Poetry by Mark Terrill • Art by Teresa Getty
Under the Neon Cactus
First I was a substance, then I was a cause.
Then they destroyed me, then they birthed me again,
and there I was, sitting on a stool in the womb-like
cobwebbed nautical ambience of the Texas Bar in Lisbon,
just a bottle’s throw from the harbor, knocking back
cervejas and cognacs, not just as some dumb pub-crawling
tourist but with a bona-fide Merchant Mariner’s Document
with full Qualified Member of the Engine Department rating
and wages to burn, a thirst to be slaked, and a bone to be
picked with fate & foreordainment, but fully prepared
to receive the contraries allotted to my person
with suitable dignity and magnanimous grace.
An ancient whore whose youthful beauty
had not been totally annihilated by the ravages of time
sidled up next to me on an adjacent bar stool and we began
to merrily dissect the vicissitudes of love and money.
Some KLM pilots and flight crew at the other end of the bar
said I looked like Donald Sutherland and bought me a drink.
I reciprocated the gesture and relapsed deep into my inner-
mind and began to consider the Attributes—on the bad days
you wished they had an end; on the good days you can never
count them all, while in the interim you continue to excavate
that gritty crevice between the Disguised & the Overt,
a lullaby from Eros bombinating in your ear.
What Runs the Game
The money exchanges hands
but the value of those hands
That image—if it is indeed an image—
is riding with me today,
a co-pilot of sorts,
so that when she opens her mouth
to speak of living things
and what comes out is dead—
dead as a pile of banknotes and coins—
a language in which only the poorest
would dare to speak—
my feet are still anchored
firmly on the ground,
although my pockmarked fealty
to the lesser truths may be signalling
the termination of my social contract
during the rise and fall of
these times we might have lived in
vaingloriously or otherwise.