“Sahara” by Tejas Ranade


Here's a good one:
A man walks into a bar,
says how far do I need to go
to store this beat in an icebox?
I stole it from the heat of its master,
Main Street, sailing the winds on a fleet
of ships as it pounds in my hands, insect buzzing
on a foreign desert stripped of clothes, left to
freeze in its own sleet, night by night. Oh believe me,
I've tried to stuff it down my throat, scratchy and cold
(as it's always been foretold) and wrapped it up in my dreams
to keep it warm as it slid down into my stomach, resting there
as I sit through the windmill of Orpheus on Earth, never thinking
about it so lonely and stifled down there in my abdomen - ready for rebirth.

But I'm too smart for that,
he says, grinning, beer dripping off
the sinning lips as they curl like
vipers burned by each other as they twist
around one another medically. I'm too
witty and wise, yes sir, I'm too used to it.
The beat of the streets keeps chugging away
at my skin, tearing it thin and begging me for
a drop of air, but no sir, no sir,
I will win, I will win and dine on its bones

as it pulses within my mind, having traveled
so far up there that its hard to pull out,
the stout melancholy of angels gathering
like children at play around a familiar face
etched into the surface of a sidewalk, pale
concrete reflecting against paler faces. It
pulses again and I can feel the dualism this time
as I sit at the desk and pull my necktie and wonder
how it would feel to wrap it around a pole and
just fly
just fall
just fry myself in the sun
as the ground takes the plunge
and kisses my face
with such intensity as only
lovers can embrace,

says he,
at the brink of sanity,
and takes another drink,
vanity purple in the steam
as it lets out from a glassy
edge to the bartender's eyes -
old man, ancient man, content
to sit and listen as every drunkard
from the land trails the sand
of the Sahara to his doorstep,
having boasted about crossing
the desert like Agamemmnon on
a sea of ships. Young man,
spry man, orders another beer
and rubs his grumbling chest,
fingers clutching onto fabric
like the dirt clinging to the
back of a camel.

And it's funny
because there is no punchline
to a hoofbeat's rigor stalking,
like a leopard,
bartender's vigor.