dead souls —

©2021 Michael Raven

in this lonely place of
pictures' accusatory eyes
we walk, dead souls
shuffling down dusty halls
caught with cobwebbed sighs
every creak drawing faces
staring for source
in the molasses slowly
seeing unchangings
the march focus returns
as we go on and on and on

Someone take these dreams away
That point me to another day
A duel of personalities
That stretch all true realities

They keep calling me…

Ian Curtis (Joy Division), Dead Souls

the graveyard shift
& the jaundiced yellow lights
painting the wet pavement sick
it was him
& the downtown street only
as he walked the

“In his mind, nothing could be more delightful than to live in solitude, and enjoy the spectacle of nature, and sometimes read some book or other.”

Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls

It was closing time at the bar and the lights had come up. Jan wasn’t about to move his ass just on account of it being closing time as the CC — he still had half a brewskie to finish, and Lori was disinclined to give him a nudge out the door like the manager would have insisted, had he been around. But Larry had gone and done broke his leg and, instead of being at the bar to poke, prod and basically push Jan out the door and it was Lori’s call. And, because part of her still had a residual crush on Jan, although both of them were well past the age where such things as crushes were considered proper, she let him sit there and sip at the beer that she’d served him later than she should have.

Doug, for his part, was spreading the spilled beer and cigarette butts on the floor into a more uniform disgusting for the next day’s worth of drunken reverie. Again, Larry’s absence was acutely felt as cleanliness standards would attest when the doors were locked. Doug added ashes to the swill of his own, smoking as he swished the floors in some pattern only discernible to him.

Lori walked over to the flickering OPEN light and pulled the chain to shut it off. The jukebox played stopped playing something by Black Flag or the Dead Kennedys — Lori could never tell the two apart. She would have felt bad for whomever paid for the songs they wouldn’t hear, but she’d gotten over that after the first year of working the CC. People always seemed to plug the jukebox full of coins at the end of the evening, as they grew maudlin and sentimental about whatever sad things they found in the bottom of their glasses — the lost loves, the missed trains, whatever the fuck they thought they’d missed out. Lori was no different.

She went to unplug the juke for the night, but hesitated as the next song started.

Well a person can work up a mean mean thirst...

Lori felt a hand on her shoulder as she stood in front of the jukebox. When she turned, she saw it belonged to Jan.

“Lor,” he said softly. “Could I bother you for this dance?”

She couldn’t think of a good reason not to, so she gave Jan a clumsy curtsy, wrapped her arms around his neck and they began to sway.

Everybody wants to be someone's here
Someone's gonna show up, never fear
'Cause here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular...

Doug watched, a crooked grin in place of where folks wear a smile, leaning on the mop handle and oblivious to the burned-out remnant of his cigarette as the music played.

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