Having played for maybe the third time
In twenty years, my wife can only
Giggle, flailing as she fails to snap and spin
The human paddles, trouncing me like Beatrice,
Her heroine in The Postman, that scene
Where Mario crawls in search of the ball
And she engulfs it with her open mouth.

We’ve left the highway for better than rest
Stop sandwiches and all through our chatter
In the tavern the guy with the fast-gun
Pick-up out front who mixes spirits
Stares impatiently, a matter of class,
Not elegance, social strata. I’m sure
He’s never seen Il Postino, this after all
The kind of quaint town one might call an island

Without water, where one hears foreign language
Just about never except from recent arrivals
Who have no choice, and foosball means
A half-lit gin joint, and victory unconsciousness
Or driving very fast for the hell of it
And maybe even dying like Mario
Except with no cause, only reasons.

Each exaggerated bump must lift the truck
On a radical cushion of air
As if its driver vies in a contest
Where the point isn’t rattling a ball
Around somebody’s slot but rising up,
Breaking free of the bar on one’s back
And leaving the field of play, refusing
To be a little man with no face.

                                —David Moolten

  1. David, I admire your talent and equally admire your evidently experienced knowledge of your way around a pub with a Foosball table. I don’t believe I have ever read a poetic substitute for the game, but you have accomplished that. All the while the rest of us were seeking metaphors in the photo, you saw it for what it really is, a picture of a Foosball table. How clever you are, must be the Philly water. Then you gave the table and the moment character, Mario and Beatrice, similes perhaps? Grand work that I really enjoyed reading.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Donald,

      Thanks. I did try for quite a while to find a working metaphor I could get inspired by. I thought about cowboys and indians, spontaneous human combustion, hallucinatory paintings by William Blake, various skin conditions involving erythema, and others I don’t now remember. I got nowhere with these so I came back to the obvious, which fortunately I did actually have some experience with (unlike the rest). I keep trying to disprove “write what you know” and failing miserably. So foosball it was…The Philly water does keep one alert if nothing else..

  2. This is such a powerful piece full of much truth. As someone who comes from and still lives in one of those “quaint towns’ and has fought to “break free of the bars on one’s back” it felt very familiar to me. Beautifully realized…

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Cynthia,

      I appreciate the praise and your reading. At first I struggled with this since I couldn’t find a metaphor I really liked and foosball itself seemed like a fun but not terribly profound subject. Bars on the other hand can be such tragic places in so many ways, so I finally tried to get at the whole atmosphere. Thanks again.

  3. Amazingly rich with apparent allusions to, in addition to Il Postino, Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Casablanca, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. And oh so finely woven together!

    Very nice, David.

    Paul Oakley
    Blogging his ReadWritePoem poems at
    Inner Light, Radiant Life

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi :Paul,

      I’m a big movie goer. Though there aren’t too many with foosball in them, at least not as a prominent feature, other than Il Postino. Lots of movies with bars and the associated “atmosphere”, but not foosball. Thanks for reading and for your kind remarks.

      • davidmoolten said:

        Hi Paul,

        I don’t know how the face icon jumped in, but it was unintentional.

  4. rallentanda said:

    I like your portrayal of the the xenophobic red necks highlighting the confident ignorance in this quaint town. Over here these towns are not quaint…just brutal and there is no such thing as ‘the recent arrivals who have no choice.’ in these places .Yes, what you’re thinking is correct! I spend about five months of the year on a property about 1 hours drive from one of these towns . I like the distinction you make between dying for a cause and dying for reasons.Cant say I enjoyed Il Postino.Malena is more my Italian style but I enjoyed this poem very much Oh and I also loved the giggling flailing wife.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Rall,

      Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately xenophobic rednecks seems to a fairly ubiquitous feature of our planet. I can begin to feel a little uneasy an hour away (or sometimes less) from a major city. As for losing at foosball, there’s nothing more annoying than losing to someone who’s thoroughly enjoying their casual ineptitude even as you’re giving it all you’ve got. I say there’s too much luck in some games…

  5. having chosen the victory of unconsciousness in the past, I’m glad you allowed him a way out of hell.
    nicely layered

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Barbara,

      Thanks for reading. Yes, I’m usually gloom, but not always doom…

  6. Those small towns can be so insular. I know them well. Great words.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Anthony,

      I know them too well myself. Thanks for taking a look and for the praise.

  7. dale said:


    I love the slow turn of the camera, here, the way it pauses on the bartender and finally settles on him, as if randomly. (Bartender? Is “mixes spirits” literal? It resonates through the poem, tagged by its old-fashioned-ness as one of those cultured things you can’t get on a waterless island.) The last stanza is magnificent.

