Café Yum Yum and the Fortune-Teller by Michael McGill

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Allen Ginsberg had died the day before, so the open mic poetry night began with a local kid reading Howl, only he got carried away and was told to stop, and right by the tiny stage an old guy called Gene would snipe or gush from the wings, saying, “Don’t give up your day job,” or “Tough act to follow,” until a pattern emerged that Gene only praised young men, so he seemed like a joke from then on; and at the table in front of the stage sat an odd crowd – a girl who’d modelled herself on a porcelain doll, who sat all night with her handbag in front of her like she was about to pray to it, and her old companion, Tallulah, who yelled out anecdotes to the ether, declaring that she thought her voice was rough, who demonstrated this by repeating the phrase ‘rock and roll’ over and over, as in “People say my voice is really, like, rock and roll,” while the handbag girl sat glassy-eyed, half-listening, half-dreaming of the demi-monde, then the third cog of their clique was dressed up like Bryan Ferry, all louche and swagger, and he shouted, “Go, Frankie!” to the next poet on the mic, which made Tallulah jump, and when she screamed, “Jesus Christ!” we all thought, “Yeah, your voice is quite rough after all,” – and I sat at a candlelit table nearby, the fortune-teller smiling by my side, and sometimes I’d listen to the poets, those cool Café Yum Yum kids, as they spat out their words into the mic, but then I’d listen to the teller’s reading, and he’d turn over tarot cards and say things like, “One day soon you’ll fall in love with a married woman in Paris,” and I’d paid him $5 so at that point I thought about asking for a refund, but instead I said, “Really?” and he replied, “Well, that’s what the cards say,” which struck me as his token response to any difficult encounter, but then he turned over another card, gasped and said, “Wow, you have great friends,” – and on solitary nights now it’s words like these I weave into my pillow; it’s words like his that steer me towards a warmer place, towards a kinder town.

Michael McGill is a poet from Edinburgh, Scotland who has recently been published in Lunate, Dreich, Anser Journal, Dream Journal, 433, Lucky Pierre, Stone of Madness Press, Dreams Walking, Milly Magazine, Versification, The Daily Drunk, Rejection Letters, FEED and The Haiku QuarterlyHis overheard comments and photopoems regularly appear on Twitter @MMcGill09 and Instagram @michael7209.

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