Thomas Alan Holmes

for Ron Giles

Through an adjoining wall
we hear an overamplified
new band tune up, preparing
to perform for patrons
of the coffeehouse next door
to this converted storefront,
where a corner stage, spotlit
and miked, provides a space
to share our work before
we send it out to little
magazines and editors.

Our emcee introduces us
as we have signed his list.
He chaffs the ones he knows
and welcomes first-timers.
We listen, gratified
that certain of our students
have gone beyond the wolfcry
“fuck” or metaphoric “rape”
to shorthand violation.
We take our turns and wait.

When he climbs the two steps
to the low stage, he leans
slightly left, like one hefting
a fixed flat to get a truck
on track. He stands in front
of a plum rug hung stage up,
its design a center hub
surrounded by oversized
blotched brown paisley figures
curved like fetuses, a glory
around his head. His ball cap
plugs a cancelled sitcom,
and he wears its bill low,
like a pitcher measuring
a batter at the plate,
his eyes shaded from the light
falling on his hands, the one
clasping a manuscript,
the other gesturing
as he caresses each phrase,
his voice an Alabama
accent in Southern cadence.
He speaks few true
one-syllable words—
even “home,” “Nam,” and “gun”
shift and settle into place
with gentle inflection
as he contemplates
a killer’s hand, a careworn
shaving kit, half an alphabet.

We walk out into silver
moonlight and halogen
orange streetlight, having nursed
lukewarm beer for three hours
just to hear each other
stay hushed for two beats after
he has read his final line.

Return to Fall 2011 Table of Contents