Poems from the Drink House...

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(For James Green)


Down the highway by the sound,

We drove out to the shanty town

             with floorboards patched,

             tarpaper shacks and Daley’s Hotel,

The moonshine haunts for restless crowds

             —unwanted at the Ocean Pavilion.

But for a boy with broom stick and eager ears,

             the tales you told were keen as Disney.


I heard your motorcycle racing on the asphalt,

Saw your pilot’s cap and goggles,

The hawksbill knife you carried;

All night drinking out a young man’s dream,

The jukebox beat, the wail and saxophone,

The sweaty dance that sent you reeling in the shadows;

The engine’s shotgun roar, from the tailpipe

             firing sparks like bullets,

And you furiously racing over broken clay

             and smoothly crushed oyster shells;

Past sixty in the curve, you thought about

             the hot noonday sun

In 1941 in the tobacco when you were a boy,

             and Evalena, Evalena,

             dark and mysterious Evalena.

Then she slid into the bend, tumbled almost


And left you there for dead.

All that night you heard the engine,

Saw headlights, delirious moonbeams,

             passing in the woods.


Years later, after Miami and the Great Lakes,

New York’s Harlem,

You read Isaiah through and through,

And told that story to a white boy

             down on the waterfront.

Then, blue jacket and bow tie,

Now thinking of your children,

You stood beside

             the altar at St. Mary’s,

Softly chanting verses like a monk.


And sometime later, you went back

             to see where you had been;

In that clapboard shack, you drank

With Biggy from Midnight Branch,

Poured whiskey in your cup again,

Remembering the girl who you called




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