The ice storm came
salting the streets near the factory
driving the neighborhood into hiding.
In Huber's Tavern I stare from my stool
through a neon riddle of a bird holding a baseball bat.
A man in suspenders shoulders through the glass door.
Uniformed by smoke, he sinks into a room
where four generations have seared their lungs.
A boy wrapped tighter than a package
buys candy through the mail slot.
Like a man in a confessional
the bartender speaks back through the opening
"Your ma'll be home after one last cigarette.
Now hurry back before you freeze." The boy disappears
atomized by a world of falling stones.
1:15 bar time
we are the congregation of thinned paychecks
and thickened tongues.
At a table of ghosts
the butts in the ashtray line up like rotten teeth.
In some hands mugs become cleavers
separating draft cards from green cards,
sons from mothers,
our crooked story from history.
Brotherly love, best forgotten,
is a hand thrust out, awkwardly,
then back into a pocket.
At last call a mechanic in an oily cap
restraps a shoulder on his overalls.
Six packs are passed out for the drive.
On the parking lot glaze our footing is that of a newborn foal.
In the sky of afterstorm a part of the moon has risen above this
town. The chilled supplicants roll slowly towards the slaughter.
Poems by John Waldman:
TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets