Wednesday, August 01, 2012

At the Cabaret on Christmas Eve

The main hall was smokey
and sadly quiet
Tony sat at the piano on the stage
his head hung low
as though he might pass out
and end the tune with his forehead

Elaine behind the bar
was biting off her press-on nails
from boredom
while the bus boy rattled at her
deploying the unwarranted energy
from the speed he sniffed out back
before his shift

Eddie Main was at his table
wearing a porkpie hat
that looked like he'd sat on it
at some point in the night
he asked the waitress to leave his empty glasses
at the table
so he could measure his degradation

Chauncey leaned on the stage
Like a gambler pleading to a horse
vicing his dark brown fingers together
as he tried to whistle along
with the keys

There was Mona the psychic
in the back by the bathrooms
shuffling her tarot cards
waiting for a weak wary rube
Luis sat with his 'sister'
his wife, not in attendance
Arlen sat center stage
up in front
three lit cigarettes in his ashtray
scribbling on a napkin
with a broken fountain pen
Willy the Pistol tried to keep the beat
with his fist on the table
the only man who didn't seem alone this night

the young disheveled girl
sat so close to him
her right hand wrapped under his arm
wrested on his dead wrist
she asked why
why did they call him the Pistol
he bit his cigar hard and said
'I always have Six shots
and I'll put anyone on the floor'

The Cabaret on Christmas Eve
was a brutal rueful tell
on a booming Friday night
all these people seemed so tuned in
they all looked like
Moguls and sharks and wise street deities

but with the crowd gone
and the lights fixed and dim
You could see it all
you could see the tears in the blazers
you could see the creases on their eyes
you could spot all the cheap jewelry

The Cabaret on Christmas Eve
put a spotlight on loneliness
every ballad played
was a story for every scarred set of knuckles
it gave a microphone to the damned
while they whispered to themselves
while they ran down the timeline
of every dark mistake
While Willy the Pistol
looked intently at this ragged girl
and said
'I don't remember the last time
I looked back to check
to see if what I'm running from
is still chasing me.'

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