David Salner


A mirror hangs over the bar, showing me
a big man on a stool, seating himself
with some difficulty. Now we're shoulder to shoulder,
two beefy men. He's probably a salesman, after a day
of nibbles and no bites; I'm a steelworker, tired out
and ready to drink. He's the well-dressed one.
He grins nervously and seems to be in need
of saying something deeper than I want to hear.
"I've had a lot of unsuccess," he says.
Why not just say failure? I ask myself.
He orders a round for both of us. "Thanks," I grunt,
not exactly pleased to be sharing a drink
with a man whose unsuccess is so apparent.
I catch another glimpse of the two men in the mirror,
shoulder to shoulder. "No failures, per se,"
he says, a little loud above the music, "but a lot
of unsuccess. It's like when you play basketball as a kid—
you're never going to become Allen Iverson, ever,
so you could hardly be classed a failure when you don't,
despite the years of practicing fakes and no-looks.
The way things worked out—" and here he pauses
for his voice to tighten like a wrench
over the syllables—"I was a major unsuccess."
His fingers drum the bar beside his drink.
"My wife is cooking dinner," I tell him,
my shoulders conveying the apology. "Thanks for the drink."
The barstool squeaks, as I stand up,
hold the last of my watery drink before my eyes,
in a gesture more heartfelt, toss it down.
"I've had my share of unsuccess," I nod at him
and leave. "I could write a book about it."

David Salner worked at manual labor for twenty-five years as an iron ore miner, steelworker, furnace tender, and machinist; his fourth collection of poems, John Henry's Partner Speaks, is now available from Word Tech at www.wordtechweb.com/salner.html.  His work has appeared in Threepenny Review and Prairie Schooner, and new poems are in current or forthcoming issues of Atlanta Review, Southern Humanities Review, High Desert Journal, and Elixir.



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