Stuart Stromin is a South African-born writer and filmmaker, living in Los Angeles. He was educated at Rhodes University, South Africa, the Alliance Francaise de Paris, and UCLA. His work has appeared before in Sheila-Na-Gig online, River River, Blood Puddles, 500 miles, The Cynic, and other journals.
On a rainy night, a
cigarette – flicked through the ajar
window of a moving car in traffic –
lands with a splash of sparks,
like the flint of horse hooves struck
on cobblestone paths.
We drank champagne
in the cathedral
from communion cups.
the baptism of a baby.
Sweet rods of rainwater shimmer
in the funnel of the streetlamp’s glow.
Let me light you up.
Slow down before the slippery curve.
A riderless mare
gallops back to the stable
with a wet saddle.
There is nothing but the gloom of soggy cigarette stubs,
spiked by the haphazardly falling rain,
dying somewhere in the night.
Without further adieu,
pack up the boxes, luggage,
birdcage, hatstand, toaster,
and bundle up our dreams
Like diamonds on velvet
plucked into a bag by tweezers
like stars on a sullen sky
rolled up for morning
all memories put away for safekeeping
keys that jingle in your pocket
words that jangle in your head
It’s closing time.
A young man turns off the heat lamps
on the terrace, stacks the stools,
and shakes off sodden bar-mats.
I watch your taillights
disappear down the boulevard,
tarpaulin flapping on the back
of a pickup truck.
Fade to black on the final scene,
and walk away like Steve McQueen.
The only human in a house of ghosts
putters around in flannel pajamas
with big blind buttons.
He does not need slippers on the smooth hardwood floors
children scratched with toys.
He allows himself a single tumbler of rum.
Hungry or fed,
the cat, running on an inner motor,
shares companionship when all the phantoms
Upstairs, downstairs, under high ceilings,
the grand space is full of light.
A wisp of wind moans through the trees outside,
half-heartedly teasing the sea-shell chimes along the eaves.
They do not rise from coffins,
rattling their wooden bones.
He has nothing to fear from them,
partaking of his luxuries.
He is so proud to be a man among ghosts,
admitted, proven worthy, like a barefoot dancer
stamping across a length of fiery coals
in a pit dug into beachsand.
A galleon full of cargo heads for the horizon.
Every memory is a trophy.
One by one, the rooms reveal their stories
like a buccaneer’s chest as the lid yawns open,
It has slipped through his fingers, but
he still remembers all the old haunts.