Saturday, October 31, 2009

Jeffrey Woodward: Woodberry Tavern

wading into thick
cigarette smoke to the beat
of a jukebox
Brubeck and all that
old school jazz

The graying proprietor and his wife, too, were seated, more often than not, with a few aging cronies—familiar enough to extend an unending tab—around one circular table, a friendly lot, and cozying up in pairs for a night of Euchre or Canasta.

High ceilings of pressed, patterned tin and a long mahogany bar with a brass rail footrest from end-to-end, the taupe walls and beveled glass liquor cabinets of another era contrasted favorably with Mr. and Mrs. Woodberry—so much so, that after only a glass or two, one might penetrate that couple’s wrinkled exterior and perceive their hidden youth.
tequila straight
from the shot glass
with a little lemon
and salt for a chaser
our aqua vitae

One long and narrow room, with an entrance on Water Street and a door at the far back, the latter opening onto a screened wooden porch on stilts and a view of the river some 20 feet below—this is why our little band, barely legal, came to frequent the tavern that summer: to sit and watch the dark currents pass under our perch, there in our high nook and hideaway, to wake to life in that deliciously cool air of last light and to listen, in the silent intervals, to the bankside willows gather the wind.

a dark saying
of Hêrákleitos
is quoted
and thus translated floats
away with the river

the delicate girl
the brunette who wears
a flower in her hair
she is a bit mad perhaps
she looks like Ophelia

another round
of shot glasses stops
at our table
a chorus of mock-protest
from the girls in tight jeans

the Rokeby Venus
passionately praised
for line and color
we speak of Velásquez
as if he were of our crew

and so we drift along
pleasantly enough
no ferryman near
with his forbidding shadow
when we happily ship oars

by Jeffrey Woodward
Detroit, Michigan
first published in
The Tanka Prose Anthology (2008)

No comments: