May 6, 2015

Nonnie Augustine


Betty nursed her drink but Don downed his in two gulps. She’d dieted back to the hourglass figure she’d had when they’d been married and Don had already had four or five penis-swells. He felt he had his love machine under control, but he poured himself another drink to help him shut it all down. The Barber of Seville played too loudly on the hi fi. Neither of them liked opera, (Betty had chosen it for effect) but the moment was too fraught with sexual tension for either of them to feel comfortable enough to get up, move across the vast living room to the turntable and turn the music off or at least down. Betty’s husband, Henry, was due to arrive any minute. A gust of wind blew in the open French doors, and Betty’s portrait was knocked slightly askew. “Shoot,” she said, “I’ll have to straighten that.” But she didn’t move.


She dreamt of having a hogshead of wine, 63 gallons of it, all to herself. The tricks would be soon over then, she thought. She sang, “There is a girl in New York City who calls herself the human trampoline,” but forgot the next line, and so hummed “Graceland” for some wobbly bars. If wishes were horses beggars would ride and I’d be drunk on a hogshead of wine. Hogshead. A word to use in a poem, she thought. She’d lost poems, though. The hoops in her ears were huge, as hoops go, but she’d never caught one on a zipper. Not once. Who will benefit from my expertise next? My expertise has come down in the world, she thought. I used to have better thoughts, she thought. A PT Cruiser pulled up and the guy rolled down his window. Well, this will be something new, she thought. My first PT Cruiser.


Clare and I waited for him at the New York Port Authority. We stood together at the bottom of the long escalator, because the buses from Washington, D.C., came in upstairs and he’d have to descend, so it was a good place to spot him. I was keeping her company, really. Frank, Clare and my brother were the friends, more than friends. I thought Clare loved them both and they loved her. I was a little younger, but a little means a lot sometimes. After a half hour’s wait, we saw him coming down the escalator, wearing a dark blue wool overcoat that hung to his ankles. His blonde hair grown long and gorgeous, uncombed, rebellious. A guitar case hung from a strap slung over his shoulder. In one hand he carried a duffel bag and in the other a cigarette. Did he smoke in high school? We went into the grungy restaurant on the first floor of the sprawl of bus station and drank cups of coffee and dragged on cigarettes. They talked about Vietnam, music, civil rights, peace marches. I was a ballet dancer, but I had ideas, too, I thought. Frank went downtown with Clare and I went uptown to the apartment I shared with uptight Miranda, a piano student. I had a dream that night that Frank chose me, wanted me, came to me. My dreams never amounted to anything except that one time, because the next afternoon Frank showed up at my door and took me to bed. Only that one time and all these years later, I remember.


Nonnie Augustine’s first collection of poems, One Day Tells its Tale to Another  was chosen by Kirkus Review as one of the "Best of Indie 2013." Her poetry and fiction have appeared online and in print at The Amsterdam Quarterly, Tupelo Press, The Mad Hatter’s Review, The Linnet’s Wings, and others. She is a frequent contributor to and can be found online at and

1 comment:

David N. James said...

Really fine work, Nonnie. Really good choice(s), Barry