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.
Revives.
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.
Ten
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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