Men at the Hotel Pool

Men at the Hotel Pool
by Michael Miller 

With a single pale look, the boy casts them as judges.
   Naked but for wet trunks, he sets his glasses down
and shakes his wavy bangs back, his half-soft face
   revealing the bones that his skin will tighten to grip.

The tournament starts here and the course lies before him,
   by the tanned, sullen girl who flops on the recliner
and hasn’t moved in an hour. With the bottles all open
   and the women—elsewhere—defined by doctor bills

and names, the man at the edge of the bar whips out
   a cigar from Havana. Best smoke in the world says
she looks at him, he mutters. Five dollars says no, another
   voice grunts back. Since the four of them sat down,

the boy has swum beside her, taken the recliner
   next to hers and pretended to read. Her shades
point skyward, hair and breasts splayed in the sun.
   Twelve or so, his chin just old enough

to dodge any comforting hand beneath it,
   he meanders toward the board now. This walk
they remember: too careful to be cocky, too smooth
   to watch the footing, eyes pink from chlorine

but no grimace from the sting. At the board’s tip,
   he stretches, fingertips slowly pressed together,
then heaves forward—blindly, they know—his form
   a perfect stiff line, the surface dashed, then still again.

When the girl sits up, the dollars change fingers.
   She furrows her brow, slides the shades on again.
The boy sits by her, pleased, this spot his undisputed,
   the reward for upsetting whatever odds there were.

From Michael's upcoming book, Angels in Seven, which is due from Tebot Bach this year.

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