Originally written 1999.

One, two, three,
five, seven, nine, eleven
dark brothers at sunset:
wet-suited surfers
off the beach at Del Mar,
while the bell for Vespers tolls
from the sea-cliff mission
and two
parallel acolytes
in F-14 Tomcats
arc south toward
San Diego. 

What is it about
the brotherhoods
that men form
that makes me watch them
for hours and hours?
I pose that question

to Angela, houseless plain-talker
from the Encinitas streets,
while we sit in a booth
and mull over her fabulous life
in this bar called
“The Saloon”.

Two hours pass 
and I’m no closer
to my answer

but I have heard
all of hers
about men and their missions.

She’s told me that once
she was a clerk typist
and then she was an engineer
but the boys at the Atlas-Titan plant
made it so hard for her
to hold a job
that she walked away
(it’s been a while
so she doubts  the job is still there)
so now instead of gliding toward the stars with the boys
she lives with a man who’s a hundred years old
and tonight she’ll be damned if she’s going home again
because he is so
all the time.

In the booth across the aisle
two women are kissing.
Angela flashes a smile
full of surprisingly white
wild woman teeth
at the bartender, who is watching them
and squirming.

“It’s right,” she says.
“It’s right. Leave them alone.
Couples in love ought to kiss.
Everyone here is just fine. 
Everyone ought to do just
what they like.”

I get up to leave and ask her if I
can take her somewhere.
She thanks me but says she never
gets into a car with a strange man.

Back in Rancho Santa Fe, in my
expense account movie star’s
hotel room, I open the window to let
the night breeze bring me
the scent of camellias.

other businessmen are
drinking Scotch
and pounding veranda tables
for emphasis.
an angry old man 
waits for dinner.
Pilots’ cheeks flatten 
in the force of the turn
and monks fall off 
to profane dreams
while engineers stew 
before flatscreen blue fire —

as elsewhere,
ecstatic Angela
builds a new world
around our ears,
challenging nervous bartenders
and refusing to be with anyone.
In starry dark she walks the beach
just as she likes, learning to be free
of strange men.

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

One response to “Vespers

  • Jeff

    At the end, my heart said ‘No! I am just starting to get to know her. Tell me more!’ I think that is the sign of a really good bio-snap-shot-poem.

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