the bar of dark, polished wood
invites elbows and forearms
The large wall of mirror,
obstructed by half-emptied bottles—
Jack, Jim, Jose, Hennessey—
allows you to see behind you
as people enter and assess,
take a seat and take a drink.
The booth of youngsters being carded and
asked politely to leave,
lowering their heads in shame as they
scuffle out to look for a more easygoing
The table of workers from Cross Street Market
discussing plans for the weekend ahead,
glad to be through another week of slinging
shrimp cocktails and
icing wide-eyed fish and
frosting bakery cupcakes,
selling buckets of flowers and
bushels of crabs and
sandwiches stacked high with pastrami.
The tall table of ladies in tight dresses and skirts
with metallic green and purple and orange shadowed eyes that
roam the room as though in search of
something looking back at them.
To your left, a street musician and a performance artist are
exchanging theories about the redemption of
the human race, and making plans
for how we will come together to
save the world from ourselves.
To your right, a young man is talking about
the five novels he has written,
not one of them published,
as though in search of a piano man to
sing him a song.
An Indian physician consoles him,
explains that publication is not what matters,
that leaving a mark on the universe is what counts,
and the writing of a book, singing of a song, or touching of a life
is the true measure.
“But Doc,” the street musician calls over,
overhearing him in the pause of their own
“Does a tree make a sound if no one is around to hear it?”
“The universe hears it,” the physician replies, and
sips from his scotch on the rocks.
You look from the musician on your left to
the doctor on your right and
offer a smile,
raise your glass,
and take a drink.
The smile is contagious. Not overdone,
not a smug smirk, or dopy grin, just
an upspoken, upward-turned solidarity.
For a moment, there is a shared earnestness hovering
in the shadowy bar where
smoke once lingered, a
smile on each face—
doctor, writer, musician, artist, you.
I’m sitting at the corner of the bar,
under the video game poker screen that no one is playing,
watching you without aid of a mirror,
content to be in this small and insignificant
pocket of the cosmos that
the Universe may possibly have heard,
but more likely has forgotten long ago.
Eric D. Goodman lives and writes in Maryland, where he’s remained sheltered in place for most of the pandemic, spending a portion of his hermithood writing poetry. He’s author of The Color of Jadeite (Loyola University’s Apprentice House Press, 2020), Setting the Family Free (Apprentice House, 2019), Womb: a novel in utero (Merge Publishing, 2017) Tracks: A Novel in Stories (Atticus Books, 2011), Flightless Goose, (Writers Lair Press, 2008), and the forthcoming Wrecks and Ruins (Apprentice House, 2022). More than a hundred short stories, articles, and travel stories have been published in literary journals and magazines. Learn more at www.EricDGoodman.com