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A Glass of Absinthe

After Degas

At first we pass them, unstudied
as a snapshot where marginal subjects
have slipped in. A disenchanted pair
off-center and off-level, lean

like bags of flour into the singular
pitch of a cafe's genial keel; no ballast here
except for the pool of milky licorice -
a teetering glass of absinthe.

So startling to see how everything was made
to dovetail; how the zigzag of empty tables
between us and the luckless couple traces
a brooding loneliness,  a composition

so boldly calculated that we can hardly face
its draughtsmanship.  Powdered pigments
molded into figures whose back sides blaze
in mirrors propped behind them

like butterflies caught in an ashen rain.
The proprietor had thought the glass might
brighten the place.  But, there is no changing
history or the reflections of our lives.


Upcoming in The Banyan Review, Fall 2023. 

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