Wednesday, August 24, 2022

After Nine

Blue nighttime saxophone, each tumbled note weightless
Staggering in complex zigzag patterns like drunken fireflies
Over black water, the river
Sea, almost salt-free (but not quite) where
Alligators, sharks, and manatees swim side by side, indifferent
And hungry for
Live bait tonight:
James W. Morrison and his Forgotten Band
Playing at the Wreck
Morrison singing through busted-up granite and palm-sized pebbles
Worn smooth and perfect for skipping - together they
Skim the surface of the deep and
Travel the short phosphorescent distance
To the tropical mainland - a blurry shoreline glow
Bar noise chasing after, a rabid pack of dogs
Scream of beer glasses on unpolished mahogany, tacky now
Tacky then
Tacky tomorrow, a reflection of
Alcohol-induced smiles with
Chuckles, snorts, hoots, and howls - all
Traveling with Morrison’s skipping stones
Under the influence of hung-over sex and tomorrow's headache
Unrecognizable and unremembered
Lashed together tonight with tongue and teeth, and onion burger breath
Not to mention a sinking boatload of hope
Traveling -
Skipping -
Cash drawer-song singing as
Loneliness dances, arms raised, elbows bent, hands overhead
A cupped halo
An easy angel
Everyone quite capable of reading her bleary-eyed body language:
Gonna get laid
But not by you
Boys -
What separates the men and their
Long, long eyes that look
Never forward
Never inward but
Back to what was
What’s dancing in front of them now:
A numbed-out striptease
The under 21 crowd
Gleeful and careless
Breaking the law
For a fantasy
Before the vomit and
Sirens come
To pull them under and
Steal their souls away
Traveling -
Skipping -
Shouts of exhausted waiters
100% muggy and dripping
Tripping over orders and
Reeling in black and white costumes, a colony of decapitated penguins
Aquatic, flightless birds spilling anonymous
Mai-Tais, Red Stripe or Loaded Landsharks with lime wedges
Crammed into the neck and
Losing one or two milk-dipped fried clams along the way
Or even
Platefuls of East Coast oysters, shucked!
Their mumbled curses
Choked in blood and guts as they serve
Aloha-shirt-wearing tourists
Authentic Island Cuisine and
Doomed sailors
Grilled Albatross steak sandwiches with spicy cilantro jalapeƱo aioli sauce
Traveling -
Skipping - with all of it
It hovers
Over the dark current
It moves, the Spirit of God
One strange, beautiful, monstrous thing
Constantly crashing into
The jagged, rocky mainland behind me
I am
Hidden by
The island
Buried, a treasure that doesn’t want to be found
Drunk beneath segmented palm fronds
Leafy shields revealing
Divisions of myself that may or may not be
Hard to find (depending on levels of intoxication)
My mind
Similarly divided
Forward leaning
Forearm heavy
On the stained bar-top, cupping the rum-filled glass like my genitals
When I need assurance
Heavy head a bobble-buoy, floating on surging sea swells
Sickened as I ask myself
The same damn question
Over and over
And over:
Should I
Like Mr. Morrison’s gravel voiced stones
And skip across the river’s mellow waves
By way of
The high and mighty
Port Orange Causeway -
What the island, the bar, I am
Anchored to -
Cross to the hot, soiled city and
Get myself to Indistinct Beach Street
The place
Where I said
I’d meet her
After nine?
Traveling -
Mr. Morrison and his band of
Feral cats
On sax, guitar, and drums, shipwrecked -
A good thing none of them are driving ‘cause
I can’t follow their notes anymore
Skipping -
Sailors and tourists
Buying prostitutes and trading out sad love stories
Tattooed sleeves slung over Charlie Brown shoulders
Belting out Broadway tunes
Rude as hell and loud - no one gives a
Hot Damn about anything anymore - shots, shots, shots!
Each and everyone of us
Lined and
All cursed now and blind
Formless and empty
I am
All of us
Linger here
Thanking God
It is well
It’s well
After nine

Born and raised in Canada, Heath Houseman started writing plays in the second grade. That morphed into short stories, novels, screenplays and you get the idea. While studying theatre in college, he stumbled upon the poetry of Stan Rice and fell in love with the possibilities. He’s been writing poetry ever since. He's a produced and published playwright, screenwriter, and freelancer. Drank Guinness from the Fountainhead in Dublin, a religious experience that saved his life. Check out his work at: