on the four dollar ride:
dislocating Detroit at the bar;
garish queens of apposite gender,
always quite nearly the stars,
consorts de trop as usual,
now ripping yesterdays
between sips, trips and the box.
There may be faces on which life lies lovely
as it fades away:
they are in some other room. Here it is
a crushing weight,
gravity’s mutter, framed in pores.
Between them, as though across the years,
the words move sotto, sibilant, suspended,
Not an ounce of milk in the air:
Do you remember
that countess; I cut her completely
dead at the afterwards party.
You were there,
weren’t you? Wasn’t that you at Tonio’s,
after? We watched
you dance with that odd old man; Julio?
Or something. Rich, but you said. . . .
It was true, you know. I was never like
even then. Five thousand in his pocket, but I liked him
just for himself. Edward something, anyway,
you malicious bitch. My god, ’Julio,’ I’m dying.
Anyway, darling, order me another, will
I left my checkbook at the hotel and they don’t take
Bring him another, will you? On me. What
Dear, we couldn’t get you off the bar;
well, never before or since, I hear, and that dress.
You were so vulgar,
it was just precious.
Someone to laugh at, someone to do;
his velvet jackets, her crushed chenille;
time, slipping by in stockings and silks,
all legs and lines: youth,
poseurs and the endless ride:
one more drink, a votre sante, encore my love;
it all stays open until we close;
it all stays open
until we close it down.
Like whisky gone bad in the barrel
as it bounces illegal downriver:
we take it as it comes:
a lyrical tuneless truth,
laughing; Johnny Mathis on the juke:
what can go wrong?
reminiscing with imagination,
filling in the gaps with lines and lines once done
at the bar: guns, indifferent men, women without
laughter, death creeping up on soundless wings
to take you without warning or butter
in the alley behind; your coffin
the ancient stench
in piss-stained walls. Surprise, lover: death.
No, death is no surprise at all,
not at Detroit after hours, not at, no, no , new
beginnings, yes, let’s not talk of that,
my god, the mirrors in this place,
you’d think with the price they charge
for these thin drinks they could do better; the old
queens raise a bridge in catty songs,
crossing back into a better time
when some things really mattered. Some
things seemed to matter. Falsies, makeup, charm.
Before you went
it seemed you had to go; having been,
you must return. Or there is nothing
left of what remains.
destinies on the four dollar ride.
Full fare, no matter where
you’ve got to go, having been, this
comes back: these stools, the drinks, Detroit
memory infected forever with today gone by
best dreamed in pairs.
©1999 Francis Till
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