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Robert Beveridge

Queen of Pentacles

The bar is only less than dim
when the door opens, just before dusk
and she enters, metal box strapped
to her back, as it has been
every afternoon, she tells me,
for the past fifty-one years.
A dollar a tamale, six for five
and she hasn’t raised her prices
since the day Newt Gingrich
signed the Contract with America.

I’ve never been a fan of that texture,
the mix of sand and dough, a filling
that never has enough spice to balance,
but I know I’ll have to drive in eight
or nine hours, and this well bourbon
isn’t gonna absorb itself, so five bucks
later there’s a bamboo leaf in front of me,
six tamales still cornhusked across it.

I finish my drink, stick another five
in the mouth for a refill, pull out
my pocketknife. The tie falls away
like the alcohol-aided hours of wait
between the time you get to the bar
and the time the show’s supposed to start
(an entirely different increment
than that between the time the show
is supposed to start and the time
the show begins). She
had completed her rounds,
walked straighter as she opened
the door again to almost full dark
and the clamor of bands unloading
trailers outside. My red

fingers unrolled the first
tamale, and after another
half-cup of Kentucky courage
bit into it, the chile-tomato kick
giving way to velvet through
the mantle to a core
of ground beef, fire, and sunset.

There is nothing, it turns out,
that pairs with a perfect tamale
as well as well-ridden Kentucky oak,
and for the next ten minutes,
instead of a sweaty, dim bar
in Chicago, I sat
in a cantina on a border
that doesn’t exist
with a pile of napkins
that appeared with my last
drink and five more
homemade tamales, spicy fingers,
and no chance to thank
this new patron saint
who lifted the scales from my eyes.

Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise ( and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Page and Spine, The Pointed Circle, and Failed Haiku, among others.


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