Meaning’s elusive this late and this drunk.
The story has often been told
of bathetic old men, worn down to nubs
of what they were, who dance
and twitch in sleep, and awaken rolled
in sweat-moist sheets, and rub
the crust from the corners of their eyes
and it’s morning again – one glance
at the window explains
that the damned sun’s still there
and they have to get up.
There is, at this point, nothing
heroic (in the sense of youth:
mad, bold and full of effort) –
there is the sagged, unavoided truth
that there may be flame-struck meaning
somewhere, but it isn’t theirs
to bear, if it ever was.
But the musky lure of coffee
lingers on the air
and that is near to enough.
The damsels, plump and gray,
grunt and turn beside them, and they
smile and slap the upturned hip
three times, a ceremony
that draws affectionate curses.
This isn’t what life was meant to be.
These copper coins aren’t gold.
But the face, rubbed smooth, might almost be theirs.
They totter off to shave,
to piss and shiver in cold morning air
that proves that they’re alive.