A time-smudged railroad overpass
I haven't seen in a quarter century
still sells Valvoline to the sooty
of Worcester, Massachusetts, ice
and strange glitter of bar light
off the crusty downtown snow banks.
In the shadow of that iron cloud,
that slice of rust-flecked winter
the bulletproof door of Nelligan's
remains to be heaved open again,
and its furnace of song to blast
Marcy still clutches the mike stand
to keep from stumbling off the stage,
squinting orgasmically on the high
As night deepens, they're all high
Some girl with cadaver skin
and incense halo asks my sign, then
"Pisces shake their asses!"
Unshaken, I shout my true desire
to the bartender, Ronnie Someone,
Marcy's cousin who sometimes subs
on bass. He can converse in
of wobbly torch songs entirely
with deft nods and wise eyebrows.
What looks like Coke in his hand
is dark beer loaded with ice
in case the owner stops in.
Any minute now Carmen will corner
in the tight hall near the john,
like a puppy to her monumental chest,
breathe vodka in my ear and suggest
a bathroom quickie. Drunk
to be flattered, I tell her I'll
remember her, as I have, though
I'm half convinced her name was
and it might have happened instead
at one of Marcy's three-day house
Whatever. It all goes on furiously
because I'm not there to
and gulp rum, to refuse a dance
or slither free of Carmen's wobbly
I've misplaced most street names
the nights tend to bleed.
Some of this
happened in a Virginia mountain
six years later, and some I think
I cribbed from a novel, the one
I never finished, in which Marcy
left finally for Nashville to seek
her fame and wound up tending bar,
fox in the henhouse at last.
who surprised everyone by drying
at thirty, settling down, then dying
in a dead sober car crash before
was five, of that I'm quite sure.
© by David Graham