Poetry 2014 / Volume 45

The Oldest Guy in the Arcade — John Grey

One pin-ball machine
in the arcade,
just the one nod
to the ancestors
of all these new-fangled machines.
I don’t want to drive at Indy,
wipe out aliens, gangstas, monsters,
ski down precipices,
pilot rocket ships through meteor showers.

These thumbs, these fingers,
are designed for flippers,
and these ears are trained
to the thump of steel balls
on lit-up bumpers,
while these eyes get high
on dazzling lights and
ever-increasing scores
rattling around the midriff
of some painted seductress.

I can tip the machine
without tilting.
I can will the silver pill
wherever I want it,
into the triple rewards,
away from the side alleys.

And the owner has the nerve to say
he’s getting rid of this machine.
“Can’t get the parts,” he sneers.
Just like the doctor
when I can’t piss without pain,
or bend my knee,
or drink like I used to.

I should get that doc
to look at all these highest scores…
every one is my initials.
Okay, so I no longer beat my best
But I can rack up free game
after free game
like they’re the days that I’ve still got coming.

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