Closing Ritual
Steven D. Schroeder

Sunday night, Monday
     morning really, smoke
          still embalming the room,

she gathers full ashtrays
     from empty tables, retreats
          behind the bar and prepares

to scour with the same rag
     she wipes on wood scars
          and soggy cardboard

coasters. The jukebox
     volume stumbles brokenly
          as it coughs up "Free Fallin’"

for the ninth time tonight.
     Dumping the remains
          from plastic urns,

she scrubs—pausing
     only to taste her own
          cigarette and brush back

restless bangs—until the cloth
     soaks black and her hands
          seem bitter and poisonous.

She grinds lotion
     over the odor. Closing
          time in fifteen minutes.

A stranger at the end
     of the bar plays video-crack,
          and Denny D shoots darts

with his crew, who’ll beg
     for a final pitcher of Bud
          and blow the keg. She reaches

for her ashtray, ignores
     the others—each one holds
          tiny dying splinters.