“Closing time, Gilgamesh among the drunks” by David Coleman

“Closing time, Gilgamesh among the drunks” by David Coleman

Gilgamesh jostles in the greasy queue
A few dollars pan-handled,
Rolling in his palm —
He doesn’t really need the felafel roll,
But the begging
And the eating
Help pass the time

Old Gilgamesh never really got the knack of money
Doesn’t even know if the jumble of coins will be enough
But maybe coming up short will cause a diverting scene.
You could almost call that hope.

Gilgamesh edges forward,
Drunks at all sides

He once vowed
To himself only, no one else to tell, not even the departed gods
To spend a century at the bottom of the ocean
Wine-dark and reckless;
But after a week,
Four days if he was honest
The black, the cold, the isolation —
No Poseidon, no Tangaroa
Just blind fish and silence
So he crawled back
Sprawled on a beach,
And was chased away as a vagrant.

“No tabouli! No tabouli!”
He bawls too late,
Instead a double helping.
He knew his accent to be impenetrable,
Never had the gift for languages —
His mother tongue long lost,
With none ever properly taking its place.
Only snatches and phrases,
Survival (Ha!) level only,
In five hundred dialects
Smeared over five millennia

The coins enough, then
No scene —
Just a sloppy wrapper and slinking away

Three a.m.
Even the roaches are sleeping
But not old Bilgames —
“You like staying awake so much”
The god had sulked, insolent, prissy
Throwing immortality to him like wet newspaper
“Then so you shall remain”
Those gods long gone, but not Gilgamesh
Eternal life
Eternal insomnia
The reward for one week sleepless

He slumped in the lane
As good a place as any when you’ve been everywhere
A billion nights lain awake in beds
Even silk sheets, someone warm, something cool to sip
Down-sloped to the mundane, his greatest regret

The felafel roll cold uneaten —
Perhaps a friend could be made with it
When this latest day breaks
A person, a pigeon, anything would do

David Coleman is an award-winning writer and poet. His writing has appeared in Aurealis, Winds of Change, Next, and the Grapple Annual, amongst others. He has been short-listed as a Writer of the Future. You can find David here: davidcolemanwords.wordpress.com.