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David Chester


Playing poker Christmas Eve
in a Gulf Coast casino,
I'm stubbing out a cigarette
and sitting by a man
with tubes in his nose.

I read the other players:
they're old;
they have nothing.
I'm thirty-five and drawing
at an inside straight.
An inside-straight draw's better than nothing.
Thirty-five is better than old.

I light another Camel,
cough a cloud of angel hair
across the table, and as they stare
I feel like Jesus in a crèche,
feel the phlegm turn to tinsel
inside me, life bulbs
blinking on thin green wires
winding through my thorax--

in this Mississippi Vegas,
where spent locals, fraught
with polyps, lay-offs, compulsion,
bet that dice will roll back
years of abuse and regret.
I feel for them, but it's Christmas
and I'm here to capitalize.

Saturday Morning T.V. in the Pakistani Laundromat

On the corner
of Sixty-First Street
and Thirty-Ninth Avenue
in Woodside, Queens,

I alternately check
the cycle and the news
on the Indian Broadcast Network:

The washer
takes forty-one minutes

five quarters
will dry your towels

if you think you're Jesus
you'll be hanged.

The man in the yellow
network blazer smiles and turns
the page, reads how a woman
imprisoned five years
for remarriage without divorce
was released
then stoned to death.

The woman behind the counter
sees me watching, blushes,
drops a handful of coins
and rushes to snap off the television,
trailing a wake
of diaphanous mustard scarves.

I look away,
see my clothes dervish
behind the glass,

doubt she senses
I find a peculiar comfort
in systems so cut and dry.


Lounging on my pollen-
coated chaise the other day

I heard, to my left,
an ice cream truck

calliope playing
in the distance. The song

was only seven seconds
long, but had a definite

beginning, middle, and end
to it. I listened--

DA DA, da DA, DA,
DADA, da DA;
DA, da DA-DA-DA, DA, DA--

over and over
for ten minutes,

until my bony white cat
walked up and dropped

a gnawed robin
at my feet.

Something like close fire
snapped my head

to the right,
where I saw Butch,

the neighbor's Great Dane,
eyes glinting, pointing

his cherry popsicle at me.
Spring, I thought.

David Chester has poems forthcoming in The Quarterly and The Cape Rock. He views Barry White's comeback as the strongest anti-apocalyptic omen of our time.

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