The Boston Tavern Club

Put on a jacket and tie
(though sometimes the tie is optional)
And enter the Club through the front door
(the navy door with the polished golden 4);
Hand your keys to the man at the desk
(it’s better if you arrived in a Bimmer)–
The one with a face that doesn’t know you
(he’s wearing a bowtie but no jacket).

Pause for a moment, then ask for your friend
(the one who’s a member, whose name they know);
It’s like they already knew you were coming
(though only in relation to your friend, his coat and tie)
As you’re ushered in to the back room
(the dim one with oil lamps and leather-bound shelves)
And led to your friend, sitting there thoughtfully
(the one whose coat they know and approve).

Now you’re upstairs, pressed against crisp white cloths
(the ones that are starchy and cover oak tables);
Only two sounds bounce off the oil paintings:
(some still-lifes and a few deceased white people)
The creaking of the stairs, as Members ascend,
(old, obviously; dulled with age, leather soles)
And references to Henry and William James
(they frequented this club– did you know?).

It’s warm there in the corner, a Crimson fire
(sweat starts to collect, soaking the oxford cloth);
And before too long the coffee is brought
(a silver pitcher pours itself into the lunar porcelain);
No bill is presented, that’s far too passé;
(just a smile and a nod, and we’re almost out the door),
Past old photographs from a more dignified age
(women weren’t always allowed into the Club, you know)
And onto the street: a normal Boston afternoon
(the light is lurid, but no coat is required).

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