THE WOMAN IN THE QUITO BAR
Here and there, I catch her eye.
A moment in her vision and then
a long time suffering through her blindness.
It's my fault I'm sure.
Sometimes., I'm all I've ever been.
Others, what I have come to.
It all depends on what she gets for her glances.
The guy with the gray-flecked two-day growth,
head hung low over a dying beer.
Or the one who's cruised the world,
who's taken part, acquired and given.
I could be a drunken fool by night's end
and her looks will find better things to do.
Or I could push the glass away,
stand to my attention,
exit that bar on a back street in Quito,
continue on my journey,
propelled in part by her admiring stare.
In the first version, I'm here and lost to her.
In the second, I'm gone but remain.
Sick and sore. It's the arthritis.
Will you marry me?
I take a pill in the morning
and one before bed-time.
Can you remember that?
I am deathly afraid of fire.
And yes, I smoke two packs a day.
I have my habits.
And I snore like God.
Plus I spit a lot and wipe
it up with my wrinkled feet.
And the TV must be loud
so I can hear it
and you must be soft
so I can hear the TV.
I sing old war songs in the shower.
And I show old war scars
My mother is a sacred animal.
And I don't believe the dog I
had as a boy is dead.
My memory is going
but don't worry,
I'll write your name down
some place where I can always see it
Sex? I'm male
as if you didn't know.
And income? There's my army
pension and I still own that
desert block in Texas.
Most of me works.
And the parts that don't
are great for offending cousins.
if we don't wed soon I'll be dead.
but I won't go into details.
Four kids, baseball caps worn backwards,
t-shirts, jeans and Nikes,
skate-board the slopes of
the old dried-out canal.
They leap, they dive,
but mostly they swerve around each other,
come to rest in the dregs of slime,
high-five, back-slap, sigh.
I watch from a bench high above,
in a fit of long time jealousy -
if only there is something I do
that is such a willing synthesis
of coordination and dare,
limits and beyond,
camaraderie and Quixote,
proud bumps, glowing bruises,
One boy ascends in a mad dash,
brakes at the horizontal,
then pushes off
from concrete catapult,
flips over, summersaults,
lands halfway down the slope
Up to that point,
I'd have been content enough
for my pain to want me.