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Apr/May 2001 Poetry Special Feature

Life by the Drop

by Tom Dooley


 

Life by the Drop

Music pours out the jukebox velvety, coating
bottles and perching dew-drops on the pool table
felt, humidifying the desert air that drifts
through the open windows and doors, bullying
the night, pushing it around like a drunken buddy.

Dollar Tecates in sweaty red cans mix well
with the carnival of locals: Tall Paul, slick
chest showing and half-carved obsidian horsehead
standing on the bar; Joe the Garbage Man, milky-
eyed and sincere, reading fresh palms—You will have two

children with this woman, but after ten years you’ll
meet your true love and have another child with her—

while his black-toothed wife flirts with young vaqueros
I’ll bet you really know how to ride, I’ll just bet;
Miguel, barrel-voiced like his chest, and Cowboy Pete,

wry and sharp as his twisted mustachio, locked
in a liquid dance around the pool table, cues
light in their hands like seamstresses’ needles; damp furred
Chuko with shit on his head, no one wanting to
pet him, hustling from patron to patron until

fat Sabrina roars and sends him packing. Out back,
you’re pissing in darkness; Chuko and his pals mill
in the underbrush; another song starts up; a light rain
sprinkles warm, cool and cold, the night pregnant with what
you don’t expect; you don’t expect to be happy.

 

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