Free Beer Tomorrow

for David Keplinger

In the tavern, surly parolees
recall cellies, rock-paper-scissor
who buys next, countertop before them
crime-scene diorama: full shot glass
liquor store, matchbook getaway car,

ashtray lake to hide the evidence.
Future or past tense I cannot catch
straining, perched only two stools over,
over the jukebox’s long, warbling
litany of loss and regret, wrongs

and squandered love, eerie steel-pedal
elegies, ancient lamentations,
and the pocket calls, clatter and smack,
and couples arguing who’s drunker
and safe to drive home, and bartender

yelling “Last call,” everyone buying
fervently the biggest drinks at once.
Maybe I misheard. I dare not ask
to start my new life now, ride along
as look out, begin my criminal

apprenticeship observing, rise up
through attrition, and then mastermind.
Lit as I am, how could I describe
these three to police on the payphone
there by the bathrooms, HIS and HERS clear?

And probably I have it all wrong:
orchestra of bottles, church organ
pipes, doubles in the mirror, meaning
possibility, many-color
innards all sorts of bright exit signs.

Their gesture of sliding the matches
flat around a whiskey glass may mean
instead the ballet of the self toward
the other and how the two only
ever asymptotically glance,

longing a series of near-misses.
Reading the sign FREE BEER TOMORROW
I might be the man I imagine
misunderstands, rising each morning
thereafter hoping, who’ll gladly pay

for those sad songs, pickled eggs ghostly
in medical exhibit water,
but demands free beer, just one, pounding
early, shouting, “Open up. Open
the door. It’s tomorrow already!”

Aaron Anstett's second collection, No Accident, won the 2005 Balcones Poetry Prize and the Nebraska Book Award in Poetry. A new collection, Each Place the Body's, is forthcoming from Ghost Road Press. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Backwards City Review, CAB/NET, the minnesota review, MiPoesias, Redactions, and Word For/Word, among others.(jalopytown@yahoo.com)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761