By Mark Kraushaar
Featured Image: The Drinkers by Vincent Van Gogh
It’s rained all night,
and it’s rained all day, and by evening
when I get to the gym it’s started to thunder.
Still, here we are anyway, all of us, all the regulars,
George, and Phil, and Johnny B, and Bob,
and me and the big guy, the lifter from Janesville.
So first off George (who’s zipping his coat)
asks Phil who’s on the treadmill and the only
one raising a sweat, will he run a mile
for every beer last night.
Which very funny, but Phil follows with, Hey,
I’m not drinking any more in ‘08
(beat, beat) but I’m not
drinking any less either which, again,
very funny except we all know Phil has
problems with alcohol, but since he’s getting no laughs
he looks up and on the tv over the rowing machine
there’s the real life trial of a woman, blond
and twenty-three, a teacher who’s
had sex with an eighth-grade boy.
Are you kidding, says George,
Are you kidding, says Phil, I’d clap her erasers,
and someone else, I’d polish her fruit,
and everybody’s nodding yes and yes again
until, at last, George who’s had problems with school
and problems with money and women and work tells
us he’d have majored in meredial reading
which is where the tv goes to an ad
and George waves once and steps into the weather.
So as the rainy wind flips his cheap rug straight
off his head like a flattened cat
it’s strange, nobody’s laughing, in fact, we’re quiet finally,
Phil with his crashed marriage and the daughter
on drugs, and even handsome Bob
and Johnny B, even the big guy
with those silly disproportionate arms,
and for a moment, for a discrete, small portion of
what I will one day refer to as the past, there’s
the five of us facing three
double-door sized panes
of rattling glass:
rain on the awnings, rain over the windows,
rain over the gutters and rain
in soft, sparkling ropes along the curbs,
and into the drains and under the ground.
Mark Kraushaar’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, AGNI, and The Best American Poetry. His most recent collection is The Uncertainty Principle. It was published by Waywiser Press as winner of the Anthony Hecht Prize.