Talk About Luck

Poem by George Lober. Photo by Jill Burhans.

Here’s one for you: a December night
forty-three years ago, and five friends
sit like stiffs in a two room apartment
in front of a black and white TV,
each of us with a bottle of Brown Derby
in our hands, determined to see who
will run out of luck when New York
Representative Alexander Pirnie
reaches into a jar and grabs the first
of three hundred and sixty-six capsules
big enough to choke a man.  This happens
the year the Stones let it bleed, the Mets
win the Series, and the Selective Service
decides in one night which young men
will be free to quit school and take a job,
or apply to grad school, or plan a family;
which others will live in Limbo
for a year, and which ones will risk
killing or dying in a country as far
and foreign as the other side of the moon.
This is the year Danny McAllister’s
birthday is drawn ninth, and he says,
“Fuck, I’m going to die,” and no one
speaks or contradicts him. The year
I refuse to take my eyes from the screen
until the two-hundred and seventy-fifth
date is drawn, and I am home free
to catch the look on his face as he starts
to leave and Willie Le Blanc offers
soberly to do Danny a favor by breaking
his knee with a crackback block,
and free also that night to realize how
the grasp of a man three thousand
miles away picked who would likely live
and who would roll the dice,
and how bingo luck had favored me—
so that next year when my birth date
will be drawn first and Danny has
disappeared forever, nothing
will seem as arbitrarily sweet as that
December night, or linger in my mouth
for years with an after taste so bitter. 

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