The Man Buys Himself a Guitar to Play the Blues
He’s more of an acoustic guy,
more under the breath,
as if he were humming gently,
his fingers quietly pick the strings
to keep him company.
His voice is good, soft,
doesn’t need an audience
of more than one, as he sadly praises
the open road, his travels lonesome
and long, the women he left behind,
the ones he’s yet to meet.
Sorrow etched on his face,
he entertains himself with near-silence.
Wind through the junipers louder
than his downhearted words. His luck lost quickly,
his farewells a simple nod of the hat
and a start of the truck, his dad’s old pick-up,
it knows the story without even being shifted
into reverse. Such is the light from the window
left behind, such is the love, turning to frost
even as the tires turn the miles to the next
run-down motel, the next song to sing.
Spares, Strikes, and Extra Olives
Tammy-Lynn worked forty hours a week
at Chandler’s Bowl and Bar. Shitty job,
smelly shoes, sideways looks of pity
on the faces of women who were once
cheerleaders at her high school, now moms
in matching shirts, teams with silly names,
leagues that should be named “Martini”
‘cause that’s what they did—drink themselves
stupid once a week, then call their husbands
to leave the kids for just a minute,
come pick this big kid up. All blonde
with twelfth-grade curls and the same blue
eyeshadow that nabbed their husbands
twenty years ago, the only difference
between then and now is “Playtex”
ain’t a girdle no more, cussing
don’t send your ass to detention,
and there’s better cheap perfume to steal
at multiple choices of drug-store.
Drunk or driving through Dairy Queen sober,
no one remembers just who the quarterback
was, or what exactly happened under the bleachers
the night the team won the championship…
Only poor Mr. James, still sweeping up
the detritus of birth control gone wrong,
knows the answers
to all those small-town questions.
Neglected piano in the neighbor’s yard
in back of their Oxnard barn, the old brown
upright.keys dappled like aging teeth,
dotted with leaves so dry, they cracked
of their own accord ages ago.
No bench, no music, not even
a wobbly old bar stool
doing double duty—
forgotten—out of tune—
a landing pad for cats and crows,
never to play at weddings again.
Like the piano sitting front and center
of an empty ballroom in a Detroit hotel.
The door red-tagged, only light
shushing in through dirty diamond panes
onto the black and white floor.
A lace handkerchief dropped, lies in silence.
Grace for the spirits that play both
instruments on moon-shadowed nights,
melodies climbing, meeting among the stars.
Tobi Alfier (Cogswell) is a multiple Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Her current chapbooks include “Down Anstruther Way” (Scotland poems) from FutureCycle Press, and her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).