SWEENEY TO MRS. PORTER IN THE SPRING
~ by L. E. Sissman
In Prospect Street, outside the Splendid Bar
And Grill, the Pepsi generation —
The beardless, hard-eyed future of our nation —
Rolls casually south out of the slum
From which it will go far,
Leaving an old country where spring has come.
It is not obvious about the spring.
You have to know the signs: a hoist of wash
On every back-piazza line, a sash
Propped open with an empty pint of cream,
A comic softening
Of the wind’s blade to rubber, an old dream
Of something better coming soon for each
Survivor who achieves the shores of May —
Perhaps a legacy, a lucky play
At dogs or numbers, or a contest prize.
Lady Luck, on the beach
Between assignments, does not hear their cries —
“Me!, Me!” like gulls’. She never will. The old
Diminish steadily in all but years
And hope, which, uncontrollable as tears,
Racks them with life. Just look at Mrs. Porter,
Preparing to unfold,
In the dark bar, a letter from her daughter,
A beauty operator in Ladue,
And to remasticate the lovely tale
Of ranch and Pontiac, washed down with ale
Cold from the Splendid bowels, while waiting for
Her unrefined but true
Love’s shape to shade the frosted-glass front door.
Meanwhile Sweeney, Medallion 83
(A low old-timer’s number), wheels his hack,
In Independent livery, past a back-
Projected process shot of Central Square,
To where his love will be,
Impatient to resume their grand affair.
She, like a pile of black rugs, stirs to hear
His two-tone horn just outside, heralding
The coming both of Sweeney and the spring.
Inside, he greets her as before, “Hi, keed,”
While Wilma lays his beer
And whiskey down between them and gets paid.
His knotty fingers, tipped with moons of dirt,
Lock on the shot of Seagram’s, which he belts
And chases with a swig of Knick. Nothing else
Could comfort them except their old selves, who
Preserve, worn but unhurt,
The common knowledge of a thing or two
They did together under the moons.
Now the Splendid night begins again,
Unkinking cares, alleviating pain,
Permitting living memories to flood
This country for old men
With spring, their green tongues speaking from the mud.