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Ron Matusalem and I

His name is Ron Matusalem. "Old Man" Bahamians say. "Matus" is what I call him when I'm down on Elbow Cay. Matus is of the islands. His complexion ruddy red. He bears label of his lineage, the island life he's led. With me, Matus talks straight up. That's too strong for others’ taste. But that's the way I like him. Diluted pleasure is a waste.

We meet in the early evening, Ron Matusalem and I, on the deck at the Harbor's Edge, beneath the Caribbean sky. With no plan in mind, we contemplate the coming of the night. Less than bold I am at first until Matus spurs me to flight. Bottled-up emotion he uncorks for me to drink. I imbibe...a sip...a quaff...I stumble past the brink.

We've had hellacious times together, Ron Matusalem and I. (Some I can’t remember. Most get better as time goes by.) We've often partied until dawn, we've laughed as if insane. We've flirted the tourist ladies with mumbled phrases quite inane.

Island nights hold wondrous sights, and Matus, he shows them all. I've seen much more than my fair share. (But on some, I've yet to call.) I've seen the casuarina trees swaying in windless air. I've seen the homeliest women transformed to creatures almost fair. I've waded in the ocean surf without the slightest chill. I've shared humor with the dolphins, provoking laughter loud and shrill. We've seen some sights, Matus and I, but of all, this one is best -- we watched a woman shoot some pool, four breasts upon her chest.

But Matus has another side -- a side that's quite profane -- for the price of pleasure he provides is ten times that in pain. Matus, my friend, is not the kind to keep his fighting fair. He'll twist your eyes inside your head to make pain’s power flair. He'll put you down and hold you down until you lose your cool and grab him by his stubby neck and down him like a fool. You think that he will end the pain the way he brought it on -- but in the end, he'll be the one who's laughing, comes the dawn.
When sunshine pierces burning eyes, and Matus beats on your head, first you fear that you may die, then you wish yourself quick dead. At last he leaves you (gagging) -- you bless that as a boon -- and if again you see Matus, that day will be too soon.

But memory's short, friendship long, and soon I miss Matus. I head down to the Harbor's Edge where I know he's on the loose. Amy smiles from behind the bar. She winks. "Long time, no see." And then, as if an afterthought, asks, "Well, what will it be?"

Her smile says she knows me well, as well as she knows herself. She turns and spies our friend Matus sitting on the bar's back shelf. She doffs his cap with a careless hand and grabs a plastic cup.

"Rum," says I. "You know our friend."
She pours Matus -- straight up.

About this poem

Apologies to John Barleycorn, but I prefer my Ron Matusalem straight up.

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Written on March 01, 1995

Submitted by WESTOVER on September 08, 2022

2:47 min read

Craig Westover

Retired communications professional living on a 40-ft trawler, "IdleTheme," cruising between Brunswick. GA and The Bahamas. more…

All Craig Westover poems | Craig Westover Books

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1 Comment
  • DougHaberman
    I enjoyed this poem's descriptiveness and the clever twist at the end.
    LikeReplyReport2 months ago


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"Ron Matusalem and I" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 26 Nov. 2022. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/136568/ron-matusalem-and-i>.

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