Poetry
by Lawrence Mallory

Just Another Austere Evening at the Cafť San Sebastian

Late for our appointment at the body piercers
we linger in the ineffable light of neon signs
dying in the windows of bankrupt brothels.
In a dark corner the priests
switch from tea to liqueurs.
In confession booths the work is hard
and they are bored. None of our sins
are original any more. Thatís not our fault.
Once youíre thrown out of the garden
the remaining details dissolve
into biography and weather reports
although we spend a lot of time at this table
seeking better ways to describe them.
Thereís fog here in the morning.
By noon it burns away.
Once, on a cold dawn, the sun
made a rainbow as it broke through the mist
and its light reflected from the frost.
If youíre going to have a vision
pick a theme that wonít go out of style
in two thousand years minus the square root
of the number for times you have made love.
The rules are the same for tattoos and election results.
What did those people mean, leaving so soon?
Maybe a kinder face will appear and say,
now, thatís enough.

Ghost Riders in the Sky
(for Jack Cadwallader)
 
Say your name reminds everyone
at the bar of one of those old
errant knights or of the last
bill collector you chased away
from the nasturtiums at the door.
We all have filmy residues,
forgettable knowledge, and we
cherish these as they slide
into a glass when the guy
behind the bar pours one last drink.
Admit it, then, you have to laugh
at how much reticence becomes
a man who serves a crowd like this.
Patience is a virtue, your check
is in the mail. There are patterns
all the time, cycles of sense
and silence. Someone bursts in, shouts:
Outside young men are making love
to cars in the streets. They are on
their knees. The snow is soaking through
their pants. You swivel in your chair,
afraid the sun has risen
long before you expected it.
The nights, though, are sufficient
and in due time the jukebox
will play, unasked, your favorite tune.

This Place, the Other Place
 
That was the city where they got what they wanted
and consequently the politicians had their work cut out for them.
Reality, we were told, is as statistical as marriage.
We looked so goofy then in our seamless faces
and consequently the politicians had their work cut out for them.
Then we sat ourselves down by the walls of the coffee bar and wailed,
we looked so goofy then in our seamless faces.
Were things that much better above ground those days
when we sat ourselves down by the walls of the coffee bar and wailed,
Oh Lord, we donít like this one, give us a better sign?
Can things be that much better above ground these days?
Thereís less permission than ever to say that you donít know.
Oh Lord, we donít like this one, give us another sign.
Reality we are told is as statistical as marriage
and thereís less permission than ever to say that you donít know.
This is the city where they got what they wanted.

  

©2000 Lawrence Mallory

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