Ft. Lauderdale, Fl USA
The bar was just an ordinary, nondescript affair,
A raw of stools with checkered tables scattered here and there
And clientele whose faces traced the passage of the years
Recounting faded memories over twenty-five cent beers.
I don't know when he wandered in but, looking at his face,
Even in a dive like that, the bum seemed out of place.
Perhaps the rain had driven him as it had driven me
To find whatever refuge from the downpour off the sea.
At any rate, he shook so badly he could barely stand
And held a wrinkled photograph clenched tightly in his hand.
A drunk sat on one barstool, clothes and hair in disarray,
And, as the bum approached him, I could hear the old man say
"One beer for my sweet Rosie, sir. Just one small beer, I pray.
A tribute to my sweetheart who has up and gone away.
One beer to drink in memory of the one I held so dear,
My Rosie would be grateful if you'll grant me one small beer."
I wouldn't have thought the drunk to be awake, much less be able
To hear the old man's plea or see the photo on the table,
But, as he looked, one finger rose to call the barman near
And, in a voice stone sober, said "Jim, give this man a beer."
I must admit I was surprised at this strange turnabout
For I was sure as anything he'd throw the old bum out,
And would have expected anything except for what I'd heard.
The old man drained the glass and left without another word.
Two teens were playing pinball in one corner of the bar
And, as the old man neared them, I KNEW there would be a war!
The bum waved Rosie's picture and began the same tirade
Just barely heard above the din the pinball buzzers made.
One boy took the photograph and, as he looked, his face
Rose above the cheapness and the squalor of the place.
He nudged the other, who had let the pinball disappear,
And, in one voice, they called aloud, "Jim, give this man a beer!
Curiosity enfolded me at what had taken place
And must confess I burned with strong desire to see that face.
What eyes could be so piercing or what nose could be so dear?
What face could be so beautiful to warrant so much beer?
One by one, he made his rounds and showed the photograph.
Each patron stared intently - there was not one single laugh,
And, as they gave it back to him, I knew now what I'd hear -
Clear voices calling, one by one, "Jim, give this man a beer!"
"Hey! Let me see that photograph", I called with laughing voice.
"I'll tell you if your Rosie would be something of my choice.
Just let me have a little look," I added, with a leer
"And, if she's pretty as you say, you'll have another beer!"
The bum approached me timidly and not a single sound
Escaped his features as he reached and lay the photo down.
Just why his fingers trembled as he did it wasn't clear
But I was sure as anything it wouldn't cost a beer!
I snatched the photo quickly and I held it to my eyes
And, as I looked, my features filled with anger and surprise.
Was I to be a laughingstock? The victim of some prank?
The features on the photograph in front of me were blank!
I glared up at the old man, my eyes blazing angrily
And saw a room of stone-cold faces staring back at me.
Confusion made me falter at this stand the barroom took
So I picked the photo up again to have another look.
By staring at the photo I could see the faintest trace
0f golden hair cascading down the outline of a face.
The photo had been carried, kissed and handled so darn much
Her features had almost been wiped clean by this bum's loving touch!
How long had this old-timer carried Rosie gingerly
While seeking solace in a beer to ease the memory?
I fought the wetness in my eyes and spoke up loud and clear
These words, "She's beautiful, my friend. Jim, give this man a beer."