    I love the way “the point isn’t rattling a ball / Around somebody’s slot” dives away in at least two directions: it’s the bartender’s own diction, his disdain (envy?) for the upper-class couple playing foosball, and it’s the poem’s own blandly innocent literal description of the game.

    And then “breaking free of the bar on one’s back” — those brutal ‘b’s — whap whap whap, slapping like the little faceless foosball puppets.

    Funny that this prompt should have set us both to writing about class!

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Dale,

      Thanks for your very detailed feedback and for the kind praise. I also had a vaguely sexual metaphor I intended for the ball and slot line, given Mario’s obsession with Beatrice in the film, and the film’s intentions. Originally the “someone” was “a woman”, then I decided better of it. I’m happy it’s not too obvious. I’m glad the harsh sounds in the line about the “breaking free” came through. As for class, foosball isn’t by itself a natural “class issue” but bars can be such places for odd mingling, and always with the possibility for things getting out of hand…

  8. Linda said:

    I enjoyed reading your poem and your foosball insights. It always surprises me where the tables turn up and who likes to play. It is interesting in life, how many of us really get to have a face. A very thoughtful poem, David. Thank you for writing and sharing.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for reading the poem and for your generous remarks. Bars and bar games can be real magnets for different kinds of people. As for the faceless puppets, they really are pretty ironic models of human existence.

  9. irene said:

    Hi David,
    I like the bar setting and small town atmosphere and the breakthrough at the end.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you Irene.

  10. wayne said:

    as usual great words…But its a good old hockey game..Foosball is for kids..and old folks in a seniors home….anyways very enjoyable and thanks for sharing….and thnks allways for your words after reading my words…take care

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks Wayne, and you’re welcome too.

  11. An affliction traversed. Liberation at last.

    A stance that can be taken to heart. Perhaps like a great trunk in a flood, yet quietly observed. It is the water, not the tree, which alters course. Peace includes distress, not the other way around.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Neil,

      Thanks for reading and your quite poetic response!

  12. I’m always on the side of giggle and luck, preferably encased in good gin while surrounded by corporate rednecks. Enjoyed the read!

    • davidmoolten said:

      I’m with you there. Thanks for reading.

  13. Deb said:

    Using “the foreigner” is a good way to explore unfamiliar territory. The sense of the poem itself was screenplay — scenes set with character & drama. Slot hit me immediately as sexual, especially after the set-up of the lost (play on slot/slut? or am I going too far?) ball.

    Add vehicles and you’ve got the quintessential Americana scene, but set to foosball (haha!) not pool or poker.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks Deb,

      It’s always hard with sexual metaphors, as one is always perilously close to going too far…The movie clearly wanted to cover this terrain, and the class struggle aspect too of course, but in a romantic way. I was shooting for something more American and post-modern…

  14. Derrick said:

    Hi David,

    Having played foosball less often than ‘your wife’; not having seen the film and not frequenting redneck bars, I can only guess at some of your references (but I did think sex with the ball/slot bit!!). Everyone else’s comments are a tremendous help with my failings!

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Derrick,

      No foosball in squalid bars? Think of all the fun you’re missing!
      Thanks for reading and responding.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you Gautami.

  15. I so enjoyed being with you and your wife on your foosball playing adventure. Loved, especially, the visits to “The Postman” mixed in with your experiences.

    Thank you.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Julie,

      I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for reading and for your nice feedback.

  16. Ana said:

    I enjoyed the game metamorphosis in a fantastic trip in the world of images and metaphors.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you Ana. I’m glad the poem struck you in a positive way.

  17. angie said:

    I really felt that tension between the couple — happily oblivious in their detour — and the begrudging tolerance of the local. And it brings out the question, focusing on the foosball metaphor to cover both aspects, of why exactly is the bartender/local angry? Is it a gut-reaction to seeing a freedom he doesn’t have — the ability to leave — or is it just simply a sexual jealousy?

    you always wonder when you step into a bar, what that tension is all about.

    (and — congrats on Primitive Mood! I just ordered a copy. I tried to send you a message at RWP but it wouldn’t let me. Apparently we have to be friends!)

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Angie,

      Thanks for your kind and careful reading. For me, the bartender’s anger is all things you mention decisively aggravated by class jealousy/contempt. I think people who imagine themselves as automatic adversaries because of things like class tend to look for things to justify or even provoke hostility–it’s a self-reinforcing process.

      By the way, special thanks for your interest in my book as well. Let me know what you thinkg.

  18. It’s amazing how different the tones and subjects that one picture can lead to are.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks, you’re right. I think they’re great prompts.

  19. Nathan said:

    Another wonderful poem. I really like the way you begin with the game then move into much wider territory.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Nathan,

      Thanks for your thoughts, and once again, thanks for the cool prompt.


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