The one I used to know seemed scripted to lose,
maybe break even. If Chilly lost his stake,
he still had a lifetime of bleak second tries.
A happy man he was not. How many of us
are humanly happy, he said, and who doesn’t live
an agony of chance and hereafters?
I’m doomed, or I am doom itself, I think.
He really talked like that. The Jersey casinos
knew and suffered him until they didn’t.
I see him now in offtrack betting joints.

And here he is, picking up his meds.
The white coat fills the script while hapless Chill,
christened Achilles by his mom, kills time
sampling Our Two Hearts Meet At Last,
and Bless Your Baby Girl. The fluorescence
freezes down on aspirin jars, floss,
Q-tip packs, almond lotions, razor blades
and us, and him, the uncertain, the almost-lost.
I watch him shoplift one I can’t quite read.
He pockets it and forgets the envelope.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 42 Number 2, on page 32
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