It's winter. I arrive on time; perhaps a little late.
I try a bit of everything, a bite from every plate.
I stay away from caviar (it's bound to make me sick),
While I'm impressing everyone with simple parlor tricks.
I'm asked of my opinion on the European nations,
And then I'm asked to clarify some physicist's equations.
I seem to be the "cultured one" whom everyone consults,
And I enjoy the role I play; celebrity of sorts.
In passing, an old friend of mine has grabbed me by the arm.
He asks me for my pistol and he claims to mean no harm.
This socialite calls everyone to take part in a bet.
He puts the pistol to his head: the Russians' game, roulette.
"What will you give me, friends," he asks, "to see a little sport?
I'll spin the barrel, point it here, and see if it reports."
I will not play, I never have, and neither will I bet.
But people gather all around to see him play roulette.
I turn away for some excitement new and interesting.
I see an old piano and I feel inclined to sing.
I sit down in the corner here, and no one looks my way.
Not even when I clear my throat and then begin to play.
As people walk past happily, concerned with having fun,
I play the classics, Gershwin, Cohen, all for everyone.
And then a sound unnerving comes from just the other room:
Two dozen gasps have closely followed one small, muffled boom.
I rush in with the company to see what has occurred,
And see the body of my friend, and hear so many words,
As to confound the sanest man, and nothing but disorder.
I cannot stay, I must return to my place in the corner.
I sit down at the ivories and slowly close the lid.
There was no reason, save this one, my friend did what he did:
I gave consent for him to use the pistol in my belt,
I thought so little of it, and I no compassion felt.
I hear them shouting louder now, some order to restore.
But I will not return to see his body on the floor.
Another, it would seem, has sought some solace from the rest:
The woman on the sofa so immaculately dressed.
She's staring at a glass of punch that's sitting on the table,
She seems to want to pick it up, but isn't really able.
I leave my place and stand before her; she does not look up.
"I'm sorry for all this," I state. She reaches for her cup.
"Are you alright?" I volunteer, unsure of what to say.
She looks me squarely in the eye and answers, "Go away."
I'm puzzled at her bitterness and cold, malicious eyes,
But leave her I do not; instead, I try to sympathize.
"I am sorry, mon ami, but try to understand.
I was an old acquaintance of this most unfortunate man."
"Yet I, his wife, his cherished one, was closer than you all.
I guess it's true what I've been told: pride comes before a fall."
She glares at me as though that fatal shot was preconceived,
Then rises from the sofa, choking tears back as she leaves.
I sit myself precisely where the woman was before,
My face is pins and needles as I turn it towards the door.
Although I know I'm innocent of meditated murder,
I see the faces now as friends that soon shall be my jurors.
My one mistake all evening now has ruined everything.
A game, a shot I could have stopped, but rather did I sing.
And should I stay? I am not sure; to leave would raise suspicion.
So stay I must, until the turmoil settles down. I'm wishing
That all these tiles beneath my feet would swallow me right now,
And hide me like a cockroach; innocent, but still I cower.
And just as I am relishing seclusion in this room,
Another man has entered my serenely hushed sanctum.
I must look pale; I know I do. But this man might be worse.
He looks at me and moves his lips, but he cannot converse.
I rise to help him find a seat, and yet he has recoiled.
He acts as though I frighten him; his hands with blood are soiled.
I ask him, "Is he dead then?" and he looks down at his hands.
"Aye, dead he is, you may be sure, and you have killed this man."
"Not I!" I cry with passion, "No! I've spilled not any blood!"
"I would that it were true, and yet this isn't as I would."
"Confound it all, I tell you that I didn't do a thing!
Admittedly, it was my pistol made that awful ring,
But what a fool to risk his life for 'just a bit of fun.'
It isn't my own fault at all; I just supplied the gun."
The man with bloody hands remains as silent as before,
And then he slowly turns around and exits through the door.
I look around in panic for diversion from my shame,
And in the corner my piano silently remains.
I sit down slowly, lift the lid; I think I might be mad,
As I begin to play a song that really isn't sad.
A ragtime piece by Joplin starts to echo through the halls,
As people from the other room are entering, appalled.
I know they're staring from behind, I feel a growing crowd.
My fingers banging randomly, emotions rushing out.
I see the tears that dot the keys, but do not know I'm crying,
Until I fall on top of them and feel as though I'm dying.
And as I fall a dozen hands have gently caught me up;
An unexpected outpouring of unexpected love.
I don't deserve compassion but I get it all the same,
It doesn't seem to matter now if I'm the one to blame.
A few stay with me as I try to regain my composure,
And they do not say anything, with hands upon my shoulders.
But once the party's over and it's time to disappear,
I'm standing silent in the snow, still fighting back my tears.
I cannot leave. I don't know why, but ready I am not.
Still echoing inside my head, the fatal pistol shot.
And then a thought occurs to me: the pistols were a pair.
I pull the other from my coat; the sun has made it glare.
I unload all but one shot and I spin the barrel round.
I do not know how far it spun; my eyes were on the ground.
I no longer stop my tears from flowing as they will.
The pistol's pressed against my head, and now I feel the thrill.
If I do deserve to die then die I will today,
If not then I will drop my gun and turn and walk away.
I close my eyes and bite my tongue and suddenly stop crying.
I'm holding down the trigger. Still, no violence, no dying.
Not satisfied, no luck at all. I'll try it once again.
I squeeze the trigger one more time and still I find I live.
Three more times I try to die, and three more times I fail.
But now I know this final shot is it; I cannot bail.
I contemplate a moment, since there is no further doubt.
I know exactly what will happen when my time runs out.
I tell myself it's for the best and close my eyes again.
I pull the trigger slowly on the murder weapon's twin.
The first thing that I see of Hell is darkness in my sight.
And then I open up my eyes to see a winter light.
I'm not in Hell; I'm living still, and standing in the cold.
I try to open up the pistol I can hardly hold.
It's empty, not a single shot remains inside the chamber.
And on the ground lie five discarded, but not one remainder.
I do not know what has become of this, my final shot.
Though I would like to die today, it seems that I shall not.
"Dear God, why have you kept me here? I only wish to die.
Please give me back my final shot so I can close my eyes
And open them to flame and darkness, all my just rewards.
I must atone for what I've done, by pistol, rope, or sword!
But now I cannot take my life; you've granted me good fortune.
Take back your gift, Almighty God; this life to me is torture!"

A lady, in the evening, found a mourner on the road.
She knew not what to make of him; he wasn't badly clothed,
But seemed to be a homeless man. She asked him where he went.
He said, "Not even Hell will have me, though my life is spent."