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(Photo Credit: This poem was inspired by German artist Mark Slavin’s piece, Pub, 48 x 50 cm, watercolor on torchon paper.  Please visit his website and/or his Facebook page to further explore his work: Mark Slavin’s Art Website , Mark Slavin’s Facebook)

 

As the Transom window above

Coughed out a puff of smoke,

His Rocks glass below rattled

With liquor and hope—

Those bluffs of the mind

Where fairytales slither into time

And whisper their stories to men

Who sweat to believe.

 

 

“Beer before wine,

feeling fine,”

He remembered

In an audible reflection

From his university days

When his path was being laid—

Stepping-stones to this place.

 

 

His brown leather shoe

Shook as he waited

Releasing inner vibration

Anticipation of

What he had to say

About what he already

Had done

And he rolled a cigarette

While he watched for his friend

To come.

 

 

The poison lifted

Far more quickly

Than it could be sifted

To the open air beyond

These shadows—

And so his cigarette burned

Into and onto his chest—

 

 

He bit the nail of his thumb

Then another one

Pretending to groom

But exhuming the record of

Impending doom

Skipping in his mind

Like vinyl marred by drizzles of perfume.

 

 

Then a silhouette he knew

Stood in the doorway

Where light behind and

Darkness within

Blinded the Rattling Man

To the visage of his

Friend.

 

 

Tall, with a balding head

Features large enough

To match his frame

And a limp to one side

As he walked toward the table—

The Rattling Man smiled

As wide as he was able.

 

 

The towering man

Laid his hand on his friend

Like a father consoling

With no words to say

And he laughed

Just a little

Because he understood the pain.

 

 

“Give me a real drink,”

The tall man called to the bar

Something brownish, no ice,

Was poured

And they sat for a moment

Drinking and

Not saying a word—

 

 

The way men do

When emotions slither around

Like venomous snakes and

The stakes are a little too high.

 

 

The Rattling Man lowered his head

A gesture of shame

Drowning in dread

He whispered the story

From the top to the end,

The deafening twists

And the blinding bends.

 

 

The Transom sputtered and wheezed

Squeezed the smog and the secrets

Through and away

Nothing could stay

Or the toxic fumes

And the names that it knew

Would choke it, finally, to death.

 

 

The towering friend

Opened the spigot

Between his ears

And his heart

The art of brotherhood

Washing him in lines

Of this play and his part—

 

 

“Once you were blue

and now you are green,”

He started with a metaphor

He hoped the Rattling Man

Would follow and see,

“Your She is the yellow

that blended the hue.”

 

 

“And now what should I do?”

 

 

The Transom lifted her eyes

To the clouds rolling by

She exhaled the question

With a vocalized sigh

Then watched it swirl

Like a flock of black birds

Floating atop a current of thickening words.

 

 

The men looked down

At the liquid they trusted

With no way to straighten

What was already adjusted

They grew silent and waited

For the next thing to say

As the Rattling Man

Drowned in green-colored thoughts

Then drifted

Further

And further

Away.

 

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

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