Letter to Bernadette Mayer ~ poetry by Andrew Romanelli

Letter to Bernadette Mayer
March 13th, 2020

I’m drunk and in the dream of how things get written.
Not eating
  running at least three miles a day,
water and some good rye
from out east of Salt Lake
 tides me over.

I have been fostering this idea
where I send you some money
soon as I win at keno.

Problem there is
this city I was born into
is built by loss.

 Out the gate, straight up,
I should have just sent you the scratch.
 Feels so rude in the hand though,
no matter what we do for it.

  I thought I’d dress it slim,
let it hop from desert to walk up, with a story.
“Give everybody everything” you say.

I was nearing an abandonment of this plan
because I kept losing but Bernadette, I was writing
and meeting people and forgetting and it was great.
I figured I would mail other money off to you
and tell of my failure. You’d laugh maybe.

Late afternoon I set off in the rain,
a tantrum celebration of Kerouac’s birthday.
I bussed it for a po’boy special at No Butcher
but never made it in time the rain the squeaky stops…
I was scribbling rough verse in a pocket.
I felt the sadness, the masks wearing people.

Bernadette, the adult playground of the world
is beautiful when there is no one about,
and it illuminates ever more brightly
under a fresh layer of rain.
You should see the lights hazed
 there is not a soul to seduce.

I attend this class on Irish beers
at a big box liquor store
where my friend Cory works.
Me and the two other attendees
babble it up and I with a drunk’s knowledge
speak on the lease of 9,000 years,
Frank McCourt, the IRA,
and how to just say no to Protestant whiskey.
Oh Tullamore the livers, the livers are calling!
Give me that humbuzz mouthfeel.
The tongue a feral thing, rapacious in amber waves.
Who knows next when we will be out together.
I drink to sustain a never-end.
  I’m sentimental.

I wander off and over to a grocery store with a bar.
I chopstick vegan sushi
and watch the uneasy language of body
pass all around me and I start ordering any beer
that has a name peculiar to me.

I have an hour until Cory is off his work.
I listen to contractors fresh from a convention.
My bartender says he used to lay brick and misses it.
I say yes ah ok lemme go this sure I’ll want the that thank you mmm.

With the rain forgetting itself,
Cory finds me and we slink into the back of our ride,
off to the Dive Bar and our driver lowers the music to listen to us,
our untrusting theories on panic pandemics and what this may all mean.
What do we know anyway, any different from anyone else?

Folding inside the deep lack of light we enter the bar.
I wave over shot and a beer, shot and a beer, shot and ugh beer.
My friend pulls long, babysat sips from an Oly
as I ease a wrinkled twenny into the machine
and swipe an impossible swath of five numbers on classic keno.

I’m also feeding Cory funny singles
to keep the jukebox talking obscure nineties and raw seventies punk.
Now I’m just whiskey and any beer that has the guts to chase me.
My twenny in the machine is dwindling but I forgive myself of worry.

I move my syrupy eyes elsewhere,
glazing all over my fellow patrons.
I make snap judgements in the form of songs
based on each of them and their conversations.
I yell out and over to Cory:

I Wanna Be Your Dog
In the Meantime
You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory

Then it happens Bernadette—I win!
I cash out, buy rounds for the foreheads pressed on bar.
I send Cory off in a car, and then myself—home/yeah/sure.
When I don’t wake up in time for work, I get the call.
Boss says “Hey, I think it would be best—
if you started working from home—
at least for the next few weeks.”

They say we shouldn’t touch it—cash,
these Jacksons reek
of cheap blow heavy on the gasoline.
They remain in my pocket,
a reminder of madcap schemes.
I hear your spot is taking it the worst
so, I send some electronically.

Hey Bernadette, you think after all this,
people will understand
how much we need everything.

Andrew Romanelli is a slot machine in a supermarket, an unrelenting flâneur, a Holy Joe of neologisms, born and raised in Las Vegas. His most recent pieces published online are “My Clothes Donated to the Shadow of the Stratosphere” and “‘Our community continues to share!’ Resistance in the shadows of Las Vegas casinos.”