Ray Shea

Empty Net

Ray Shea

In a winter back alley
two blocks darkside
of Manchester’s bright boulevards,
hookers stroll on shoveled streets,
selling sex in hoodies and snow suits
which disguise fine asses
and track marks alike.
Winter is the equalizer,
and desire does not abide seasonally
since I saw one
get picked up
on my way
to the bar.

On Sunday you’d think
a guy could find
a quiet place
to write,
but the Bruins are on.
Manchester is more like Boston
than Boston, and a barful
of hockey jocks
is tranquil
compared to the random thud
of my thoughts
careening off the walls
of the extended-stay
like a super ball
with a chunk missing.

Here they got my favorite fake beer,
and a pretty smile,
and a goalie coat-of-arms,
sticks and helmet above the bar
below a flat screen
where the Bruins
trail by one.

Time is running out,
ticking down like my old man
with his chewed up liver.
It’s harder to get him
to see what’s worth living for,
slower to get him
from wheelchair to car.

If no one reminds him
he skips a meal,
or three, and he’s always
asleep when I call.
But I call, and I visit,
desperate
that these bonus months
tip the scale
against the weight
of so many lost years.

My job to not leave him
an angry mutt
in a nursery of potted plants,
my duty to fight off
the tentacles
of the beeping machines,
my calling to cut him free
if the doctors
get their claws in,
and if it takes
a pillow over his face
it’s what he would have wanted.

Another Boston shot
bounces off the post,
saved, cleared to center ice.
It’s getting desperate.
Geography alone dictates
that my future self
will take the dark morning call
back home in Texas,
hearing that he left without me,
wondering did he cry out,
or curse,
or just
curl up and die?

I’ll end up just a courier,
delivering his ashes
to any sea captain
willing to bury him
in the family plot
off the Grand Banks.

Even for an errand boy,
these words are inadequate
and now the fans are pounding the bar.

I zip my coat,
wrap my neck,
and shuffle into the winter steam of the city.
The bow waves of the plows
grow higher
and greyer,
the streetwalkers get in and out of strange cars,
and Boston behind me
charges forward again
with an empty net.

RAY SHEA prose has appeared in a number of publications and has been nominated for a variety of prizes, but he has never seen one of his poems in print. Until today. A native of Boston and New Orleans, he currently lives in Austin.

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