Every night I sit in this nook.
Every night I knock down this whisky.
Every night I watch that woman.
Five balls left on the billiards table.
Five blokes left in this room.
There aren’t enough corners for our wretchedness.
Maybe I’ll slip into the drop pocket.
Gretel sets the cue on the ledge to watch
the raindrops mingle with the window panes.
The streets lamps were lit hours ago,
yet the shadows are what she craves.
She snatches up the stick.
Four balls left
With her 1941 Volkswagen figure, Betty Boop cheeks, and
Hansel haircut, she’s not out of the woods yet.
The only men who sleep with her are the ones
who don’t want to lie down with their wives.
They have their turn, building a house of cards on her
ample bosom before returning to tuck their young
ones in for the night.
Nobody seems to be picking up her crumbs.
She’s been playing against herself since the day she was
born, emerging from the womb with that black wool
skirt molded to her frame, brown pumps scraping her
mother’s insides on the way out.
I’m lucky I can still count to five.
Three balls left
The young dentist from Biesdorf steals a glance at
his watch before emptying his shot glass, wiping
his damp forehead with a trembling palm.
His eyes have been playing ping pong with her backside
for over an hour but we all know that he discarded his
nerve with his galoshes when he walked through that door.
This tooth fairy won’t be pulling anything tonight.
Two balls left
We exchange the penitent dentist for a burst of frigid air
which greets each one of us with a firm handshake.
Once again the heavy door plugs up the path to privation.
Gretel winks at me.
One ball left and she’s poised to strike.
This is the first in a series of five poems inspired by the photography of Constantine Brassaï.