Vegas Fireside Lounge by Oak Morse

Vegas Fireside Lounge

Over fried calamari, your dark ambered Modelo, my rosé,
we cackle like schoolboys in a joaning match,
reckless down memory lane. Like when you wanted to sling
a thousand slurs at your Home Depot Manager
for reprimanding you for your life-length conversations
with customers and moving no faster than a snail. You say,
that wasn’t a real job; I slip you the side-eye because
I still work retail and you are the corporate guy,
even back when The Recession stung like a bunch
of bees ruining a picnic on a pretty afternoon.

You say white collar-money is sweeter than Janet Jackson’s
nipple ring at Half-Time. Classic shit-talking we did, we do,
but now you a bit more than me. You used to buy exotic women
off those expensive websites; you called them hot treats
after a long week. I called them call-girls. You still do that?
Nah, quit years ago, you say. Good, I mumble.

You vacation here, away from your home in San Diego,
convinced me to fly up from Atlanta where you swear
I am the future modern male Badu with my poetry
if I market myself like a maniac—will rally women like birds
to breadcrumbs. We chuckle, me faintly. Flag another round.

Neon lights illuminate from the ceiling.
A helpful kind of homie once, perhaps because you were older,
like your friend who, supposedly, was a mechanical magician,
who gabbed like a pack of preachers in fellowship, and fixed
the wrong thing in my car, starter motor instead of alternator.

All in your favorite city, Lithonia, the place where you said
it took you to find a lesbian to cut your hair the right way.
No one comes close on The West Coast where, you say
the breeze feels like silk on the skin—the reason you relocated
without a job, relied on your new sonic-silver Jeep Wrangler,
Ubering all types, smelling like a fertilizer factory,
decayed fish, but you said it had to do until you get back on your feet.

Seems as though you were always trying to get back
on your feet. You say, Tonight’s calling for cigars,
Padron 7000 Natural, lit with your good old torch lighter.
I say let’s close out this Sunday night in Vegas with it.

Then I walk off to the men’s room.
Linger over the urinal, thinking how these old jokes
are like the rosé I’m drinking, like this bond we seem to have.
They don’t age well, in the lounge blaring Bruno Mars,
near the cascade fountain. There you are, with your
debit card and phone out, buying time with Victoria
on a bright red site. And there I stand, looking at you,
the last line of an unfulfilling book I’m closing.


Oak Morse lives in Houston, Texas, where he teaches creative writing and theatre and leads a youth poetry troop, the Phoenix Fire-Spitters. He was the winner of the 2017 Magpie Award for Poetry in Pulp Literature, a Finalist for the 2023 Honeybee Poetry Award and a Semi-Finalist for the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. A Warren Wilson MFA graduate, Oak has received Pushcart Prize nominations, fellowships from Brooklyn Poets, Twelve Literary Arts, Cave Canem’s Starshine and Clay as well as a Stars in the Classroom honor from the Houston Texans. His work appears in Black Warrior Review, Obsidian, Tupelo, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Nimrod,, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, among others.

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