Gaslighter Poem by Bob Bowers


He sat there on his stool,
Next to me,
A giant of a man
Shrunk 'round his beer.

He raised his head,
With effort,
To gaze toward me.

Silence measured in seconds
Were his only words.
Forever came and went
As blue eyes locked upon my own.

A slight smile
Tilted upward,
Drained him of energy,
The sidelong smile of the world-weary.

'You know, ' he says,
'It's hard. It's very hard.
'A rain like today,
'Dripping down, washing over our view
of the world outside....”

'These pills don't help.
'This beer.
'It's always there.
'It never goes away.'

I shrink into myself,
Wondering who this hulk beside me is,
What life boils within
That tattooed skin.

We are hiding, of course, he and I,
From unknown demons,
Known too well.

He looks away.
We sip our beers.
The slow sip of the well-rehearsed,
The sip that never ends.

I turn away, too,
Watch him in the mirror.
How odd that mirror.
Always there where we who hide
must see ourselves.

No one stirs.
Or is there no one there?
My eyes slide back toward him,
Involuntarily, seeking out my brother.

'What? ' I ask.
'What never goes away? '
The time has now become a year,
And he looks at me, confused and dazed.

We seem to draw each other in,
While building higher that wall
Between us,
The one we know so well.

'The guilt, ' he says.
'Knowing it's your fault.
'Watching the raindrops
'Slide down roofs and gutters.'

'Seeing the stream
'Splay out in the darkness,
'And spread across the ground,
'Gouging the earth into gullies of mud.'

'Knowing you are the one
'Who caused the rain,
'Who brought down upon that fertile ground
'All the loss and destruction that flows
upon the earth.'

'Knowing that the guilt
'Of the rain
'Is your own,
'Yours alone.'

He turns slowly back
To his beer,
Miraculously now full again,
Invisibly replaced.

He seems smaller
As I stare;
A habit
Never broken.

Curled up,
Twirling in on himself,
Without movement,
He has become a ball of crushed life.

' 'Nam did that to me.'
He has fully gone now,
Sitting there.


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