Barley wine poems

Yesterday afternoon and early evening I permitted myself to get a little deep into my cups for the first time since July 2, and just as I did then, I took a notebook out on the porch with me. This time I was drinking a spiced barley wine that I bottled way back in December 2002, after a year and a half in the cask (actually a glass carboy). I hadn’t been too impressed with it on previous tastings, but perhaps it just hadn’t aged enough.

I found myself jotting down short poems, or the notes for poems, with the kind of fury I can otherwise only manage first thing in the morning. Some of them don’t seem too bad. With some, I’m not sure now exactly what I had in mind. But maybe that’s all right.

UPDATE: Still revising as of Friday morning. It IS all in the editing!

A gnat falls into my wine.
I sip around him.
After a while the pin-
prick flotsam washes
against the side
& sticks fast.
Crawls all
the way up to
the rim. Inspired,
I down the rest of the wine
in two big gulps.

That gnat must not have been
a poet, to survive such
a baptism in wine. I raise
the glass it escaped from
in solemn tribute,
resolve to keep drinking
until the moon comes up.

Cicada drone. A flicker’s
namesake call. Carolina
wren’s insistent zipper.
Crickets, crickets, crickets.
The first desultory katydid.

It’s not just in my head,
this hum,
this buzz.

Drinking on the porch with
my feet propped up,
I forget myself.
What beautiful arches
you have,
I murmur.
And the toes – what fine
fat targets.
bleary half-moons
glimmer back.

Six o’clock, but
no chipmunks chipping
as they almost always do
this time of year, standing at
the mouths of their burrows.
I wonder what’s
in the news?

A breeze: red
maple leaves turn
their backs.
Aspen goes wild.
White pine whistles
through its teeth.

The bull thistle’s clock
has three faces:
stubbled green; florid
purple; white hair
falling out in clumps.
At the peak of flowering, half
of every bush is already dead.
My eye follows
a spicebush swallowtail
making its unrepeatable way
into the treetops.

In the end, the light
goes mute, retreats
one cricket at a time.
Deep in the grass, the faint
spots where glowworms
fade in, fade out.

What am I missing
by writing? What
would escape me if
I didn’t write? Wait
until it’s too dark
to write anything,
listen as the katydids
start up: first this side
then the other, night
after night.

Another glass of wine,
another drowned gnat.
God or evolution,
it’s all in the editing.

This whole
made world
is nothing but a conspiracy
between a rock and
a hard place, says
the all-night rain.

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