October 2018

Photo by Mireille Eagan

Girls night out, we’ve been here for days

trying to win at Bingo. The fog so thick

on the smoking side of the hall we swim in it:

we’re swans floating above a collective common sense.


Every Friday night spent waiting for the Bingo Bus,

all the Nans chanting storms at the sky daring the rain to try

and bring them downer than the whiskey gone and done

to their husbands’ eyes.


Fish again for supper, each man complained,

spitting up bones, the plate good as untouched,

while on the long sulk walk off to bed they’d throw her

a couple of tens for Bingo.


On the hitch for B12, Nan was preparing to jump

clear out of the water if she won. She’d fly through night skies

with an envelope of loose twenties:

cash to buy enough B12 to get her through the winter.


If she won, maybe she’d be happy enough she’d want to live

forever, quitting smoking of her own volition.

I imagined her growing new lungs, this time made of steel,

regenerating like a baby starfish.


If she won, she would buy me a few more pull-tabs,

the dissimilar lines of rejected luck already sprawling

under the bingo tables, the same as the kind that litter

the grounds during summer Folk Festivals.


If she won, I’d try to hide the money under my pillow,

knowing the winnings would just disappear in smoke

if she had at them. If I kept her away from all this cash

would she keep on living?


If she lost, us grand-daughters of kind women

who just wanted a bit of pocket money

that didn’t come from a husband’s sock drawer

would be quiet on the bus home.


Nan shoots daggers at the miser calling B9, B9!

Wants me to have nothing! Neither trace of the grace of God here today!

I decide gambling is a waste of time,

collect enough floor change for a chocolate bar.


Nan slams her fists, slams her tinnitus,

her own ill wishes ringing for hours inside her ears.

I notice the other Nans around us, looking half dead,

painting war lines under the eyes with their blue and red dabbers.


We’ve been here for years

listening to the worn down sounds

of women complaining when their tickets

or their men are duds.


I turn my sights to the Benevolent Man behind the Bingo balls,

picking at his lips—his dead skin flaking,

falling into his glass of Pepsi,

the ice long since melted.


A disgusting creature, he can call for hours until the jackpot goes,

his skin shedding all the time like the snake he is, I knew Nan would say,

the nerve of him smiling at the women going home

to their husbands empty-handed.


I keep crawling around the floor of the hall, foraging for change,

scooping up free pennies, dimes, stuffing them fast

into my khaki green fanny pack, the apocalyptic fashion statement

Y2K would be remembered for.


Under the table I hide, playing with the ripped-up bingo cards,

fashioning spectacular dories. Me, a paper boat princess.

I could probably paddle around, though no one taught me how to fish

as I’m a girl.

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