Braden Coucher

Rookie (December 10,1986 / Portland Oregon)

In Fez With Pablo Neruda - Poem by Braden Coucher

In fez with Pablo Neruda,
Legs akimbo against the bar
of a speak easy where it’s impossible to hear
myself whisper
below the roar of drunken lost men.

I told myself I wouldn’t drink but we’re here aren’t we, Pablo?
The bar maid dishes out olives and cucumber, salty as when
you preserve a slaughtered lamb.
Each glass ordered brings a new dish.
At first, I’m not sure if they’re free but they keep coming.
Each bite
demands a sip and all the time I’m reading Love Poems
and One Song of Despair while smoking. My throat
hurts from holding in words from
ears- surely not deaf but at best mulish to my tongue-
Either that or it hurts from breathing smoke

but the little cigarettes go on burning
and I go on holding them and they go on
filling me from the ends of my finger tips.

Another beer and this time a dish of quite dead fish
drowned in a bitter lemon accompaniment from the maid.
She’s given all these poor bastards the zested fish, salt
soaked olive and cumber
with every beer
we crack.

Pablo goes on about the moon in his fingers and
the water of her soul and I drink it all up
Though I can’t even hear myself saying his words
in my own blue breath.
But the bones-so sharp, almost invisible
And so many stuck in my mouth.
I pull each out slowly
from between my soft,
salted, whispering lips.
They build, in the ashtray before me, a collapsing skeleton
holding in its guts- the pits and peels of my free meal

The sips go on demanding
demanding sips and Pablo
just goes on without her
and I pull the last piece of flimsy backbone
from the sullied flesh and swallow all
that stares at me through the smoke
from my pit of debris I’ve made in the ash tray.

God knows I’m reading out loud to the
roar of drunken, lover-scorched men in the speakeasy
“There was thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.
There were grief and ruins, and you were the miracle.”
I read out loud

but no one, including myself, hears
Except a toothless man who takes one of my olives
“Sure” I think, “they’re free”
And he takes the pit out so gracefully
without teeth and smiling all the time.
There’s no hope of words between us
but he takes the Poems and One
Song of Despair from my hands

“Española. No hay problema.” He shouts
The book, printed in Pablo’s language and mine
is suddenly legible to the both of us.
So I hold it in a way we can share
Together, unable to speak a single word, we’re
salting, drinking, flipping through Pablo
and we both burst on
wanting to do to her what spring does
with the cherry blossoms

and by the time we reach
the song of despair on the last page,
the bar maid is closing up quickly
And the words hurt so much
But we’re both laughing hysterically

because we both understand everything
Pablo has to say
and we hold each other like
twin brothers who’ve said it all but go on
talking with their love and glances
I no longer love her,
that's certain,
but maybe I love her.
Love is so short,
forgetting is so long.

Then it’s over and there are no more words between us
nor smoke nor beer nor fish, nor olives nor fruit
and of course I make sure
he leaves with Pablo safely in his hands.
Now there’s nothing to say.

So I leave into the leaves of the night
with the sweet, sweet salt water rolling down my cheeks
and running
into the upturned corners of my mouth
And beyond desire and act,
I walk on.

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, May 15, 2011

Poem Edited: Monday, May 16, 2011

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