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In Ordinary Time


B.J. Wilkinson 

In the bar
of the hotel
across the street
from the train station
where he and Sgt. Frank
had come to wait
that hour for their bus
he finally asked the barmaid
with the auburn, close-cropped hair
in his pained and brutish French
the name of the music
she returned in crisp Anglo syllables
"or the previous?"
he replied,
tentative, halting, schoolboy words,
and she placed upon the thickly varnished bar top
the bright orange compact disc:
Corsican Polyphonies
"At first,"
she continued, rinsing glasses,
"I could not listen without crying,
They were so...,"
"Bittersweet," he offered,
riding the lift of the wine,
" life."
her eyes looked up to his,
smiled into them
a moment
"Yes. Yes, life"
in that moment so achingly one
with the close cropped one
in the bar
of the great tall windows
through which he had watched
the snow fill the streets
of Chamonix
that holy afternoon...
he curled his arm
beneath, across her
cupped softly in his
the sweet weight of her
peeling his damp and
cooling groin
from her pinkened rump
then slid his mouth
over the damp, auburn,
unable to retrieve the
fallen sheet
that gathered at their
unable to hold the dying
the fading, winter light
about them
Sgt Frank coughed
and said
"It's about that time,
Billy Boy."
swallowing the rest of his wine
in an audible gulp...
our Billy Boy set his own
unfinished glass
softly beside the last of his coins,
spun off the stool
there will be a time for
the Gredos.....
and followed in the pale blue wake
of Sgt Frank's cigarette
into the bittersweet, silver afternoon
of Chamonix,
and the rest of his days.

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