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Defiant Flags

Glean from rich fields, and the armies will have enough to eat.
~ Sun Tzu

We are a lone table of older bachelors
Surrounded by the young at this club.
Every beer makes us more cynical –
Horny with contempt. Our faces turn
Like flags in the sexual breezes –
Every evening out a kind of sovereignty
We affirm for each other.
We are a United Nations of the unmarriable,
Preferring to discuss the mistakes we've made
And the underlying principles of love
We've given lip service to, all of us convinced
We should think or vote before getting involved
With any woman whose way of walking through the bar
Crosses every line polite society draws.
We know there are no such things
As surgically precise strikes –
That no amount of love can put out
Some fires once they're started.
The club's shadows hide the places
Where we've been burned.

Whenever one of my friends gets too interested
And looks at a woman in a non-sociological way
I remind him that Baudelaire said, "Love
Is an oasis of horror in a desert of boredom."
But they each sometimes stare at a woman
And see their own reflection just before
Their hands reach out to drink
And no amount of splashing can put
The beautiful mirage back the way it was.
A forehead wrinkles in amazement
And the dunes of scalp push back
The retreating line of hair.

"These women are flowers," I say.
"Any flower looks attractive in a desert.
With lives like ours, any sign of life
Seems like a sign of love." They laugh,
But their faces fall and I feel for a moment
Like a commandant in the Foreign Legion.
The conversation flutters to silence
And our furled colours
Go ragged in the relentless heat.