Sunday, May 22, 2011

Two Men in a Bar: A True-Life Poem

I'm in a Minneapolis hotel bar
Slick, dark and red lit
Sipping a husky tempranillo
Mindlessly checking email on my phone
Reading the latest headlines.
I'm aware of three men at the other end of the bar
Engrossed in an NBA playoff game
Because they are making noise.
It's Chicago and some other team.
The man at the end of the bar, young,
With dark frame glasses and short slick black hair,
Is especially loud.
He is a Chicago Bulls fanatic.
He offers a running commentary
In a clear voice that sounds as though
He's a color commentator on a sports station.
Two other men watch with him
And comment in softer tones
But the young man with glasses
Repeatedly proclaims his allegiance to the Bulls
Exulting with each goal,
And one especially dramatic dunk elicits a whoop
For which he apologizes
To the rest of us at the bar.
Murmured conversation among the three men
Continues during commercials.
And then the other two men settle up their tab
And leave.
The young man at the end of the bar
Must now watch the game in silence.
But only for a few minutes.

There is another young man at the bar
Seated midway between me
And that Bulls fan.
This young man has been chatting with the bartender
And they must be old friends
Perhaps in high school years before.
Just enough of a conversation to make it sound so.

The game continues.
The man at the end of the bar
says something about Chicago
To the man in at the middle.
They realize they are both from Chicago.
The man at the end of the bar says something
About Rahm Emmanuel.
The man in the middle disapproves.
Sporadic friendly conversation continues.
The big Bulls fan at the end of the bar asks the man in the middle
What do you do in Chicago?
I don't catch his answer,
But he says that his husband teaches at the university.
His husband.
The Bulls fan doesn't blink.
He asks the middle man more
About his husband.
And they keep talking.
It is as natural a conversation
Between two strangers
As you could ever overhear
In a bar in Minnesota
With a basketball game on the big flat screen.