THE MEN WHO TOUCH ME AT BARS
all have that same sunset
wreckage buried in their cheeks,
eyes scuffed as sidewalk marbles,
chambray sleeves rolled past elbows,
revealing arms haunch-thick
and pocked with burns, hands
clawed around a lager, around air
if they’re waiting on another round.
They have names like Jimmy, Jake,
Bobby, Billy; they stink of paint
thinner, loam, a June day’s sweat,
warehouse dust, the scabbed
lacquer of a pub’s bartop.
They don’t mean harm, including
the ones who claim they want to fight,
the ones who say Do you want to
suck my cock? the way they say
How ‘bout them Cowboys?
They just want a back to slap, a shoulder
to wrap an arm around, a shot–
Jameson or Johnny or Jack–
the chaser someone
who will audience their remember whens,
who will say the names of their dead
back to them, their mothers and fathers,
lost wives, gone sons, departed daughters.
I was just like you, they mutter,
and they mean it, in their marrow,
their asymmetrical moles,
their cigarette butt teeth,
but maybe they also mean
what separates a man from nothing
is having, in breaths, in gulps
small as two ounces, a story,
a self worth handing to–
briefly–a stranger to hold.