He begins to cry. He started with happy hour beer
but he’s moved on to Gentleman Jack by the shot,
body spasming with each sip. His shoulders hunch
over the chipped brown lacquer bar top. Perhaps
the avalanche effects of a recent divorce, job loss,
pending foreclosure, or the death of a brother
brought him here seeking something. I know
this man. I’ve seen him before. His tie dangles loose
around his neck, torn like a powerline unhinged
by a hurricane. The TV casts its shadow across his face,
revealing the stubble of surrender. A Pabst sign flickers,
lightning in a cardboard sky, harbinger of another round.
His brain tells him that’s The Weather Channel on the tavern’s
TV but lately all he sees are the pastel stripes of a test pattern
and all he hears is the stark alarm of the emergency
broadcast system. I know this man. I’ve seen him before.
We visit each time I look in the mirror.
engulfed by the desperate quiet
we sit at the breakfast table
both as empty as the milk carton
dad’s stoic blue mailman shirt
grows wrinkled matching
the deepening lines on his face
his transistor radio lay
silent on the formica counter
no tv technicolor glow
dad couldn’t let me learn
of John Lennon’s murder
from any random source
he tells me in a voice that trembles
like the stuttering tick of the wall clock
as he stirs his instant coffee
as if to give his hands something to do
while sorting out his own hearing
of last night’s horror
i spoon imperfect circles
in my cereal when I close
my eyes I swear
i see John wave from abbey road’s
crosswalk gleaming in a mint-white
Raindrops splatter this joint’s front window,
the steady tink-tink-tink of water pelting glass,
turning the view into a monochrome kaleidoscope,
blurring the mint-white lines and parking lot blacktop
where RVs angle for spaces alongside semis stretching
across asphalt. Inside, one wobbly table over, an elderly
couple sits, opposing one another. He attempts to order
coffee, but she interrupts, reporting to the waiter my husband
can’t drink coffee anymore, so he settles for water,
possibly wishing for gin; she requests a glass of milk,
maybe wishing for their past. For the next few minutes,
they don’t speak, letting the silverware’s clink-clink-clink
do their communicating like a sullen Morse code.
My new wife and I aim our forks like darts at overcooked
eggs served on chipped plates set over red
checkerboard tablecloths and matching vinyl
seats. My new wife and I listen to their silence,
my arm slung over her bare shoulder, her hair
tingling my skin, her leg glancing mine.
Do they still use CB radios here?
Do they still call cops “smoky?”
We ask each other, only half in jest, joking
we’re in a time warp,
that this must be what 1974 looked like,
pleather booths and smoky haze.
I rotate my new wife’s white-gold ring with my fingers
like satellites rotate their planets, engagement
diamond reflecting the ashtray that anchors
the center of the table, heavy as a paperweight.
Wait staff in white circle the place while busboys
in black bash the swinging doors to the kitchen
with a thump-thump-thump, swiveling dishes
in and out. The old man reads today’s newspaper
aloud, either to himself, his wife or to us,
offering not only headlines but a view into what we
may become. I look over at him, his wife, then at my new wife,
turning to peer outside again: I can hear a growl of thunder
but see nothing but a gray wall of rain.
Meet Me Where the Highway Ends
I listen to the cleft wind wander in like a coda,
rain’s vibrato strumming against the windows.
I turn the radio off. The buzz of the power lines
leaves a trail I can almost see, tracks on the horizon.
Some nights I want to block the shadows and be hidden
to everything except the metal barriers that fence
I-75, those that glow against the midnight light
of the moon’s blanketing of the asphalt. Your
voice drowns out in the metronome of windshield
wipers. I’m not sure what you said at the end.
Maybe miles ahead you’ll scatter me in warmth
and amber. But your machination kisses pierce
the highway’s interval dissonance,
and the road’s white lines lead us
I didn’t know she smoked cigarettes in the alley behind this office
building, my secretary, with her type-perfect fingers arched over correct letters
on her keyboard, by my side working late stuffing envelopes, pushing pencils,
pretty and young as the night is raw and dangerous. She’s in the Air Force reserve.
I thought reserves met a weekend a month to talk shit and drink beer in a uniform.
I didn’t know they were a fighting unit, deployed to worlds unknown, whisked
from their families in some muzzle-flash fury. She’s seen combat.
My secretary has seen death at her boots. She’s camouflage in the desert.
She’s 5-feet tall maybe when she sinks in the Iraqi sand and, in the ordinary gunfire
of corporate deadlines, my secretary is hard like mortar, loud like bombs.
When she returns from active duty, a civilian again, I feel I let her down.
Our office has no glory no glamor no twilight’s last gleaming. I’m no patriot.
I’m a mannequin and so is she, both plastic against reality and paper for a paycheck.
The tasks I ask her to do must seem so mundane. When she asks for a smoke break
I stand and salute. She’s home among the dead cigarette butts scattered
and smoldering in the minefield out back.
David Colodney realized at an early age that he had no athletic ability whatsoever, so he turned his attention to writing about sports instead of attempting to play them, covering everything from high school flag football to major league baseball for The Miami Herald and The Tampa Tribune. David is the author of the 2020 chapbook Mimeograph. He earned an MFA at Converse College and holds an MA from Nova Southeastern University. David’s poetry has appeared or will appear in a variety of journals including South Carolina Review, Panoply, St Petersburg Review, and The Chaffin Journal. He serves as an associate editor of South Florida Poetry Journal and lives in Boynton Beach, Florida with his wife, three sons, and golden retriever.