Closing Time

It took over twenty years
But I took you home
After you eyed me from across the bar
For decades.
I knew about you but
I had other things on my mind.
We sat close and talked sometimes.
Well, I talked, mostly.
You listened and
You waited.
You waited for me to act:
How were you to know I was a man of words
And not actions?
One day
I got off my stool and moved to the back of the bar
Where it was dark
And smelled like piss and cigars,
Billiard chalk and the sweat of wasted time.
You looked in that doorway a moment
After I disappeared through it
And when I did not return
You looked elsewhere.
What else could you do?

You took another one home.
I slipped out the back door
And took home the first woman on the street
Who put a knife to my throat.
She slashed and I bled
But I broke free,
Bleeding and broken
But free.

Now you have returned to the bar
Without him
To see me sitting there
Drinking the same brand of beer as before,
Pontificating still with the hoi polloi
About poetry, politics, television
And sexual proclivities
With the same sideways smile,
The same savage glare,
The same tousled hair
But now flecked in white.
My clothes a bit ill-fitting and threadbare,
My eyes a little duller;
My words still tawdry, tart,
Exciting to you and
Hitting you like little bullets
Directly into your sweet dark heart
Just as they did before.
We made out right there
Among the riff raff,
Smelling of alcohol
But without shame
In our magic moment.
I took you home.
There was nothing better
Before or since.

He was at home
Waiting for you to return.
And so
You did.

Now you are back at the bar.
You toss back your scotch and honey.
You eye me as I drink too many,
Now alone again and about to move off my stool
To return to that backroom that smells like
Piss and cigars,
Billiard chalk, the sweat of wasted time.
I get up and look at you
(The way I looked at you
That first afternoon I pushed you up against
My kitchen wall,
Under me on the mattress)
As I move across the floor
Toward that black and smoky
Into piss-stink and oblivion.

I look right into those eyes
That look back into mine,
Making me feel like
I could never sit upon another barstool
Just waiting for something to happen.
What a waste of time that would be
And I have already wasted most of what
I have been given.
I want to hold you again
As you sleep.
That is the something I want most
To happen,
Over and over again.

Now he is rushing in and is beside you, spilling your drink
As well as the drink he brought in from outside.
He has brought a small army with him to take you home.
I am disappearing into the darkness.
You begin to call my name
And I turn around.
The bartender rings his bell—
“Last call!”
I look at you
So miserable with his hand
Reddening your elbow
And pulling you.
Pulling you toward

“Closing time!”
The bartender flickers the lights.
It’s late and he wants to go home
To his wife, his children.
He wants to forget his credit card debt and his mortgage
And his job watching strangers pretend
While slipping into sorrow
As he puts the key in his lock,
Kissing his sleeping kids
As he slips into his marital bed,
Putting his body up against the ass of a woman;
She is snoring with her mouth open,
His fingers tracing her Caesarian scars
As he drops out himself and begins to make her snoring
A duet.
He is almost smiling.
The bartender, he signed up for that and he is okay with that,
More happy than not with his whole arrangement.
A man who smiles in sleep
Is lucky indeed.

The lights of the bar are dimmed.
Things look a little uglier but more real.
You look at me as you are being pulled by the arm toward the entrance/exit door.
He is yelling but I can’t make out what he says
As he takes you away,
The army he brought with him is too loud and dissonant
For me to hear them
So I stand in that dark stinking doorway
As the din fails to penetrate.

I open my eyes,
I open them wide
I look at your lovely mouth
And I wait.

I Want This Book to Hurt You

I think about my death a lot.
I have a lot of time to think
And often I think about my death
As each morning it comes closer.
I think about two things the most:
How you would respond to my death
And that it may be possible I can watch you living
Upon my body’s demise.
I see myself as a wave of energy floating above you
As you pour your coffee, brush your marvelous hair,
Feed your cats or pick up your car keys.
I’ll be floating over you or something
When you meet who you will meet,
Kiss who you will kiss.
That’s the fantasy.

I imagine myself there with you when you learn I have died:
I want you to cry. Cry real tears.
Heave and sob, tear your clothing,
Express your everlasting fealty to me!
Me, the man you could not truly give yourself to in life.
I want you to regret every moment I was not with you.
I want you to find a book I began to write
The moment you left
And continued to write
In the years that continued
Before I shed this mortal coil.
I want this book to hurt you.
Hurt you with the enormity of my love.

The book would be a pastiche
Of all the poems I wrote about you,
Scribbling thoughts each night about you before bed
And various pictures of my rumpled weather-beaten looks
That you seemed to love so well.

It would be presented to you one afternoon
After my body is burned
And my soul essence light or whatever would watch you take it
Solemnly, not quite understanding
And waiting until the cover of darkness
Alone in your bedroom to unwrap the present I give
From beyond the grave.
Your tears at the sheer formidable expanse of pages
Would be exquisite!
See how much I loved you? Wanted you?
Could not get past you?
How could you do whatever you did? Didn’t do?
How could you have denied me?

I look forward to my death.
Now I need to start writing this book
And paste in the poems I will write anyway.
I hope to see you again—
Whether you can see me or not.
I think about it a lot.