BellaOnline Literary Review
Red Shouldered Hawk by Al Rollins

Table of Contents


Down at the River

Emily Strauss

She works every night at the bar
down at the dock— drive along
the levee, you’ll find the dirt road
where you can park boat trailers
and unused motor homes, a few
live at the river all year around,
you notice the peeling old trailers,
tires gone flat, satellite dishes
squatting beside them.

She knows all the guys by name,
pours their beer when they open
the door, every night she listens
to the jukebox, keeps half a dozen
tabs open at once, marks each
charge with a tick, nods tiredly
to their old lonely man chatter,
their small dogs yapping back
in the rigs, equally lonely.

She carries her wrinkles and stringy
gray hair wearily, every night flips
the channels— baseball, football
the men slapping leather dice cups
down on the bar, she wipes the beer
stains in the wood, pours shots, dispenses
Coors bottles, listlessly waits to walk out
into the cooling night of crickets,
the cottonwoods in silhouette against
the last draining light along the far bank.

Every night she stumbles across
the parking lot to her double-wide,
strokes the cat’s back, slips into
her empty bed, feet hurting—
without memory of the beers,
loud sad jokes, flabby paunches,
just waiting for $3,000 more to trickle
into her account in town, she tells
herself every night, and she’ll retire.

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