Joker

Joker

Joker

Arts has moved! You can find new stories here.
A weekly poem, read by the author.
July 7 1999 3:00 AM

Joker

"Call!" "Call!" "Call!" "Call!" "Call!" "Call!"
Thought I was bluffing. Wanted to see me.
I'm loaded, guys. I am fuller than full.
So, see 'em, read 'em, feed 'em, eat 'em--and weep!
Then, our heart-and-soul satisfying smart sharp
snap-and-slap-the-cards-on-the-table shtick:
up on two feet, I cracked the buggywhip my wrist;
and the five-of-a-kind of the hand I held high,
one by one Take that, whump! and Take that, whamp!
and Take this, whomp! I smacked down--notice served
to all the stiffs and to the Big Stiffer
by the woodcutter and master of the deck,
owner of the ax, last man alive and standing!
So I chastised Bad Luck's obstreperous butt
--the tableback bearing up the scarred baize.
Ground of our gaming, I stung him good,
taught him who boss is and damn you hold still
while we game on, hand after hand forever,
our give and take sluicing the lucre pure.

And leaned across, raking the heap home to papa,
my forearm's enormous promontory engulfing
the golden louis, the silver simoleons;
and looked around, to share this big win
in my eyes, and saw what everyone was seeing:
my aces aging, fading, suddenly blank,
like the Killer Joker sprawled faceless there,

and on the loose now, and running wild
from the shattered room in the house of ashes.

Irving Feldman received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1992. His last book of poetry, The Life and Letters, was published in 1994. He teaches English at the State University of New York, Buffalo. His new collection, Beautiful False Things, will appear in January 2000.