To chase the first night jitters I drank apple wine
And stacked my fingers one on the other
Like lobster claws and waved
Them over my head menacingly,
I stomped my feet
And made the rat turds dance.
An icy draft circled the room
Like a terrified bird.
The cupboards were bare, of course,
And so were the walls,
Except for the dime-store Jesus
On the Cross someone gave a hotfoot to.
Long minutes passed.
In a dark windowpane I watched myself
Turning pages struck golden by candlelight.
I could have been the Duc de Barry
Admiring a well-turned field, a forest
Of turrets under an azure sky,
But I wasn’t. Instead there was a photograph
Of a schoolboy holding a machine gun while
Puffing on a fat cigar.
And later on another one of a woman leaning forward
On a three-legged chair
Holding beside her cheek like a puppet
A picture of her long-faced husband,
Their two mouths half-open
To a street filled with burning garbage,
As if they’d both lurched up
Out of the same nightmare.
The Lord Almighty himself
Looking a little nervous too, I noticed,
Peering fretfully over his shoulder
In the wavering light,
This way and then that,
As if missing the company
Of the Good Thief,
And, then, even the Bad.
This poem originally appeared in that scruffly anti-hero, Volume 4 of The Ampersand Review.
Daniel Lawless is a professor of communications at St. Petersburg College and is Editor-in-Chief of Plume Poetry.