IN WINTER’S DEAD HEART by Raymond Marble

Clouds overcast — November gray — tattered boot men stack boxes in the alley behind Goodwill …

Old men laugh at small curious jokes and eat hot dogs bought from a vendor. All dreams cease down by the mission as transients gather to drink thin soup and mutter tales of an old Texas border town.

Down by the river free men shiver gambling with dirty dice. Young boys gather in tribal troops — black fingernails pick nits and lice — down by the river free men shiver, their hearts are made of ice.

On the horizon factory stacks spew giving the men strange cancers that hurt and grow. The young boys start fires in heaps of old tires and huddle together for warmth

The geese fly surpassing the mortal men.

Cold bristle winds caress the tired old men who yawn and smoke and joke. The air smells of burnt wood smoke. The thin men wander as they search for short quarters, some way to get out of the heavy cold. They snuggle beneath newspaper beds use tattered boot pillows, and eat sugar-powdered donuts half devoured by moldy decay.

A skeleton tips his green felt hat.

Rich men huddle in prisons made of glass, they can not keep out of the cold. These blue suit men make deals in basements as they drill holes in one another’s skulls.

The servants travel home on foot, they go home to tar-paper shacks, and strapped to their backs, dirty clothes sacks and cans of stolen food. They scrape together crumbs and rub icy fingers against swollen numb limbs, and watch shadow ghosts linger around open candle flames.

Down by the mission the dark men gather telling dirty jokes

Uptown on the corner, an old whore tells a tale of a handsome John who has fallen in love with a young harlot in some neon motel room. The new girls touch small fingers against their pink mink robe and then giggles sweetly at the absence of snow

Out on the highways the truckers masturbate and think of their wives home alone sleeping with the boy next door, they have to stay warm when they are alone out on the open road.

Coldness seeps into rooms under quilts and heavy covers; he slowly makes love to his wife.

The men with gold teeth eat medium rare beef in lonely corner haunts, and down the street, the poets meet in a dismal coffee house. They write sonnets on winter and discuss the purpose of life:

“It ain’t that cold. I ain’t that old.
(I shiver because I’m here.)”

At the corner church, the new girls flirt making eyes at the white collar men.

Down by the river little children shiver their stomachs full of hard beans. Their hearts are so empty, Father hasn’t come home again and Mama had to borrow lard from the bad man next door.

Now on the strip the strippers strip in order to keep themselves warm. Deep in the bars the old men snore and pull at yellow whiskered chins. They down another ounce of warm whiskey to keep their bloated stomachs warm. Runaway girls dance under bright blue lights as they rub against fathers and friends.

Down by the river a wayward child shivers and eats dried fruit from a bag.

Clouds over cast a pale orange moon.  The sun, she sets much to soon. Gold tooth men stack boxes of second hand clothes, these tattered boot men of Goodwill.

Down by the river cold things shiver, in the hearts of dead winter everyone is cold.

THE END

* * *

Raymond Marble lives with his beauitful wife and fourteen cats on a small Texas ranch.  His hobbies include cheese making, grave digging and traveling the great USA looking for indelible bits of Americana.

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