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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Man At The Bar

The Man At The Bar


I saunter toward the bar of my neighborhood tavern
For my weekly libation and some solitude in reading.
Tinseled ads dangle down like stalagtites in dim cavern
In this dark refuge, where world’s woes, no one’s heeding

At the bar sit’s a man alone, o’er long necked bottle, working-mans hands hover
Eyes unfocused, staring unseeingly, deep into space
While I, a book in one hand and cash for my pint in the other
Wait for my drink, when I sense his sad gaze drift round to my face

The palpable pull of his gaze makes me turn, nod politely and say “hi”
And his eyes slowly shift down to the book in my clasp
“Sir, “ said he, “might I have a peek at your book? ” A reticent request, soft as a sigh
“of course, ” said I, and placed my dog-eared edition in his work-calloused grasp

A quick, cursory page riffling, then a wry wrinkled look
The tattered book proffered back to me with a sad sibilant sigh
“Ya know, ” he said to me “I can’t read a damn word in that book? ”
Embarrassment, mixed with defiance, in his averted, anguished eye

Squaring his shoulders as if shaking off a great leaden burden
Turned once more to me, and continued his confessional tale
My ale, slow arriving gave me time to pay full attention
And his long moored frustrations, once untied took full sail

“Dropped out of school quite young, ”he said
“a waste of his time, ” he thought then
“Had he the wisdom then, that now had home in his head
He would have better used, the book and the pen”

Peeling the label from the brown bottle in his clutch
While staring at the now, but more likely looking back at his past
Said he could read “Walmart, ” “stop” and “yield” and the such
But the people around him, always found him out at last

Said he always got by doing menial jobs and hard labor
Raised a fine family by the sweat of his brow
But the one thing he lacked, and never would savor
Was to read to his kids, and in turn teach them how

The barmaid approached, my popcorn and ale on a tray
I paid my tab and placed my hand on his shoulder
I briefly told him of the many reading programs available today
And not let the desire to read, simply grow older

As I, with contented sigh, settled into my secluded, corner booth
Ready and eager to forage anew, through fictions and dominions
I glanced up before reading, and felt the pangs of a sad, somber truth
That my new friend had many hidden, and unknown companions



The plight of this man, and the too many just like him
Evoke pity and admiration, both in their turn
How sad to be locked in a non-reading prison
Oh what one can miss, when one fails to learn
David Whalen
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