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poems & booze

Randomly – or less randomly, following the subject of yesterday’s review – I have something to share with you on this Tuesday morning. At my very favorite bar, there is a poem scrawled in chalk on the wall behind the taps & bottles. This is a fairly literary bar – they have open mic poetry nights and, I believe, book talks as well. One of my favorite things about this bar is how easy it is to show up after work and sit at the bar alone with a very fine beer and a book, and not be bothered – as a woman, not a ubiquitous experience. The bartenders are friendly – or to be clearer, I consider them friends – and other than their occasional company I’m left alone. So today I’ll pass on to you the poem featured at Mongoose vs. Cobra: At The Quinte Hotel by Al Purdy. (I accessed it here, and would note that there are a few slightly different versions floating around out there.)

I am drinking
I am drinking beer with yellow flowers
in underground sunlight
and you can see that I am a sensitive man
and I notice that the bartender is a sensitive man
so I tell him about his beer
I tell him the beer he draws
is half fart and half horse piss
and all wonderful yellow flowers
But the bartender is not quite
so sensitive as I supposed he was
the way he looks at me now
and does not appreciate my exquisite analogy
Over in one corner two guys
are quietly making love
in the brief prelude to infinity
Opposite them a peculiar fight
enables the drinkers to lay aside
their comic books and watch with interest
as I watch with interest
a wiry little man slugs another guy
then tracks him bleeding into the toilet
and slugs him to the floor again
with ugly red flowers on the tile
three minutes later he roosters over
to the table where his drunk friend sits
with another friend and slugs both
of em ass-over-electric-kettle
so I have to walk around
on my way for a piss
Now I am a sensitive man
so I say to him mildly as hell
“You shouldn’ta knocked over that good beer
with them beautiful flowers in it”
So he says “Come on”
So I Come On
like a rabbit with weak kidneys I guess
like a yellow streak charging
on flower power I suppose
& knock the shit outa him & sit on him
(he is just a little guy)
and say reprovingly
“Violence will get you nowhere this time chum
Now you take me
I am a sensitive man
and would you believe I write poems?”
But I could see the doubt in his upside down face
in fact in all the faces
“What kind of poems?”
“Flower poems”
“So tell us a poem”
I got off the little guy reluctantly
for he was comfortable
and told them this poem
They crowded around me with tears
in their eyes and wrung my hands feelingly
for my pockets for
it was a heart-warming moment for Literature
and moved by the demonstrable effect
of great Art and the brotherhood of people I remarked
“-the poem oughta be worth some beer”
It was a mistake of terminology
for silence came
and it was brought home to me in the tavern
that poems will not really buy beer or flowers
or a goddam thing
and I was sad
for I am a sensitive man.

From his book “Poems For All The Annettes.”

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