David Cappella


I have heard about how the old-timers do it.

How they sit around at the store in town and play

their cribs with weathered hands that hold cards

still and straight as though they were sighting deer

and ready to pull the trigger. Instead it’s fifteen-two

fifteen-four and the right jack…all the while

they gab about what isn’t even here but what

their running noses tell them to ponder, what their backs

(the pain notched above the hip) throb into them.


Today I noticed them in there beyond the beer

sitting and talking and sizing me up

warm and self-assured but just as skeptical

as any card skipped across the table.

They stare down winter, these old-timers they look

for signs to carry them along. They have their own store

where they display talk on little, invisible shelves;

their remarks sit like canned goods I might buy someday.


They have their way about change these men.

They play with it like those cards they shuffle —

with a slippery finality,  no second thoughts at all.

One says, holding his suspenders just above his shirt pocket,

you can measure caterpillar heads for sure…

then there’s raccoon fur and onion skins, too.

His partner steals a point. With a cough

brief enough to interrupt, he says that wasps

nesting high up in branches says lots, of course.


 He says watch squirrels to see if they bounce,

weigh cornhusks or check to see if frogs are sleeping

deeper in the mud. He puffs a bent Camel.

‘Yessuh. Keep an eye on hawks they say.’

He bends over the crib on his good elbow, staring

back up at me with the wide-eyed look of smelling a skunk.

Sinking back into his chair, he exhales a ‘Look at pig spleens.’


Damn these old geezers, these puckish curmudgeons.

They do not jump at twenty-four hands, at anything

let alone a season that is still far off.

So I turn away and head to the counter with a six-pack,

mumbling about a broken barometer at grandma’s house

whose needle always pointed to a smiling UNSETTLED.