by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block
Third Place, February 2022
Judged by Carol Graser

A rundown Vet’s club. Plush forty years ago.
Sticky floor, gum under tables, sawdust
on the dance floor. Nobody dancin’.

Two guys in the back shootin’ snooker.
A little black man in a sharkskin suit,
a size too big, sits at the piano. He’s been

told he sings like Satchmo. In his youth
he headlined for a well-known band.
The vets’ wives ask him to do the one,

“You know, the one.” He smiles, downs
a seven and seven, takes a long drag,
lays a burning Camel on the glass ashtray

piled high with butts. It’s thirty years ago,
thirty-one. He’s been headlining Fridays
and Saturdays at the VFW for the last five

years. Short order cook during the week.
Drinks on the house. Cardboard sign
taped to front door. His name in stencils.

I like the story of this poem, it's both compelling and clear. The writer has also given us a wonderful ending. --Carol Graser