At the Phoenix 1: On a Quiet Tuesday Evening

Upside-down lamps, half-lighted tonight,

dangle over the corner of Sixth and Peoria

like disco balls on a week’s vacation,

cars gliding by seemingly close enough

to touch if glass were a bit more permeable.

The downtown skyline, so close by,

nevertheless remains mostly obscured

from this angle, but its glow keeps it

continually in mind, if not in view.

The crowd tonight is sparse, quiet,

the music low as well, unobtrusive ambience;

I couldn’t even say what’s playing exactly.

From my vantage point on the pink

velvet sofa curving across the room,

I relax, drink a beer, watch the people,

and try to write the essence of the scene.


In front of me, in armchairs by the window,

two young men, both dark-haired, one

with diamond ear studs, the other without,

sit and chat. They seem to have recently

finished a shared platter of food; they

sip iced coffee drinks in tall, frosty glasses.

Friends, boyfriends, roommates? I idly wonder,

as one does.  Long-time friends, I think,

or roommates perhaps. Separate chairs,

table between them; lovers would have

taken the sofa, vacant before I came in.

Not new acquaintances, for sure;

too much at ease, too familiar with each other.

They laugh, trade a phone back and forth,

speak of many things. At one point I hear

a reference to the Lutheran church,

but in what context I cannot determine.


On the other sofa, blue-gray, behind me,

a hetero couple stretch their legs; I forget about

the TV until later; perhaps they are watching it,

idly, inattentively, waiting for something to catch

their interest. They don’t speak much, or move.

To my left, at a table, a group of four friends,

or just acquaintances maybe—they behave

more formally—talk about what sounds

like colleges, classes, careers, serious

matters, but routine; for most, this is not

the night for urgency. Always, though,

one exception: beyond the four,

against the back wall, one young woman

works ardently at her laptop, her phone,

a calculator,  oblivious to her surroundings.

To my right, at one of the tall tables

by the Sixth-Street windows, sit a young man

and woman, these too apparently friends

rather than lovers, judging by the

fragments of conversation I overhear:

“And then she says…and then I go…, so he…”

She’s blond, with a stylish short haircut;

he’s dressed simply but well: perfectly fitting

black T-shirt, white jeans, black sandals

(difficult for guys) that are actually cool:

not too clunky, too sporty, or too girly.

They converse across an empty table,

after espresso cups have been cleared.


Two regulars at the bar, one mostly silently,

quaffs half a draught,  not as frothy

as my Belhaven, wanders out for a cigarette,

returns to finish his beer. The other drinks

something red and slushy, discusses alternative

uses for a window-unit air-conditioner:

coffee table, ottoman, that sort of thing.

The bartender, wiry hair held back with

a bandanna, not rushed, but occupied,

being the only one on duty, half-listens

while he works, makes an occasional

jokey response; I’m listening to fragmented

bits of conversation, drifting off;

the traffic light outside blinks green again,

startles me from my reverie for a moment,

I notice the alien art: the current artist

has a thing for Star Wars, apparently;

I’ve not been sufficiently inspired

to take a closer look; it seems well

done, just not quite my thing.


I hear the door behind me, someone

in, or the smoker headed out again.

I’m sure there must be texts, but oddly,

not one of us receives a call, though

all are holding phones.  A hypothetical

caller with usual “What you doing?

would probably get the same answer

from any of us, “Not much, you?”

And, indeed, the unity of the action

is that there is no action, and yet,

this is stasis, not stagnation; our immediate

world seems right tonight, at peace,

or at least our meds are working.


Copyright 2013

T. Allen Culpepper

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