Sunday, April 2, 2017

Ode to Raoul's Bar

walking down prince st. in new york city,
I past west broadway,
and reach raoul's, a bar
that is two years older than me –
when it opened its doors
to the Soho of 1954. 

next door there was
a bakery called vesuvius,
across the way a tailor called Mack's
and on the corner, a news kiosk 
called NEWS for generations,
all long gone.  Raoul's green awning
still shelters poor, reservationless souls,
from the rain or snow.

Warm inside, covered with laughter
and tablecloths bright white 
even in the dim candle light.
The bartender's been wiping down
this pink backlit mahogany for thirty years.
He keeps his martini glasses
on the bar filled with ice, 
and knows more than he tells.
Always order the steak au poivre.
The tables are sardine packed. A rickety
staircase spirals to the second-floor WC.

The main wall of the small dining room is
a huge oil painting of a languorous, reclining,
nude woman of indeterminate age; 
various and sundry other works,
like members of an imperial court,
are crammed around her, for she is the queen.
The artists of old Soho traded works for meals
before they all fled the encroaching armies
of  Armani and Starbucks.

There is gilt on the chandelier 
and that one sconce over there.
with a faded elegance that likely never was.

Raoul hides here and never ventures too far.
He is clever enough to know that an old gentleman
presents best in his own library, 
where he has read all the books
twice, and knows the just one to recommend
for your brief sojourn in his home.

..NaPoWriMo 1917 #3

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