Lusty laughter and liquid murmurs
Midsummer night in Balboa
In the dream-dark
Charcoal curls spiral from the tables
Writhing arabesque and rococo
Like nomads’ campfires.
From a darker corner enclave
I survey the scene sucking my mug of java
Black and bitter.
Grins through a wizard’s beard
Pouring, mixing, performing
For the waterfront gentry
While a waitress weaves a winding honey dance
With ball bearing grace bearing trays of beers
Through the clustered tables.
Burned and blonde
Gleam polished keyboard smiles
Brandish biceps and exhibit cleavage
Perched like cheetahs poised for game.
Or, Heineken in hand, they prowl in puka shells
Floral shirts and sandals
Sporting the seashore regalia
And predatory as the alligators embroidered
Above their hearts.
My focus withdrawn
I study the brown pit of my cup
Embarrassed by my suppressed, cynical envy
And my incipient paunch
Which spills below my sternum and sits
Like Signal Hill
Above my belt.
I spin theories about Their intellect or character
But knowing, too
That the judgment’s just jive
And petty consolation
For my social shortcomings
A shoring up of a shaky soul
Discomfited by the competition and the game.
So I stroke my moustache
That drooping display of virility
And stay stoic behind an Agamemnon mask
Listening to an Aegean known only to me
Aloof and passive
As a walrus on an offshore rock.
Back from break and beer
Slide into the electric haze
Tune up with playful foreplay before performing
Then splash emotion in the whisky illumination
Measures out time like a beating heart, while
The drummer—a clock—
Clips it off
As the sax man belies his horn’s brassy brilliance
And cries the blues.
Behind the dancing tobacco curtain
I am anchored at my corner table
Cloistered in a turtleneck and straight leg jeans
An anachronism looking
For an age to join.
— Zumwalt (1978)