Oh senor

he said with a half smile

slight shrug of his thin shoulders

I see you have the suspicion, no?

to say yes seemed rude

so I replied with an ‘oh no’

is good he sighed

for every other person here

I am the Mexican

probably undocumented

very possibly poor

uneducated

looking for a cheap job

& somewhere to stay…

then his smile changed

which is all true

in my case

might you have a dollar to spare?

in these circumstances

with such a great line

we headed into the next bar

had a beer or two together

because I love a good storyteller

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nothing

days spent in a chair

doing nothing

except the thinking thing

going over & over

making no more sense now

than then

feeling the blues grip tight

& there is no money for booze

pockets empty of cigarettes

tobacco pills crumbs

because you’ve checked

more than thrice

& to go out amongst people now

would not be a disaster for them

for they never notice

until you tell them plain

I am starving have not eaten

my world has fallen apart

& then they will stare

uncomprehending

how could you let yourself

get like this?

which is a disaster for you

because you have spent the time

in trying to understand what happened

& have come up with

nothing other than

this the role you were destined

to be

all cats have 9 lives

not all people are cats

not all cats are people

but all cats have 9 lives

& some people have one life

but do nothing with that

others

once I did this

now I do that

I have a second life

& on to other lives

changing to suit the environment

changes after life events

not all people are cats

but all cats have 9 lives

at least

the ghost

it would seem implausible

impossible even

but this happened a couple of times

being fourteen & bored

sneaking out the house

in the dark to hitch rides into the next town

there was a speakeasy bar there

up the stairs where

a man sat at his desk reading a newspaper

I’d casually attach myself to a group

& slide in behind them

as the bookcase wall opened

& be in the bar the noise the music

nobody ever seemed to notice me

nobody ever spoke one word

or seem to see me at all

I’d walk around dance to the music some

wait for the black guy

oiled & naked but for his skinny briefs

who’d come out with a machine gun

gyrate dance to Dennis Capone’s

Al Capones guns don’t argue

& after that excitement

mope around some more

& being forever bored eventually leave

waiting for the bookcase to open

sliding down the stairs back into the ordinary world

where nobody ever noticed me either

better answers

& there were days

where even

my eyebrows held pain

& you think what kind

of rotten world

mixed up god

puts pain there?

have I picked up some foul

sub Iberian tropical disease

from one of these dusty women

I spent a night or two with?

did I drink too much

smoke a few more

than I should

take other things

that may not be good for me?

& I feel sure

you got better answers

than me

for the first q

& for those other ones too

to walk away

seeing what is

& isn’t

despite the words said

assurances uttered

the cracks showing up in the sun

when all you have is a fresh eye

a mind open for appetite

& while the words sound good

promising away into the night

you know deep in your bones

how things start

is how they will end

if this doesn’t feel right

you gotta walk away

‘cos your own peace of mind

is all that matters y’know

& when they ask why you’re quitting

don’t you like the show?

you have to hold yourself tight

just say quietly

no thanks

bottle it up & go

it don’t take long

I remember her best

in a blue cotton dress

standing in the heat

the sun outlining her body

amongst the bright sunflowers

driving between the trees

lining the long road to the sea

all before she was bored

tired of the driving time

listening to my tired old tunes

that I’d crafted in anticipation

of sunnier times to come

more than ennui

her first ever trip to France

I felt she was weary of me

what I wasn’t to know

until a little later

it wasn’t these times she needed

her best dates held a label

a fast chair back of the bar

wisecracking on everybody

tearing down what others had begun

& I was just another poor sap

thinking her beauty needed sun

we were to be grown-ups now

& boom it was over

she came through the door

kissed me full

& I squeezed her tight

wait, wait, she said

& told me some story

of some Mary at work

how she felt all about all of that

as I stood mute

wondering

what had happened here?

we used to be all grab ass

kissing leading on

most times we’d be in bed

there on the kitchen floor

before much of anything

& now we were domestic cats

catching up on work issues

who had bought what groceries

next it’d be coupons

& which is the best store

& worse she didn’t notice

as I tried to find the words

just how to articulate these changes

my

our dream was over

we were to be grown-ups

from now