haze
to choke a horse.
He wheels around, bearlike hand
gripping the edge
of fading felt.
He stops, says,
“Let’s put that puppy right there.”
Then, aiming from
slaps a clean crosstable shot into
the side pocket.
Three girls, sitting
on a bench, watch
as the winning continues.
He is handsome:
Broad shoulders, a square
face, framed by
a dark beard, breaking into wide smiles.
And were it not
for the broken
of his body,
he might have left the place that night
and gone home
with any one of them—
or all three.
CROSSING A ROPE BRIDGE
Coaxing myself to place a foot on
that hesitant first step
of the crossing, a journey with outcome
neither known nor guaranteed.
Isolation is a very shaky place
where circles of behavior echo
or resolve into a hydra or, worse,
demons of solitude.
Stopping on this wobbly avenue,
my feet feel vibrations deep in their soles,
making me wonder: Where is the tipping point?
Peeking down to see a drop deeper
than that uncertain climb
to the other side, to the safe haven
of the forest veiled in mist.
Then vertigo, fear of failure, overwhelms
so that retreating into the numb
appears an easier alternative
to taming the dragon.
GETTING OLD IS
Getting old: it is indeed
“the passing of an era.”
After all, the last munchkin
has died, and while I sit, stuck
in neutral at a traffic
light, an emaciated
Santa stands at the curb where
Concourse crosses Olympic,
eyeing the entrance to the
free soup kitchen in the church
across the street as he plays
his own version of Frogger,
avoiding a pickup piled high
with aging washing machines
and weathered desks trapped behind
wooden slats while two modern
hausfraus traverse the crosswalk,
each gliding in Stepford chic
to the beat of the light’s pulse.
I wonder of the drifter:
Does he take the exact same
route daily, a commuter
of his own sort? Inhaling
the smoke of the cigarette
he bummed earlier, his face
wrapped in a walrus moustache,
all his belongings hang, bagged
at his side—almost a part
of him, clutched by shaking hands
mottled and tobacco brown,
this traveler—this vagrant
wreckage, this canary in our
coal mine—signifying the times
we find ourselves dying in.
MARY, COLIN, AND ME
The moon hangs suspended
balanced between three stars
this autumnal February evening.
He’s Libra, balanced; you, I,
tonight a lunar Trinity.
And I’m thinking of him
and you, and his eyes—
your eyes when you allow,
And I think how when
I hold him, I hold a part
of you, and sometimes
The first greets those who promenade
through the foyer to a sunken
living room; its steps—wide with
carpeted tread—ease beneath gilded panels
lined with portraits of staid patriarchs
long dead. Bright red lips brush fair cheeks,
besitos de cultura alto,
as these elegant guests parade
through the living room past a massive
dining table and walls affixed
with innocuous ceramic buttons,
doorbell fixtures to summon the help
from the kitchen hiding a second staircase:
steep, jagged, and above all concrete.
Servants—rough hands wrapped in skin darker
than the mahogany furniture
they rub to a high shine—trudge between floors
carrying the weight of meals, loads of laundry,
flutes of lemon water, and whispered curses,
triggered by constant buzzing commands.
Meanwhile, quiet worms of hate burrow, deep
yet imperceptible, into their hearts.