At the Blank Blank Bar

by Carolyn Beard Whitlow

                                (“…Baby,Baby, Baby, why you treat me so mean?
                                I say, Baby, Baby, Baby, why you keep bein mean?
                                I’se a hard, hard wurkin man, treat you lik a queen…

                                Gives you all my money.
                                I pays all yo bills.
                                An’ all I’se askin, Honey,
                                is fo thrills, thrills, thrills.

                                Baby, Baby, Baby…”)

                Sturgeon leaned over his beer at the blank-blank bar
                half-eared on the music and Hark carpin
                bout work and conquerin women

“Man, her shit so tight she mus wourk in a rubba ban factry
had it poppin’no pop pop pop”

                gutteral joint wouldn’t juke til night
                when stiff backs and worksong boots’ stomp’n shuffle
                smoothed to a slow smokey blues

                                (“Got time on my hands an nothin
                                but you on my mind…”)

                onliest ones in the bar now laid off or laid low

                Rica’d said she needed more stringent
                ’n fixins what to set a pot aboil—
                bullheaded, Sturgeon, perched on his barstool,
                been floundrin, fishin wid da boys
                like when he was in school.
                jus then sompin tipped his scales.
                he jumped!
                his marbled brown eyes shifted
                stared blankly from both sides of his face
                lips mouthed O O O O O
                finally he said, “I fin’ta leave,”
                his glass half-full.

CAROLYN BEARD WHITLOW’s poems appear in many anthologies and journals such as Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, and Crab Orchard Review, and she was a finalist for the 1991 Barnard New Women Poets Prize and the 2005 Ohio State University Poetry Prize. Her books include Vanished (2006) and Wild Meat (1986). When the Wind Stills, a chapbook, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2012.