Death Plays Pool
This is simple: choose an object from the table and write. My attention is
drawn there, to a crudely painted box wedged between the bluebird and the silk
rose. Inside the box, a mirror, a pooltable, a skeleton, and glued to the
floor, a strip of paper which proclaims, "Continuemos la lucha." The message was
typed on an ancient machine with a bad ribbon. The words so faint the letters
look like dried blood. So faint, I try to go with the light: la luz. But, I
can't. Death plays pool with skulls. From where I sit, the room reflects in the
tiny mirror behind the pool table. The other people in the room shift and stir
in their chairs. The movement blurs the image except for the area straight ahead
of me. Snaps on my denim jacket flash lightning. On the green velvet table, the
skulls peer out quietly, very, what? I want to say inert, but maybe I mean
placid or uniform or, I know, acquiescing to Death's game. But, is the game over?
Death poses. He, the victor, stands straight with his cue at rest like a rifle
at his side. Is that a smile on his bony lips? A bell rings outside the room.
Long, tolling, echoing, faint. Eleven o'clock. The eleventh hour. Death won
the game. Or, so it seems. What about the artist? Maybe one day not so long
ago, the artist read a newspaper, and in it, a headline quoting a famous writer,
"Continuemos la lucha." The artist, a very cynical person, thought, "All the
good that'll do ya. Once Mr. Death picks up his cue stick, that ends that." And
the words faded away, and the artist carefully planted faded bones and skulls in
the green velvet field. Death poses at the side of the table waiting to have his
photo taken. He taunts me, "All right, who else wants to have a go? Who else
thinks he can beat Mr. Death?" And I'm torn by poolhall memories buried beneath
the velvet. Haunted times at the White Horse with Ramon, everyone danced, but not
Ramon. He played pool until they turned out the lights. And how, when we hitched
north to Arcata, he was conned by two sharks who took him for everything he had.
And how he played pool until the day his kidneys failed, and he couldn't lift
the cue anymore. And how this is no longer an exercise, and how the dim words
blind me, "Continuemos la lucha."
--Leila Rae (1995)