The bartender was a Jack or an Eddie,

chunky chested, tall and Irish,

with a mongrel mustache hiding clear disgust,

who nodded left and right with a black-eyed glare,

moved wordless up and down the bar

in broad suspenders and rolled sleeves

digging ice with highball glasses as he went;


who shook their usuals at 4:30 p.m. –

the O’Tooles, Kings, Roarks and Schmidts –

in the chatter and smoke of a three-man combo,

happy hour secretaries tapping ashtrays,

laughing at each other or nothing at all;


who sent them home, middle-aged men

sagging in their souls

through deserted, brightly lighted

Manhattan streets that shone

black with slicks of rain,

the Kings and Roarks in need of jobs,

the others in need of women;


home into studio apartments

to melt into sleep

under lights of floor lamps

on stuffed colorless divans,


dress shirts yanked open at the place

where the stripes of their ties

formed the knot of the noose

that was part of the deal