The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Stan Sanvel Rubin

Scene Requiring Pathos


In the movie version of my life,
Robert Mitchum, a little paunchy
but still steely eyed and gravel-voiced,
leans with poised nonchalance
against a scarred wall in The Tired Elk.
The room is filled
with noisy cowboys but despite
his many failures, he takes no guff.
There’s been a fight
and there will be another.
He’s a spring coiled
to explode when it needs to,
no wasted energy of body or mind.
Just biding his time.
It’s a controlled lethargy,
like a panther pacing in a cage
who spots Rilke standing
outside the bars taking notes
but doesn’t stop pacing.
You don’t need a gun
when you’re like that,
dangerous quiet loner
trapped in your life,
pretending to accept it
but always ready for action.
Pint size Veronica Lake brushes by
on her way to the bar, muttering
Out of my way, you cheap crook,
the way she jostles Brian Donleavy aside
in The Glass Key, and I think maybe
now it’s time. But maybe
I’ve been trying too hard
at everything, including this.




STAN SANVEL RUBIN has published in many national magazines. His fourth full collection, There. Here., was published by Lost Horse Press in 2013. His third, Hidden Sequel, won the Barrow Street Poetry Book Prize. He lives on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.



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