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Elegy for Johnny Behind the Bar

Poetry & Prose | April 11, 2016

4:15. You polish sunlight
through the bottom of a glass
while I fold napkins
and tell me about the mountains
scrapping across Telluride blue,
the girls you dated in college,
that dream you had last night.

The usuals come in before rush,
mudflats and seventy Julys
caked beneath their nails.
The sauvignon-blanc ladies get your dimples,
but Jean and Mike get the brine-soaked grin.
I float, buoyed by the salt of belonging.

Scared, sixteen. On the first day
you took the seat next to mine.
Can’t let you monopolize all that space.
During the worst shifts, you gave me
maraschino cherries. Cancer
Pills, you called them.

You told us not to plaster
this page with sappy quotes
under pictures of sunsets and birds.
I read them all anyways,
looking for one that means
dancing around a mop
at close, singing Sam Cooke.

Now, when I pour
Jean’s usual, your voice
counts in my head.
1 Mississippi 2 Mississippi
3 Mississippi. 4