Devil’s Elbow

The night I saw her at The Devil’s Elbow
the tramp in the square’s twilight terrors
split the night’s soft toddle of music from Chambar.
It was the kind of bar, I thought as I trundled past,
where you were supposed to meet someone like her.
And it was one of those nights, too.
A night known to poets and soldiers alike
in troubled nights of pacing paneled floors
or waiting in the barracks.

Jack, or was it Jake?



Jack. Or Jake. I don’t exactly know for sure, ’cause everybody used to call the cat one or the other.

One night old Paul’d be in and see the skinny cat hangin’ out in his usual spot at the end of the counter. He’d holler, “How you been, Jake?” And cat would nod and say somethin’ like, “Not bad,” or what have you. Continue reading


When morning creeps, across the floor toes drag
And make a mockery of ev’ry step
The mirrored glass reflects two eyes that sag
And raises doubts as to how well they slept
Those liquored drinks that trickled smoothly down
Bar-tenders fed with ev’ry dollar spent
The raucous rush that swept them across town
Confusion as to where those women went
With fire in head and gut full of regret
With wallet feeling more than slightly light
One realizes now is paid the debt
From buying so much glee yesterday night
The solemn oath, now given loud and plain:
“I’ll never touch another drink again!”

London at 3 a.m.

the street is alive
whether that life has a point to it or not
whether that life is that that which gives back to the creator
or that which sucks the absolute energy away from all around it
has yet to be seen
whether it’s that guy at the party who’s asking everyone for a smoke
and nobody knows who invited him and everybody just wants him to leave
because he’s bending the legs on the coffee table and making the place smell bad

kilts, I’m not used to seeing kilts
nor am I used to seeing pants ride up so high
you got women who dress like it’s the fifties and guys who dress like it’s the eighties
you can’t tell who’s straight or gay until they sneak one up your ass
you can’t tell which are taxis and which are kidnappers until they’ve got you in their car

a blonde with gazelle straddling legs hobbles down the pavement and
breaks her ankles with each step
she tries to pull her skirt down
but that’s not what it was designed for
(it’s going against nature!)
she turns and I catch her face
it’s the face of a baby doll
on heroine
(too much Miley Cyrus and not enough Family Matters)

everyone eats fast food here
it doesn’t matter at this point
health doesn’t matter at three in the morning
all that matters is the ride home, the last drink
the phone number, the score

guys with biceps for faces
stroll down the way and lose track of their girl
she’s off to find her friends, off to find her shoes, off to find
where she left her purse
oh, Amy has it? Oh good. Where’s Amy?
She’s with Todd.
Where’s Todd?
He’s throwing up in the alley

there are people throwing up everywhere
a guy helps his friend across the street
holding up traffic for six blocks
but it’s okay, they’re going into the KFC
We need chicken wings! This man needs chicken wings! he cries

bouncers are witness
to every single dropped phone call, every single lost soul
they listen without listening, they watch without caring
all they care about is if there’s a threat
Is there a threat?

people stuff their faces with sausage rolls and pizza
Chinese food, Indian cuisine, hotdogs
they stop off at the all night to pick up that last can, that last bottle of wine
Do you have ice back at the flat?
I don’t know, ask Charlene, she was in charge of the ice

bottles of water, fast food containers strewn everywhere
street cleaners haven’t bothered starting yet
not while things are still hot
their shift starts at four and they’ll be busy until eight
until the sun rises over the city and everyone has
found themselves a home or at least a bed or a couch

the underground is locked, empty beer bottles littered about
a man puts an empty KFC bucket on his head
and declares himself King of the Night
a young couple embraces by the bus stop
holding each other in their arms, thankful
they made it through another night together
another bus stop yields nothing but bruised bachelors
lonely souls staring at their shoes
waiting for the carriage that will bring them home
fruitless yet again

the row of cafes and bars slowly but surely closing
Clapham Tandori, Alexandria, Gizel Kebab
Brickwood, Honky Tonk, Black Lab, Pepper Tree
one by one emptying their contents into the street
vomiting humanity back into the city
where they have to deal with their own two feet
their own two hands, their own two eyes

it’s fall now and the park is empty
somewhere they may be a vagrant, somewhere there may hide a bum
the odd park bench has traffic, occupied
by teenagers or post-bar graduates
sucking the marrow out of the night
laughing until all the laughter is dead

over the park the night is quiet
the city beyond still rages but
even that rage subsides and
somewhere above
the clouds and fog and smog and mist
is the full moon
has not brought utter chaos tonight