The world in a book of matches
This is the start of your life,
and the end. Nothing is just
as it appears, though you have come
to understand that face value, the apparent
world, amounts to everything.
You are waiting for your taxi, a storm
fermenting in the cluster of black clouds
to the north. You reach into the pocket
of a white dinner jacket, you haven’t worn
since the previous Spring, and find yourself
holding a red book of forgotten matches.
They are a clue to your lost dreams.
There is a name written jauntily
on the front. The name of a club.
Cicero’s. Some corny joint
a friend from out of town dragged
you to. Yeah. Now it’s coming back.
Where the waiters wear souvenir ties
from Des Moines and ear studs.
The singer is an androgynous albino
with a crew cut, who knows the words
to Skylark in bad French. You despise
these bohemian dives in the arts district.
You never believed you deserved
the scrumptious boy across the table,
enjoying a shot of good bourbon
with you, and smiling
without pretense. And eventually
he will come to agree.
But on this one cool evening
in early Spring, he lets you
light his Winston, invites you
to join him while he visits
the Men’s Room. In the way
men sometimes will. His question
makes your ears tingle.
He cannot ask you to dance
because the book of matches
was painted and printed and folded
and cut and stapled by guys
in a factory, in a town, in a state,
in a country, in a nation,
on a water planet, in a galaxy,
in the universe, in the reckoning
of God. Where they don’t strike
that sort of flame, and it’s not
that kind of club. But none
of this matters. Because
when you have the boy
and the bourbon, and the Winstons
and the music and the question,
and when you say,
yes, oh yes Then you take
your life in your own hands,
even if it lasts only
a few moments.