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The Old Croat


Short on luck

and long in the tooth,

Reljic was an old Croat

who worked the feeder

at the bindery

midnight to eight

with three fingers remaining

on his left hand

and two on his right.

Some said it happened

during the war

(don’t know which one)

while others said it was the result

of different industrial mishaps

and a lifetime of menial


It was likely an unhealthy mix

of the two.


Reljic was a gambler

who drank away his wages

when the action

was slim.

A poker table patsy

who never covered the spread,

Reljic was still at the bindery

when I left to take a job

stocking a grocers’ freezer

in the West of the city.

He’s probably still there,

though he must be in his eighties

by now.

Taking off his socks at night

so he has enough piggies

to supplement his remaining fingers

which count the decades

of servitude

like twisted hands

on a broken