I Took James Joyce To A Bar In Long Beach

stars in the trees3
By Charlotte San Juan

We were booth-stuffed beneath the
clatter-clamor of harsh bar chiaroscuro,
He was coughing fits of Chamber Music
open handed phlegm-hack, readjusting
his eye-patch, raised his glass with a toast
to “bid adieu to girlish days.”
And over in the corner by the arcade games,
in the wheezing and bickering sound bytes
and blinking lights
a woman’s inked neck and shoulders
rolled slow with the song in her head
her spritzed curls damp in the sweat-light
she was the leaning, love-struck drunk
of her own late thirties, pining over
chance, over the smoke-flirt-kiss
of lost men. She was the tip-toed
damaged damsel guarding the jukebox,
the heroine of the night,
amidst the dizzy sway of plastic-paper
shamrocks and too-ra-loo-ras
over the sports commentating flat screen
heads talking, necks bar stool swiveling
back and forth, caught in the ivory-corn
grin of old men and their spreading
crows feet, beneath the stolen banter
speaking in waves of Long Beach
poured poetry, of her tight jeans
cupping her with sequins,
of the clink of glasses giving away
the condensation of secrets, all
talk and thick skin and hard lips
and tales from the laundromat
hanging from the shadows of her
eyelids, an anklet around her
inked rosary, spelling Frailty
thy name is woman in the
links of an unpolished silver
chain pilfered from a pawn shop
love affair, she was the swooning
aftermath of Wednesday nights
beneath the neon, still hair-twirling
in hopes for something more than
insignificant, insomniac embraces from
somebody’s stepped-out-for-cigarettes
husband, who will take her to pace
under the moongrey nettles, the black
mould and muttering rain, only to leave
her in the same weeded vacant lot
of last week, before her eyes could
ever gather simples of the moon.

(previously published in Whittier College’s Literary Review)

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