I bet the four flush—

worth next to nothing

but looking to all like the key

to the kingdom of heaven.

 

You told me once

that poker

was half luck

and half bluff.

 

They had just

cleaned you out again

at the Friday night game

above the body shop on Sutter Avenue.

 

You and your six

unemployable friends—

passing a cheap bottle of rye

and shots at each other’s parentage,

 

in a room

full of reefer

and the sweat

of day labor.

 

You told me once

you had no luck—

having given it

all to me.

 

And I pictured a medallion

bestowed upon the younger brother—

no small burden

you’d hung around my neck—

 

as if the family’s fortune

was riding on my narrow shoulders.

“What fortune?”

anyone who knew us might think to ask.

 

“But, you’ll never be a bluffer,

you told me,

for that you need a pair—

and in our family, I got them.”

 

Cold as cobra’s breath

I bet my four spades

and watched

as the better hand folded.

 

You never were a judge of character—

a lifetime

of confusing

friends and enemies.

 

 

Steven Deutsch

 Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. His recent publications have or will appear in RavensPerch, MacQueen’s, 8 Poems, Louisiana Lit, Burningword Literary Journal, The Write Launch, Biscuit Root Drive, Evening Street, Better Than Starbucks, Flashes of Brilliance, SanAntonio Review, Softblow, Mojave River Review, The Broadkill Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Panoply, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib, Thimble Magazine, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Ghost City Review, Borfski Press, Streetlight Press, Gravel, Literary Heist, Nixes Mate Review, Third Wednesday, Misfit Magazine, Word Fountain, Eclectica Magazine, The Drabble, New Verse News and The Ekphrastic Review. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His Chapbook, “Perhaps You Can,” was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory was just published by Kelsay.

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