well, let me sleep on it

(With a tip of the faded John Deere cap to Steve Myers)

We knew the place better than we knew our homes,
Each scratch and warped spot on the bar,
Each tear and repair in the old-school upholstery on the ageless stools,
Each story behind the bats, jerseys, boxing gloves
And the other souvenirs whose origin and the stories behind them
(A man of the world, old Pop Mulligan would say of himself,
Though the only time he’d been outside Elk County
Was the two-year hitch
He spent in one of Mother Army’s more decrepit West Texas camps)
All being of dubious authenticity;
Take those gloves, Pop would say, Got those in Cuba one time.
Belonged to Hemingway, ya know.
He and the old Dodger pitcher, Hugh Casey,
They’d spend all day shooting clay pigeons and drinking Hatuey Beer
‘N go home and beat the living hell out of each other with those gloves
Until Papa’s missus couldn’t take the splintered wicker no more,

And though we knew damn well he’d bought the gloves
At the Sally Army thrift store up in Coudersport,
We kept our own counsel,
As we’d bent elbows and spewed bullshit there
Since we were old enough to drink
(Earlier, in fact, as we ran with Tommy Mulligan,
Who later inherited the place,
The largesse of death being the only way
He’d ever have the wherewithal to own a bar)
And the place remained a constant
Through all those things we’d failed or had failed us
(Girlfriends, wives, parents, even our spots on the line
Once the Montmorenci shut down.)

This night, then, was no different than most,
The normal rituals being observed,
Most of them at the good Tommy’s expense,
As his positions both behind the bar
And in the cosmic order mandated such,
This particular evening the determination having been made
By unanimous ballot that Tommy had never, in fact, been kissed
(Not as preposterous a notion as one might think,
As he had made the transition from “hefty” to “fat bastard”
Quite some time ago.)
He’d taken our potshots with the good-natured stoicism
That were part and parcel of his character and his role,
Until he piped up—C’mon fellas, I was engaged at one point.
We’d responded with any number of speculative notions
As to said fiancées deficiencies and possible species,
Until Tommy said, with borderline belligerence,
Look, I’ll show you a picture,
At which point he produced a creased three-by-five snapshot
Of a blonde who looked very much like a 1980’s –issue Ellen Foley,
Which occasioned speculative comparisons between Tommy and Meat Loaf,
With the subsequent rumination as to what this poor girl would have tasted
Had she stuck her tongue down Tommy’s throat
In Paradise-By-The-Dashboard-Light fashion
(The consensus being Subway BLT, varied flavors of Cheetos,
And three-hour old Tullamore Dew.)
We’d expected, naturally, that Tommy would laugh along with us,
But he slammed a tray of glasses down on the bar with such force
That one or two of the glasses liberated themselves and shattered noisily.
He’d gazed at us with the fury which usually proceeds the mother of all riot acts,
But he apparently decided that there were pearls and swine
And there was no sense mixing the two.
Why should I waste any more time on you sonsofbitches,
Buncha assholes who can’t see past the bottom of your glasses anyhow,

And with that he walked into the back, ostensibly to grab mixers or pretzels
Or some damn thing, and we sat still as church mice for a moment,
Until someone looked at the TV, and said Well, it’s about goddamn time
The Knicks got ‘Melo some fucking help
, and we nodded in agreement
In the manner of those who do not see, hear, or say anything untoward.

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6 thoughts on “well, let me sleep on it

  1. That very same Ellen Foley (who sang with Meatloaf on “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”) has been married to Robbie Benson for many years, ya know. When I was in high school, my mother and my sister used to tell me that I looked like Robbie Benson. I didn’t agree, but now that there’s the internet, and a lot more photos are available as opposed to then, and I compared pictures on the internet of Robbie Benson at that time (1977) with pictures of me at that time (1977) and I DID look a lot like Robbie Benson, at least when I wasn’t wearing my glasses. But I didn’t marry Ellen Foley because she didn’t want to marry a Robbie Benson lookalike wearing glasses; she wanted to marry the real thing.

    Interesting piece, W.K. Where is Coudersport? It seems to me that there’s a Coudersport State College in Pennsylvania, but I could be wrong on that.

    Glen

    1. Ellen Foley married Robbie Benson? Geez, I had no clue. As far as Coudersport goes…no colleges there, trust me. It’s in scenic Potter County, which bills itself as “God’s Country”, possibly because he’s the only one with maps that show it.

  2. I like this poem because it concerns a short piece about a particular night on those old bar stools, a night in which the fellas who sidled up to the bar ought to have kept their mouths shut. It is a sad poem which is the sign of a successful poet.

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