Decision in an Automat
Is she brooding as she studies the coffee in her cup?
Does its blackness reveal what she has hidden from herself?
Has it a magic like tea leaves or a dark crystal ball
that will tell her her future, even if dreary, even if doomed?
We can only wonder why she lingers here,
where table-tops are anaemic-white and chairs
are hard and bare, where a vast pane of glass
reflects garish lights off a background of night,
and radiators don’t give a cough
or half a wheeze for comfort or heat.
Is it something that awaits her at home,
if she has someplace she can call a home?
But fur-lined coat and cloche hat insist she has money enough
for that. But is that residence more empty than this automat,
more lonely a place than this, and did she come here
for company but found only coffee instead?
Or is this what she wanted, solitude she craved,
an escape from shouting accusations
or from silent interrogations more probing
than the silence of this automat?
True, in the past, she sold herself cheaply
for two-bit parts, but today she was made
understudy to a Broadway star.
Yet she knows she’ll be told it’s just second place
in her life’s race, trapped and still circling in a cul-de-sac
that will leave her drinking coffee in this automat.
If you look closer, though, you will see there is hope.
No longer does she contemplate the contents of her cup.
Her gaze is raised above the brim and aimed
at some skyline just dawning in her mind.
The coffee has disclosed its truth,
and she has decided what she will do.
She will stride proudly out like Gloria Swanson,
with chin asserted, nose upturned, determined
she will be no second place. She will ride
under the Hudson with a ticket one way
on a train to sunshine and a new name,
to photographs and talent scouts,
agents and no casting couch for star-billing
with Valentino on the silver screen.
No need to be arraigned by an eastside lover.
No need to escape to an automat.
Hello, Hollywood, Rudolf and Charlie!
Good riddance, kiss off, New York!
Jack Grady is a founder member of the Irish-based Ox Mountain Poets. His poetry has appeared online or in print in many literary journals and anthologies, including such publications as Crannóg; Live Encounters; The Ekphrastic Review; The Galway Review; And Agamemnon Dead: An Anthology of Early Twenty-First Century Irish Poetry; North West Words; The Worcester Review; Poet Lore; A New Ulster; Mauvaise Graine; Algebra of Owls; The Irish Literary Times; Skylight 47; Dodging the Rain; Outburst Magazine; Poesia a Sul 1; 300K: Une anthologie de poésie sur l’espèce humaine; Mediterranean Poetry, and others. He read in Morocco at the 3rd annual Festival International Poésie Marrakech, as the poet invited by its committee to represent Ireland, and he was invited to represent Ireland at the 3rd annual Poesia a Sul, in Olhão, Portugal. His poetry collection, Resurrection, was published in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, by Lapwing Publications and launched in October 2017 and is available at Jack Grady – Lapwing Store.
The Ekphrastic Review
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