A debt of heavy storm clouds accrues
overhead, and I duck inside to avoid
the rain come to collect my warmth.
A one dollar beer, a two dollar bet,
I sit down among the other broke men,
a crowd that wouldn’t fill a poetry reading,
who cheer and heckle in Spanish
and Creole, watch the players
jump, catch, twirl, throw, the pelota
slamming with thunder against
the faded fronton— the sound
of a dollar won, a dollar lost.
They dream their bet will pay off big
but regret not buying a bus pass instead
as they walk home hatless through the rain.
I fold my ticket into a tiny paper boat,
concentrate on the point of the bow,
the thickness of the starboard, picture it
floating along the gutter, staying upright
despite the rain’s onslaught until it reaches
the open ocean. Suddenly, applause:
I look up, boat in hand— the game
has ended and I’ve forgotten
who I bet on.
Ariel Francisco is a Dominican-Guatemalan-American poet born in the Bronx and raised in Miami. He is currently completing his MFA at Florida International University where he is also the assistant editor of Gulf Stream Literary Magazine. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, The National Poetry Review, Portland Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Washington Square, and elsewhere, and his chapbook Before Snowfall, After Rain is forthcoming from Glass Poetry Press.