“Some Friday Nights” by Joël Barraquiel Tan

Joël Barraquiel Tan

               for michael p.

sometimes when
drunk     feeling young
again     limes & mint
rum & white sugar in mid-laugh
i look out of the bar’s
grand window into
the narrow whorish
street    catch my reflection
—a thing that approximates
in its dull shadowy way
the softening curve of my
jaw the rounding slope of
my shoulders, once heroic
that ridiculous look on my face
it occurs to me my soul
is slowly leaking
spiteful hiss of air
no one else notices, i suspect
the beautiful men i
call my friends    call on
me to dance         so i dance
with other beauties, mostly
ghosts  now            dance until the rainy jags
give way to the cold fog summer
thrill to the same gossip
i’ve been hearing for years
now        drink spirits right out
of the bottle       openly in the streets
watch the ball-gagged slaves
walk their bearded masters
& repeat the same clever
thing about true democracy
imagine my family
getting older & fewer
now  in another city
& the same love breaks
inside                    me i say a
silent prayer because this
is one of the few ways i know
to really love     despite all the
poets who have dedicated work
to me      i imagine the span of my life
as muddy terraced steps              high above
the mute dream of childhood  under that
the first tongue kiss then the years of raging
leading a charge across Sunset
as downtown burns           i
peer down lower                                    the decades
30s, 40s, 50s, & so on in  tidy sure
steps       i am furious & afraid.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
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