Poems by Todd Swift (Canada/ UK). Published in Issue 25.
She was the poker hand that wasn’t played,
In Budapest they said, the best kiss is the one
You never had. And they drowned in the Danube
On days when a sad song was played in taxis
And the bridges saw the drivers give up all hope.
The smoke is thick, the players gob into spittoons;
Somewhere a kid with brass knuckles leans
Against a door that has a little window that slides
Open to let in the big spenders, keep out the feds.
It’s not a good trope, Poker, but it has to do –
What other game would you use instead?
For cheating, cards is always best. For bluffing,
Croquet makes little sense. They’ll toss you deep
And heavy and then no more half-lies, half-truths.
But no, sex and desire aren’t games, only,
Though love is trivial, and can be faked.
What can’t be fiction is what drives one to a liaison –
The high note singing in the blood, the crazy pulse –
That cocktail of fear and hard-on, wetness and fright –
Where doing with the other everything you want
Is all one wants of day and gets of night –
Even when the doing is not precisely right – the pulling
Off, the sliding down, the touch that turns to bite –
It always happens in a dizzy noon of hope and dread –
How the hands are thrown down by the foot of a bed.
Todd Swift is senior lecturer in creative writing at Kingston University London and poet-in-residence at Oxfam GB. His poetry collections include Seaway: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2008). He is the founder of Eyewear Publishing.