First Casino on the Moon
By Ansel Elkins
Untitled (1993) by Royal Robertson. Markers, ballpoint pen, gouache, and glitter paper. Courtesy christian berst art brut, Paris
It’s happy hour at the tiki bar, and even the moon has lost
its luster—the drinks, the strippers, the lunar gravity.
In the casino at the Sea of Tranquility
my sleepless nights seem labyrinthine;
I roam the slot machines
among tourists and newlyweds honeymooning,
just married at the neon blue
crucifix of the Elvis Wedding Chapel.
There’s no clocks, no calendars here.
I’m drinking alone
among retirees in Hawaiian shirts.
A man trying to sell me a time-share
says real estate on the moon is on the rise—
Location, location, location!
Two hundred thousand miles away
in this ashen desolate terrain
you could almost forget our gun-smoked globe,
the wars raging like wildfire back home.
The roulette wheel spins,
surrounded by businessmen—
red and black in their meteorite eyes.
A bone-white, blue-haired prostitute
visits me at the high-rise hotel;
the glowing barcodes of her eyes
change to disco balls
as I pay for the hour:
I request a Milky Way;
I like the way
her breasts bounce in one-sixth gravity.
You can call me Bob, I say.
Commerce on the moon was only a matter of time;
already there’s electric billboards
saying CHEAP FLIGHTS;
we can see them from Earth, looking up at the night sky.
All of us have lost something here.
A man died last week and a robot read him his last rites.
It’s quieter on the far side of the moon.
I get stoned in my spacesuit
and go out into the Descartes Highlands.
Buoyant, blissful, lightfooted
in the ghost-gray landscape
I listen to space—
silence threaded with vibration. A deep blue note
I feel in my bones
and I think suddenly of phoning my mother
but she died years ago.
I remember our nighttime drives
down country roads back home
when I watched the moon through my window;
Mama, the moon follows me through the trees, I said.
I felt less alone.
At the floating poker table
a gambler lays his two kings
against my last, lonely ace.
So this is the future. Here we are.
I’m back on the barstool
broke and drinking alone
just like I was back home.
On my third martini
I feel the great gulf
of space’s infinite blackness
when I see it
there in the mirror—
the bright Earth rising
in the window behind me.
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