Mark Andrew Holmes

Agony, ugly, mute, black and mindless,

Brings green lights that wink on with preternatural clarity and brilliance

And a reek of sulfur dioxide, latrines and garbage

Conveyed on a gale of whiskey and vodka fumes.

The signal glance drops; hurricane warnings flap in a rapidly rising wind,

And black waves pound with increasing force against a decrepit old seawall,

Growing ever higher and closer together,

Throwing icy salt spray higher and higher—higher into the truculently boiling gunmetal sky,

Foaming into the streets of a broken gray city of loneliness and sorrow—

And the gigantic neon sign above the Casino—floating motionless in the air—

Glares, intact, a gaudy and heartless rainbow,

As the Gamblers stand twenty deep at each slot machine, roulette wheel, and card table, dressed as for a funeral—

Talking too loud, too much, about anything at all and nothing, their voices babbling and panicky,

Awaiting their turn, hoping for their remote chance at a seven

(For the odds always favor The House),

Limbs twitching in tics of fear,

Underarms and crotches dank, bowels hot and loose,

Noses twitching like rabbits' at the intolerable yet ubiquitous miasma,

Eyes wide, dark, cloudy and staring,

Faces ashen and drenched with icy sweat,

Ears pricked every few seconds like deer for the beginning of the roar of the tsunami they all know must come—

Do they get their chance?

The sky becomes tar-black, the wind and stench solid presences—

The seawall ruptures, the rain is perfectly horizontal—

The Casino's sign remains as if in a dead calm, a meretricious Gibraltar of light and color,

A beacon that leads people forward, onward to their doom—


And always the throngs stream through the doors,

And not one soul leaves;

Their bodies ignore the wind and rain—

And a disembodied Eye, somewhere, cocks upon an hourglass—

And as the patrons of the Casino hear a roar begin in the distance and begin to shriek perfervidly in horrified, panicky, incredulous despair—

A Hand dispassionately, with casual ennui, takes hold of the hourglass—

And inverts it.

© 2002 by Mark Andrew Holmes

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