Simon Baker's Heart Attack
Having played aces at the poker table in one dark
Corner of the bar and been accused, drank
Sloe gin fizz then kissed the girls (the music was just great;
The women naked danced demurely on tabletops slimy at Jake's Bar-n-Grill
Whose neon sign announced "This Place Will Make Your Ladder Climb"),
It was a day, my day, of innocence, a day to lose my virgin hope, to set
Aside the toys of youth, to exit from the backporch door, to quit
Into the twilight streets where cherry candyapple glasspacked Fords
Had cruised and not returned, and not look back, to dream that house
Where I grew up into a mystery of love remembered, but not return
To that bickered house I carry on my back and carry in my heart.
Don't we all fear with firstmost fear the early home we carry in the heart,
Don't we most hate its comfort that measures forever every lonesome act
And even if it's false it comes to measure every act —
We fear these accidents of birth and place will shape
Who we are and what we will become, return
Us back to what we were. Until with age there's comfort in return.
The morning sun indeed's the setting sun; the setting sun
Indeed comes 'round but is the morning's light. Naked women
And the poker game, the ham on rye with cheese will be again.
Simon Baker — not his birth name — he bruises easily; he runs
The fancy Drugshoppe — pronounced like "canape" — on the corner
At New York and One-Twenty-First all-night open for any sudden
Ill that strikes between sunset and dawn. He's a Bizz-nessman.
The capital on "B" and all accoutrements of Bizz-ness — He and HIS,
So say them all in town; the black and white of it is this:
Simon Baker, bruises easily but is insured against
a late-night robbery (the ticket out of town),
The man's a pillar of community, an all-night giant
Next to Jacob's Bar, the Boilermaker Church for all debaucheries,
The Temple of the Highest Bid and More, hangout of the poker priests.
But it's Baker's Drugshoppe for all your ills (give us a ticket out of town)
A block away from righteous folk, halfway to the Greyhound Bus.
I stalked about old Baker's Drugs; it felt I walked all night
When pothole makers make their rounds between all-zeroes and first light
At the center of our city life. "The ticket out of town," I said;
"Gimme just the goddam price for a ticket out of town, this bullet bruises easily."
I saw the man behind the bizzness suit, the fat of fear, a knowledge in his eyes
(Man, drugs can kill), a pointed gun, the look of death on Simon Baker's face;
I played the ace of spades that night like any other night and didn't lose
But lost my virgin hope. I'd seen escape from twilight street, the porch,
From lifelong cruise from accidents of birth and place,
Reprieve from always accepting all of it — the what
I'd been and what I had become. I chose.
Some come to Simon for his drugs; some, for Simon's cash;
I saw the man, a pointed gun, the ticket out of town,
The thin thin pink of Simon's blood. I heard the thud
Of death before he hit the floor. I saw and knew —
And knew he saw — We're both victims of the same accidents
Of birth and place and time of day that night. I saw it
Like a heart attack. Old Simon laughed. The cash I got
I earned: Played aces with the poker priests
And said my dildo prayers that night
In darkness with a fellow by the name o' Jack,
And two gals as ugly as the sins of greed and trust.
I met the morning sitting at the bottom of a drink.
We only travel when we die; we never lose the stink
Of birth and afterbirth, the stench of certain place.
We do our time imprisoned in our certain fate.
This bitch, this profligate, this whore, our place of birth, a town
Is all we know, will ever know; it's all we have that is our own.
And death's the only ticket you can get
That promises you, you won't come back.