“Cards” by Jonathan K. Rice


           circa 1965

It’s time for the monthly bridge club
my parents host with couples
from other neighborhoods
and it’s our turn. My role is minimal.

I’m told to stay in my room,
but to first greet everyone and say goodnight,
just not be seen and not play my records.
Preferably not make any noise at all.

I decide to read The Island of Dr. Moreau
I bought at the school book fair that morning,
maybe play around with the crystal radio I built from a kit.

Before long I can hear people laughing,
ice clinking. I can smell the vermouth, gin,
the occasional cigarette.

I open the window, take off the screen
and climb out behind the tall hibiscus,
dodging palmetto bugs and lizards,

steal away into the night down the block
where older kids hang by the street light.
The newspaper boy has a zip gun he made
with some pipe from a nearby construction site.

He says it will shoot .22 bullets
and he has a pocketful. I can see the cars
in the driveway and along the street
in front of my house.

The kid shoots his zip gun. It sounds like a
firecracker, and we hear broken glass. He loads
it again. More fireworks. More broken glass.
And it’s all in front of my house.

We run in different directions.
I run toward a neighbor’s backyard
around to my window.

I hear the needle scratch vinyl, screeching
through my dad’s bossa nova record
while men cuss. This is not what Bridge
usually sounds like.

I hear poker chips being thrown and stacked,
the hardness of bottles and glasses on the table,
doors opening and closing, people coming and going.
footsteps down the hallway.

The screen and window back in place,
I pick up my book. Mom comes in,
finds me reading H.G.Wells.


About the Author: Jonathan K. Rice edited Iodine Poetry Journal for seventeen years. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Killing Time (2015), Ukulele and Other Poems (2006) and a chapbook, Shooting Pool with a Cellist (2003), all published by Main Street Rag Publishing. He is also a visual artist. His poetry and art have appeared in numerous publications, including Cold Mountain Review, Comstock Review, Diaphanous, Empty Mirror, Gargoyle, Inflectionist Review, Levure Litteraire, The Main Street Rag, Wild Goose Poetry Review and the anthologies, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race and The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina.


More by Jonathan K. Rice

“Springmaid Pier”


Image Credit: “Detroit, Michigan. Poker hand and hands of girl players” (1941) Arthur S. Siegel. from The Library of Congress

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