OLD MEN John C. Mannone

 

9 a.m. and the four old men

line up on the red barstools—

 

Homer, slurps

his coffee, black with a packet of

Splenda stirred in; his lip curls

 

while reading 17 Down

in the daily crossword puzzle,

asks Ben next to him.

 

He has to ask twice

not because his hearing aid

was turned down, but because

 

Ben is ogling the waitress 

(all of them much too young

for his age). And he smiles

 

bright as sunshine. But Charlie

on the other end of the counter,

having heard the challenge, yells

 

the answer to the question

—a certain entrance—“Try adit

I doubt door would be right.”

 

 “It fits!” Homer thanks him.

(Charlie would know. He worked

the coal mines in Kentucky with Roy.)

 

Roy isn’t saying much

this fall morning. He got a letter

from the lab yesterday afternoon.

 

His Texas bacon egg and cheese

getting cold on the gray green plate

like the color of scrubs.

 

Gwendolyn hits him

with a warm up, “Is there anything

I can do for you and Beth?”

 

Roy nods, “Thanks, Gwen,

but no.” He swirls the coffee

in a worn ceramic cup; takes a good swig.

 

   #

 

9 a.m., the old men

line up on red barstools.

 

Winters are sometimes rough

on old men. And usually

the menu doesn’t change.

 

Charlie sees the bright

plastic mat spread with pictures

of ham and eggs, toast and coffee,

 

hashbrowns and orange juice,

on the shiny counter in front

of the empty barstool, Roy’s.

 

Charlie keeps quiet. Forces

down a scoop of hot grits, swallows

hard the unsweetened tea.

 

Homer pencils the numbers

into squares of a Sudoku. Hope

things add up; doesn’t ask Ben,

 

who’s checking out

the new waitress, though some

may not give her a second look.

 

Homer says, “I feel like

a waffle this spring morning,

with butter and maple syrup.”

 


John C. Mannone, three-time Pushcart nominee, has over 500 works in venues such as the Drunk Monkeys, New England Journal of Medicine, Inscape Literary Journal, Acentos Review, Windhover, Artemis, Still, Town Creek Poetry, Poetica Magazine, Arc-24, Artemis and Baltimore Review. He’s been awarded a 2016 Weymouth writing residency and has two literary poetry collections, including one on disability, Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press, Dec 2015). He edits poetry for Silver Blade and Abyss & Apex and he’s a college professor of physics in east Tennessee. Visit http://jcmannone.wordpress.com

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