Ryan G. Van Cleave

The Croupier of St. Thomas

Letting the plotlines of greed
inhabit the space of his body,
my cousin, a moneyhandler

in the scarlet-veined halls of
a mafia casino in St. Thomas,
began to covet. First, merely

the sweet-eyed angel who came
to watch her smirky husband
toss poker cards like fireblossoms,

too often a winner, too handsome
a man. After, my cousin began
to light candles in his bedroom,

fire up the furnace of his beachside
apartment, anything at all to banish
the howling and biting gap, so cold,

between him and rootfree happiness,
like that succulent anywhere-ness
of when he first came to this island.

My father told him what he’d once
told me: every shoe aches for a blacking.
But my cousin, tired of stacked decks

and hollow odds, began to drop practice
bombs of deceit. He’d linger after shifts,
pencil maps onto cocktail napkins with

Xs for guards, *s for each money cage.
Some two weeks later, he was found
in the sand up to his ankles. Head-first.

Sometimes I hear him at night, the snap
of his wrist as he deals me five aces again
and again, how he laughed like an eagle

high above the cloud-plains, his endless
self-admiration unbroken, the world
below too small, too green to worry about.