Entombed by work, Cassis sits
alone now below a menhir
to the Colonel, his stipendiary
at the base of this monolith
characterises his worth;
his body is visibly reduced
to basic operating levels.
Drinking his dark rum, he lets
his ash grow an inch
from his lips and stitch
anxiety into his patients
waiting with form and cheque.
They lie exposed and he,
hunched over each, gets
no complaints, inspecting
wounds like ancient gems
unearthed before the naked
tribals by men in pith helmets;
the natives sucking on gravel,
the mustaches breathing gin.
He knows his trade from
behind Rubix and her quotients,
his ivory desk and ordinance:
merely a corset to a narcotic
bust at every stratum.
Standing at the edge
of manhood, being a child
seems like a dream for The Juke,
a young man who could have
worked a lifetime as Cupid’s fletcher,
his eyes flash like hot knives.
His hard hands are relaxed,
elastic at the joints, sinews tired,
may be pried apart by a small child.
His attention to detail reveals to him
obscenities to which it also accustoms.
On leave from Switchboard repairs,
The Juke is frequently audience to Rubix.
She admires his loyalty, “which may
only be found in youth.”
“The rack of addiction
imposes contact,” riles
the houndman chained
to a radiator, brandishing
his filth and a rusty fork.
“Cabbage fritters and boiled tongue
Is what they eat where my mother’s from,”
dismisses The Juke
- with the peel of his smile,
the tilt of his jaw reveals
what’s tattoo writ ‘Cut Here’
by little monochrome scissors
on a dotted line ear-to-ear.
“It will be a short one, my last breath,
So I mark it where my gasp will end.”
In our darkest reflections, of love and death,
our thoughts are potent with the Colonel.
The Juke remains loyal
as Rubix continues illusion epitome,
“… seemed I ordered Whisky
in The Grand Pump Room
- never met the waiter,
bastard failed introduction.”
She’s sitting despotic
in a broad-stitched leather
booth, conducting: “I was seated such,”
palm to Formica, “at the Colonel’s
eightieth; he soliloquized much
the need for men like you.
His wisdom was of fine stock
and calibre – I’ve had
the girls print the matchbooks.
We thank his heroism,
we’re adorned: my necklace gold,
your hands well oiled!”
Her fingers fat from handling money,
The Juke at once spits from memory:
“I was looking for a voice, he stood there full of cheer and pretense like a shaman on a box
– maybe not soap but some well demanded, highly branded, value-tax added product
of some kind. He asked what I was doing with my life, what I was trying to find
fixing cars with my black thumbnails and hard, thin boots, my loose jaw
bound to get broken, my legs full of bourbon. A laminar flow
of contradicting tones in his voice, I told him exactly where he could go.
He talked of a town called Liberty,
where the people basked in Freedom;
I asked what kind of map he was readin’.”