"twenty-one, winner."

the sap of her intelligence
would barely flood a navel
legs apart
elbows flared
tattoos trimming left breast,
forearm,
abdomen

"dealer draws sixteen. must take a card. nineteen, pays twenty."

through gapped teeth
stained by nicotine
she claims her name is
caroline

"do you think i walk around out on the street like this? i work here."

"doubling down."

her next-to-nothing garb
solicits
several sidelong glances
whereas heads
beyond
en masse
revolve

helene
the queen of spades
performs
—to the unsubtle choice—

Got a black magic woman

later she will stroll down to the pit
(relieving caroline)
insinuate herself
(by mating chair with bulbous hips)
anoint her eel-thick mouth with a tongue so indiscreet
it blushes
and
challenge those
(who check her eyes)
to guess which foreign substance
has her wasted

"dealer draws thirteen, fifteen, twenty-two. bust."

from neighborhood country-western bar
to rock 'n roll
to strip joint
the golden spur's
decline and fall
transpired

"sleazy"
is the adjective souls stone-sober often cite
—the few (alas, too few) who can recall more savory times—

"insurance?"

"dive"
describes the bar
to those impaired
—of whom none blinks—

until
an ace turns up a face card
chips, all round, are
curtly raked
adding to the house's
pile of winnings

helene
oblivious
dawdles

caroline
out of tokens
sulks

patrons,
with employees,
tend
to
merge

 

morgan 
2/5/82

 

 

 

"Who's that, Liz?"

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