Tag Archives: bar

Slippers in the Snow

She wears slippers in the snow
Her ankles are raw and red and angry
Her smile fades as she puffs out a thin steam
Across the frozen air between them

She wears slippers in the snow
Grey slush as cruel as her childhood
She remains defiant of the weather
The weather remains indifferent to her

And her slippers in the snow

Baseball in Gary, Indiana: June 2014

The cool breeze carries the nostalgia down the toll road
Over the skyway and into the once proud city

In the center of the old city is a shiny gem
In the center of the storied city is a diamond
It sparkles amidst the ruins of industry
The ruins of progress
The ruins of neglect

Throughout the waving sea of green seats
Signs of life are beginning to emerge

In a dance that was once uniquely American
Men of dubious haberdashery stretch their limbs
In a most reptilian fashion

Old men in Dickies wipe down each seat
With the same reverence they did 40 years ago
Wiping the seats at Wrigley or Comiskey
Finding loose change and pencil stubs on the littered concrete

When you love the game there is nothing you won’t do
To hear that singularly familiar sound of the cowhide against a wood bat

The smells deliver ghosts to the base paths
Where barrel-chested umpires bark their unforgiving calls

The smells deliver you to summer days sitting next to your father
Trying to figure out the score card between hot dogs and root beers

The smells deliver you to high school hooky and getting caught in the bleachers
Reaching for a home run while cameras snapped from around the park

Our game has traveled around the world but the soul and the history remains here
The soul and the history belong to the men who sacrifice for the chance to play

The men and boys who may never make the big dance
But will play until the last out of the last inning

I Just Couldn’t

(for Nelson Algren)

The last time I saw Nelson
He was wearing khaki trousers and an old Navy P-Coat
He had a wrinkled cigar in one hand and a silver pocket-watch in the other
One of the lenses in his glasses was cracked

He was getting into an old blue Chevy he had thumbed down in the rain
On North Avenue near Wells Street by the Wagon Wheel
He looked over his shoulder and half-waved good bye
I just kind of stood there and rocked on my feet
I sort of watched the Chevy pulled away

I turned to walk home that’s when I saw the copper flash
Lincoln looking up from the curb but I just couldn’t pick it up
I just couldn’t pick it up

He was sad.

He was sad. His head weighed so much that it fell between his shoulders. He looked like a vulture when he followed his head around. His neck was stronger than sailors’ knots on a new boat. It had to hold up that massive miserable head. The angle his head hung prohibited him from wearing most hats that might have made him happy. He thought he might be happy one day, but then what would he do with his crooked neck and his heavy head. He went on being sad. No one noticed.

Mr. 1971

A hard sharp glare from the little man
Sitting across the bar on Diversey Street
His leather skin is dark and
His salt and pepper beard is chiseled into his face
He looks like a negative from that old box camera I made in 1971
He is looking at me accusing me of some unnamed crime
I am drinking my drink and minding my business
Someone should buy the dark knight a drink
My green is a bit short tonight – bad week
No one bought me a drink all damned night
The younger ones – the ones with the strong backs
The ones with the regrettable piercings and tattoos
They have no idea what Mr. 1971 has seen
They crack their inside jokes and drink cheap beer
They stay just outside of his historical range
Never understanding his emotional depth – the fire inside
He sits there quietly until they walk too close to him
One glare they know to step back to their party
Some of the older men are smart enough to pay respects
I’m smart enough to keep my distance
I should buy him a drink but I won’t – not tonight
There is only enough green for whiskey and me

Fighting Gravity

God’s marionette dips and sways defying years of abuse
The precarious strings are attached to his head and his shoulders
The strings on his elbows and knees have broken like his heart
The strings on his elbows and knees have broken like his promise to Nana

God’s marionette should have fallen down by now
He fights gravity as fiercely as he fights the memories of his youth
Sometimes he just freezes – Venus De Milo in a down coat and skull cap
Other times he stretches backward as he lifts the dark brown bottle to his lips
Somehow how he is buoyed by that one more mouthful of failure

He is someone’s son – uncle – punch line – target – ticket – friend – victim – muse
He is God’s marionette and tonight he is fighting gravity

May 19, 2010: After Mixtape

For the Butterfly

Before rum turns to beer and that I trip on a tear in my heart – or my shoe or a thought
About nights like tonight when there’s soul in the fight and the love in the drink that I bought

So I sip and I trip and I laugh at the jokes that fly by on untenable wings
They thrust and they parry and the liquor will carry them into this cool night in spring

Will you write words tonight that you hope will ignite the next troupe of young dreamers you meet?
Will you crawl into bed – words still trapped in your head – while you typer stares back in defeat?

Somewhere at the crossroads of William and Shel
I find that my words have all aimed me toward hell
But if they can get me one more minute with you
I’d gladly consume them and that heart and that shoe

We try to be clever – whenever – we endeavor to put all these thoughts on a page
But it’s tends to be liquor – a little bit quicker – that now has me showing my age

So I’ll say good night to the slow fading light as I wait for my old phone to ring
Tomorrow will be here – but wait just one more beer – and then one more minute to sing…

May 19, 2010
2 a.m.

E.’s First Piece

Miles Davis and an ice cold Old Style and a promise that you are not bound to keep
But words that resonate in your ear when you held her under the sweet moonlight
You were played – she played you – but you won and when you win it tastes better

Sure she let you win – that was her plan – it wasn’t going to be easy but there it is
So you retire to the writing garret and you pull out Miles because no one else gets it
No one else gets that you can win even when you are just learning the rules to the game

You grab a cold one because the heat is emanating from your shoulders and your heart
The world spins by you – as it is wont to do on these air-conditioned early summer nights
It spun fast when you were together – slower later – but soon it won’t matter – will it?

Monica

(We were close tonight)

The long cold drive home is a constant reminder of you and what almost happened
Your smell on my shirt mingles with the whiskey reminding me that I am destined
We were close tonight – I was happy and sweaty and you understood what I said
But you left in the heat of a moment that I could not control – yet had to find a way to

The last sweet soft cocktail is the messenger who will not be killed tonight for the words
Your voice rings in my ear – a promise you can’t keep because maybe I’m not destined
We were close tonight – you were quiet and beautiful and your language intrigued me
You have to know I took a stand and sacrificed our moment – I can’t regret that

The notes on that old guitar resonate with clarity in this place where radiators whistle
Your taste lingers on my mustache like a joke I never said to a crowded room of friends
We were close tonight – we only danced once but we believed it was enough for now
I just wanted to tell you that destiny is overrated and I can only give you the love I have