A summer day in Central Park was ruined.
Joe stood her up, and on her birthday, too.
She sought a quiet bar, its neon flash
Of welcome promising a happy hour,
Distilling loneliness. Where should she sit?
A table backed into a corner: was
It taken? Was that book abandoned, ditched?
A play by A. Casella; cracked spine, bent
Against its will: Death Takes a Holiday,
Gray lettering like tombstone cursive, hard
To read. An accidental birthday gift
Distracts, helps bury sadness, page by page.
A cork was popped. Two flutes appeared. “To you!”
A stranger's palm was sanding her forearm.
His dark wool cape, peculiar for July,
Unfolded not unlike a waking dream
Before the soul has one last chance to flee.
A rose the cloth touched wilted. “Let's drink up!”
The room felt drained of light. The ceiling flew
Away. Escaping seemed impossible.
His stare collapsed her will. He grabbed the book,
Which crumbled, tumbled into heaps of dust.
She tried to speak, but words were squeaks, her lungs
Deprived of oxygen, her face ash-skinned,
As nervous fingers stilled, relinquishing.
The bartender announced, “Enjoy free wine
To celebrate our Independence Day!”
Folks crowded the counter, lured by free cabernet.
Dissolving from their midst, his work done here,
He pocketed the play — what was left of it —
His rare amusement carelessly displayed,
Astute. Death never takes a holiday.
Author’s note: Inspired by
La Morte in Vacanza (1924), a play by Alberto Casella