Poker Night at the Zoo by Alexi Milano

When I was eight, dad ran poker night
with his troop.  Typically, he chose

Texas hold em’, and while they played,
I inched out of bed, socks silently crept

to clutch the door frame.  I remember
him then, already trembling limbs –

cigarette ash drooping down his Knicks tee,
the pony tail in his hair grooving along

with the beat.  He was a tiltboy then,
an all in the flop, buddy.  I remember

the penetrating roars, over bad beats
and raises.  Patches of thick, black fur

darted across the living room, knuckle-walking
after rounds of folds and calls.  It made me

imagine if they, like me, felt the strange
pulse of sadness with each new bump,

or raise called.  Dad didn’t play games
with me anymore, and he never will again.

Everything cool?  He said-
I jumped into his arms in a soft, drowsy coil.

Colossal limbs dropped me in bed
before I said yes, with a gentle smile.

I was always bluffing.

Alexi Elias
Alexi Milano is a writer and artist born in New York, raised in south Florida. She teaches her students how to push boundaries and entertain with their own pieces of writing. She specializes in youth literacy in Los Angeles where she lives and works. Her poetry has appeared in Red Fez.

3 thoughts on “Poker Night at the Zoo by Alexi Milano

  1. I know nothing of poker, hate gambling and had to google to find out what a tiltboy was and as I read this beautifully crafted poem, I was with this 8 year old child. I love how you describe being carried back to bed – and your secret gnosis. Thank you, Alexi. Your students are fortunate.


  2. A damn fine write that like all great writing connects .
    Your skill is on full display in this truly a great read .

    Cheers to you and this write.



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