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)