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I’m reading Jim Harrison in a motel

my alcoholic friends call El Porcho,

my non-alcoholic friends don’t bother

to stop by. This is genuine Cuban tile,

the minty green swirled with tan and white,

one of them says, and I look as if gin and tonic

is reassessing the damage the insides of a glass

can do. Outside the sky—blue—

and beyond that the emptiness of everything,

every taste we’ve ever swallowed

stretches out and settles, asks for just one

more. Last night, I find, I challenged someone

to a game of nine-ball on Duval, said I’d even

play left-handed, scrambled from southern

discomforts repeating and these disturbed

eyebrow raises or blank bar stares

every time I added or removed the letter R.

The only taker was miffed, took an extra-long

drag of some domestic bottle tilted, back-handed

with much more style than he showed a pool cue,

said something about cheats and liars and thieves

and how I may qualify for two out of three,

at least. Of course there was a line, not just the kind

you need on hand, the kind that waits, pretends

that listening to regurgitated steel drum is satisfying,

shifts from glance to glance to shot and wonders

at the exits. I did this too, of course, and all that

sunshine in the afternoon had me tired

of fighting. I only do two things left-handed, I said,

watching for the words to make their way from

me, and one of them is play pool. In my dreams

I hit another shot but instead in this time circling at

the bottom I watch smoke rise, and screw

the sunburn on my forehead up, pray or wish,

or want—the other is shoot a gun I say, and notice

in the morning how I made it home with all my teeth,

but without the ends of stories. Check each one

with swollen tongue , taste the ashy dust from

all those other men and their typewritten love songs

to missing fish, those deep evening memories

obscured by empty threats. I find a wrinkled shirt

discarded there over a single, unnecessary chair,

catch the sky still so blue and nasty through just-cracked

window slats, each of us as thirsty as the sunrise.

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