THE COOK AFTER CLOSING (1989) by Michael J. Arcangelini


Once everything is broken down,
lights lowered, kitchen quiet,
he goes to the corner of the bar
where lost shadows gather,
commandeers his usual seat,
pulls out a pack of cigarettes.
He smells of grease and sweat.
Bartender Tom brings his bourbon,
they exchange a few words.
Someone tries to chat him up
but the cook is barely responsive,
until he gets a few drinks in him,
then he plugs old Motown
into the jukebox and babbles
to anyone pretending to listen.
If unapproached, he’ll sit quiet,
smoking, sifting through ghosts
and unrealized expectations,
until Tom shuts the place down.

Then he walks to his rented home.
A two-liter bottle of cheap whiskey
sits next to his easy chair waiting for
him and a tumbler full of ice cubes.
He watches whatever’s on cable,
chains smokes, lets his poisons
work their magic until he passes out.

He awakens three or four hours later,
ice melted, ashtray overflowing,
TV still the only light in the room,
the rude dawn has not yet arrived.
He gets fresh ice, starts over again.
The scent of saltwater mist from
Humboldt Bay, bittersweet in the air,
hides beneath the stench of cigarettes.
Sometimes he scribbles words
into a notebook, but mostly he just
kills his time until the next shift.

3 Responses to “THE COOK AFTER CLOSING (1989) by Michael J. Arcangelini”

  1. Pris Campbell Says:

    Good one! I can’t seem to sign into wordpress recently.


  2. Your reply came through!

  3. Very nice Michael. Once, a long while back I lived a similar life … your poem hits a spot.

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