CLAY D. MATTHEWS
Seven-to-one odds and St. Louis
was a nightmare. Riverboat casinos
and I-55 eating my wallet
like the sirloin that littered the buffets.
Three more hands and you can eat, too.
The Mississippi was on ice and people
were walking under the Arch
like they expected to wake-up in California.
Everything pointed west.
A trombone played a song for the saints, a deep sweet,
and we were eating hot dogs on a street corner
praying for better luck and more mustard.
Slot machines rang out over the water,
carried south on a pile of driftwood,
and whiskey was the only thing that made sense.
We’d lost the cab fair somewhere
between blackjack and the roulette wheel.
I would have sold my kidney
for a hotel room and a hot plate of scrambled eggs.
The only thing moving faster than the water
was the bourbonwe chased the rain
from the north away
with a cold Kentucky stream gone sour.
The river was cresting like an electric surge
and the wind was white teeth on our cheekbones.
Always in the background the sound of change
hitting stainless steel, enough quarters
coming out somewhere that we could hear hope
collected in small plastic pails.
We were drunk and wrote our will
on the riverbank with numb fingers.
You were my witness.
Double-or-nothing that tomorrow it’ll all be gone.