Mark Tarallo

Ulysses of the Bars

Those night rides along the towpath
with Chanticleer and Q, silver flasks
clinking on belt buckles, gravel shusshing
under tires like the sound of distant waves.
The air velvet, the sky ecstatic with stars.

Stopping for a few sips on the canal,
lungs heaving with great draughts
of cool rapture. Gentleman, you’d say,
our purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset,
far, far away from our desks. And I am a man

of substance, so let me ease your journey and you’d
pack the pipe with the same sure hand
that once rested on Licia’s shoulder
as you teetered around that party,
never losing your tourist’s pleasure in the

lush, blurry landscape of your drunkenness.
Your breath nearly set my ear aflame
when you bent close and whispered
I am so crushed right now, T-man,
just so, so crushed…

At your wedding, ten, maybe twenty
nods of recognition at the
groping words of your best man:
The thing with Troy is…there’s something heroic about him…
Then the limo whisked away you and Penelope

and I was left to get high with your boys.
Through the haze, I could feel again
that scorching weekday noon –
humid beyond redemption, sidewalks brutalized
by purposeful strides, the city set to sink

under its own banality. I saw you
break free from a sea of monkey suits
on the corner of Connecticut and K,
then sprint madly across the street as the light turned:
knees pumping high, tie blown back like a rudder.

Your daring mocked the approaching cars,
your pistoning limbs seemed so vigorous
I imagined them releasing concentric waves of energy
that could sweep through all of downtown,
changing the rhythm of the streets from a

sad Sousa death march to a delirious
Fats Waller swing. Nearby pedestrians scowled
but no matter: they knew not your powers,
how you ennobled the following of sport,
how you made the language new.

These days, the lawn needs mowing in Ithaca.
When the world and the boss are both
on your ass, you take Argos for a walk and
sneak a few hits. Sometimes, alone and lonely
in a bar, I sit and sip and sneak looks

at the woman three stools down, imagining
what you would have said to her:
Well hail fire, I’m just a farmer
from Poolesville. You one of them naughty city girls?
Then you’d switch from goof to geek

with a few Buck Mulligan riffs, maybe
The Ballad of Joking Jesus, and although you’d
get shut down, we’d have our recompense in laughter,
toasting her blank stare in the face of your allusions.
Now, every day after work I go home and check my email,

wishing for the message that never arrives:
The stars are shining, T-man. Q and Chanticleer
are filling their flasks as we speak.
Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Care to join in the cuddle?