A note from the Editor:
One of the genres of writing that we don’t appreciate enough, in my humble opinion, is poetry. I’ve always said that poetry is the most subjective genre of writing because the beauty of poetry is truly in the eyes of the beholder. One person will read a poem and love it; the individual standing right next to that person will read the same poem and hate it. A long time back, I started a tradition of titling poems that I posted to the blog as a “Poetry Break.” When my sweet wife and I were dating, she would on occasion send me poems, and she would write in the subject line of the email, “Poetry Break.” It stuck with me as a wonderful way to introduce poetry.
It is an honor for me to introduce Gene McCormick who is a prolific writer, poet, and painter. He is the quintessential artisan. Enjoy his submission of poetry here and check out his body of work listed in the bio below.
Poetry by Gene McCormick
Dinner For Two, Tommy
“A woman who is badly perfumed is not a woman.”—Coco Chanel
To the right of the lobby, or foyer, is the restaurant’s lounge,
a comfortable room with a dark wood bar seating twelve
with surrounding tables seating another thirty or so.
Straight ahead from the lobby is the restaurant proper,
booths and white-clothed tables
seating many more than the lounge area.
It’s late, the shank of a dispirited evening
for the restaurant’s ledgers, and Tommy the maître ’d
is not at his lobby post awaiting the two who just arrived,
their first dinner together. They stand for several minutes:
–Shall we eat at the bar or wait to be seated
in the restaurant?
–We can seat ourselves at the bar and not wait
for the maître ‘d.
The only conclusion was to wait to be seated at a booth,
across from one another, looking at each other’s face
saying and hearing what wants to be said and heard.
He appreciates what she is wearing: a black mid-thigh
raincoat wide open at the top over a white sweater
with inch wide horizontal stripes under a
light beige vest and a necklace of many interlaced
flat silver pieces that looks Indian but isn’t.
There is no other jewelry. No wedding ring.
Her slacks are grey, almost as black as her hair,
which is shoulder length and parted in the middle.
She is wearing Allure by Chanel perfume
and puts on glasses only to read the menu.
A businesswoman’s smartphone is tucked in her purse.
The raincoat may not be true rain gear.
The material feels like plastic-vinyl-polyester
to the touch, the type of synthetic material
that would cost more per yard than silk,
less than cashmere, more than cotton.
It repels water but still is not an absolute raincoat.
It has a belt.
Fashionable body armor covers her,
exposing only her face, her hands.
She is lean, almost lanky.
Two hamburgers each on its own plate.
One well done, unadorned, with a garden salad.
The other is medium rare with cheese
and French fries to the edge of the plate.
Hamburger A is hers, hamburger B is his.
She is drinking a dark Guinness
(–I used to live in London, you know.
–No. When was that?
–My senior year of college and just after.)
He is drinking a whiskey on the rocks.
Both burgers are served open-faced
on a large bun, fresh and spongy to the touch.
They are at a steak house of repute;
they are the only ones eating hamburgers.
The hamburger is large but she puts the bun lid on top,
picks it up with both hands and takes bites.
He cuts a triangle of his burger, still flat on the plate,
and eats it with his fork.
Neither of them comment on the burgers.
Neither asked the steak house server for mustard
or ketchup, no lettuce, no tomato and god no, no sauce.
There is no inspiration to remember the colors
of the server’s uniform (black and white),
nor of the maître ‘d (black). Piped-in music
is forgettable, unlike the Allure
and lack of rings on her fingers.
A clink of drinking glasses before the meal.
Talk during the meal is not memorable.
The Guinness is now warm, nearly empty.
The rocks in the whiskey liquefied
to wetness at the bottom of the glass.
But the evening lacks sparkle.
The conversation is not stilted but is flat.
After just over an hour he helps her on with her coat,
holds the doors and they walk to their cars
in the parking lot, having driven separately.
Living in the same community, they each patronize
the Shell station to the west side of the restaurant,
and the community bank to the east. The parking lot
is in the front of the restaurant with a smaller
such area in the rear. The lots are usually full
or nearly so, and totally so Fridays and Saturdays.
It is a mature customer base; BMWs and Lexus’s
outnumber Chevys and Fords ten-to-one.
She drives a sports vehicle and lives nearby, two miles.
The night sky is all black, no blue, few stars;
a Monday evening that is neither cold nor warm
but it is raining slightly.
She hugs him goodnight and he says
I don’t want to let go.
You have to, she says, and so he lets go.
To the side of the restaurant foyer, left
and down a plush carpeted dim-lit corridor
lined with reproduction German Expressionist paintings,
past an alcove housing gentlemen’s and ladies rooms,
beyond banquet room number one, turning right
into banquet room number two and then, to the far side,
there is a locked storage room, empty,
that has an exit to the rear parking lot.
It is a small room, about 10’ x 12’,
walls and floor painted industrial grey,
with no windows or shelving, no paintings on the walls,
no telephone, not even a fire extinguisher.
The maître ‘d shuts the entry door, opens the exit door
to the parking lot a crack and pulls a soft pack of Camels
from his side tux pocket. It is unopened,
and he firmly tamps the pack against the palm of his hand,
pulling the gold tab around the pack but leaving
the cellophane covering on for protection.
He has limited time but takes care to lift the foil
with his fingernail, tearing just enough of the
top edge for a couple cigarettes to show.
He never refers to them by any derivative name
nor by their brand name. They are cigarettes.
The front portion of foil is removed, crumpled,
but the silver that wraps around the cigarettes in the pack
is retained for freshness and armor against the hazards
in his jacket pocket. A soft pack is susceptible
to damages but has a feel, touch and history
that a hard pack lacks. The cellophane feels refreshing
to his uncallused palm as he runs his fingers around
the Camels, tapping out a cigarette, hoping they
never change the design of the camel in profile,
pyramids and palm trees in the background.
A flaring wooden match from a vintage
Diamond match box lights the tip, smoke
immediately drifting toward the exterior door.
The spent cigarette arcs into the rain-soaked parking lot,
a lone firework, a moment’s pleasure. Back to work.
Elbow propped on the hotel bar
holding her head with one hand
while rolling two stuffed martini olives
across the bar top, back and forth.
Unfocused, she punches at the olives
with her swizzle stick,
the name of the hotel imprinted on it.
The olives wobble more than roll.
My name is Veronica she says
to the man who bought her a drink.
My namesake was the woman who
wiped the face of Christ as he
carried his cross to be crucified.
But you can call me Ronnie.
Want an olive?
He presses his thumb to an olive,
squashing it flat to the bar.
He picks up the other one
and sucks the pimento out of it.
No. I want —
I have a room on the fourth floor, she says.
Gene has had twenty books published, a mix of non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. His writing regularly appears in small press publications throughout the United States and Europe. He has a novel, in narrative poetry form, coming out this fall from Middle Island Press: Obsessions. He also paints and has paintings in commercial and private collections nationwide. He has illustrated ten or so books (covers and interiors) and is the illustrator for Misfitmagazine.net.