portion of the artwork for Meridith Gresher's poetry
The Narrator Hangs Out in a Bar (Pling)
Meridith Gresher

I was at this bar facing the row of pin-
ball machines that stood at the back wall
behind the tables of regulars who each
sat alone eating their lunch in the dark
drinking off what was left of their livers and
smoking off what was left of their lungs.

They never spoke to me. I wanted to play
the game. The slot was embedded in
the ceiling. I couldn’t throw my quarter
straight, so the regulars started doing it
for me. They would get close and pling.
They did not talk, the regulars. Pling.

The sound, the pling, of falling quarters
was like bells. Winning bells of the game.
Wedding bells of a cathedral. Pling.
Pling. One hit a bulls-eye. Pling.
I was playing. I talked to them about Helen
while they ate and I played. They ate so

silently as if they did not enjoy Buffalo
chicken wings and French dips and fries
and Mexi-cali burgers. I told them Helen
was staying with me for a while at my apartment
across from Andretti speed zone. I swiped
a fry. I swiped several fries. Pling. I was

winning. The Greeks grew oranges the size of musk
melons. Oranges that made juice without pulp
and gave soldiers strength like gods;
this is how they won the battle of Troy.
The oranges were from Alcinious. Imported.
Helen told me this is true: big musk melon

oranges won the war for Agamemnon
who won the war for that sad so and so
Menelaus who had an axe to grind. I guess.
He used to feed Helen from the garden of Alcinious.
Then as now, he makes war with ancient elixirs.
Even so, boys died; no medicine is foolproof from fools or sword’s blade.

I can see into these men’s eyes.
I can see into their pasts. They already know wars of their own.