Amateur Phlebotomy

Neither of us are making much sense
at the oak in the witching hour.
He's homeless and I'm hapless.
Hook-nosed Guineas two-thirds of my age
one-third of his
fill the haggard taproom
with laughter so naive
and jukebox monopolies
that seem foreign
this sloppily late at night.

Neither of us envies the other.
Both of us are waiting to die
for the day.

"What if I'd sat next to her instead?"
I ask the rambling beardsman
halfway through his yarn
from thirty years ago
when he still paid taxes.
He claims to have hauled cable
three hundred feet
up the radio towers on the mountain
that we're all supposed to share.

"It was different then,"
Patrick prattles on, sipping the beer
that I'd offered to buy
though the barkeep had not the heart
to charge--even though it's imported.

"She didn't know," I say
of the offender's wife and kid back home
both unaware of the kisses
I saw doled through the prior bar's window.

I bum him a smoke on the sidewalk
and ask when he served
since it's obvious
ending our encounter with a handshake
that's overdue for both of us
unwashed piss germs be damned.

The second set of stairs
up to my apartment
nearly does me in
like the sickening sight
of gin mill adultery--
matrimonial musical chairs.
A verse comes to mind
from what seems a past life:
"But as for me and my house
we will serve the Lord."

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