Malik runs Three Card Monte
from an upturned crate. In the rubbish
end of Seven Sisters Rd — junk,
counterfeit designer shell-suits, derros
squeaking trollies over rotten fruit.
Splinters in his swift fingers,
embalmed mongoose by his side.
I learned fast not to challenge his cryptic hands
or chase the disappearing cloak he drew tight
before he ran into the Seven Sisters crowd.
Now, I play second patter, pale clown
in a laugh-tragedy, dropping a fiver, winning loudly,
heckling the glassy mongoose eyes,
petting the coarse fur, cackling Irish luck, creating
the suspect furrow of sound players discover.
There’s a crumpled fortune in sweaty pockets
awaiting the graceful fingers of liberation. We
roust the crowd. Numbers mean players,
means money, means one more chance
to slip this infernal knot.
His patter is perfect. ‘Malik, like the Parisian
market; Malik with the gypsy face.’ Points
at his stuffed mongoose. ‘One touch, sir,
for luck.’ A player steps forward, drawn
into the web. Lips move, fingers arch.
| || ||
Rico Craig’s first poetry collection, BONE INK, is available
from Guillotine Press. Recent writing can be found in London
Magazine, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Glasgow Review
of Books. He has been shortlisted for the University of Canberra
Poetry Prize and the Newcastle Poetry Prize. His poem Angelo was awarded
third prize in the Dorothy Porter prize by Meanjin. For