Wednesday, 8 September 2010

American Sour

I am the world’s last barman poet. Once we were many.
We toured the world describing drinks in such woozy detail
you could almost taste their tang. I was both bourbon and sonnet.
When America turned against actual drinking, we weren't just
The next best thing, we were the real thing. We mixed with the famous
and fabulous. When three or four of us gathered at a reading,
we'd intersect our verse to mix beat cocktails the crowd could get drunk on.
used to make a damn good living at it, we all did. Just keep distilling and delivering.
Our cash, our status as freeborn Americans kept us from getting in trouble,
till the stinking Puritans turned on literature too. Couldn't stop though,
I was addicted to the words' mellow vintage. I used to make the joke,
in underground clubs – 'was it something I said?' But by then, all laughter
and applause had ceased. As I recited from memory, no-one would stir
though they'd cough nervously, or shake visiblythe poet's D.T.s.

When they hit they hit hard. The Sex smears, our best minds' so-called suicides.
Members of the poetry girl band 'Sex on the Beach' washed up on the Beach,
The plants at every search. Actual Schnapps, made from meths and peach,
The Velvet glove torn off. My last gig I was grabbed by a gang,
left knee cracked by a Hammer, and when they found me,
The Alabama cops stuck me in the Slammer on a vagrancy charge.
The critics turned on us too. Said I make light of things with juice and froth,
no substance. The papers coloured us as Pinkoes and reds.
All the cash I'd Squirreled away went fastmost on the lawyer
I later learned all L.A. called The 3-Toed Sloth.
went underground. It proved safer to make bootleg drinks
in bathtubs than concoct them on a noiseless Corona.
That last summer of freedom, last summer even the West Coast girls,
so sweet and snazzy, dared to show their legs.

September, The feds did to Johnny Walker what you should never do
to a whisky; Iced him in broad daylight.
Winter, they even got to the poets who declaimed Tea, Coffee.
Billy Horlicks had The best exit. Went Kamikaze,
held up WRR in Dallas, broadcast a drinks cabinet
of poems 'cross half the south for two hours;
when I heard that recording man, I almost had an Orgasm,
frankly. He never shot anybody. That was the G-men.
He heard them coming, you can hear them coming
on the tape, so he switches drinks - they get him
half-way through The Death Spasm, line where he compares
that drink's few drips of squid ink to that of the last hard cock
as it flips out and up.

Ha. I'm not unscathed. Got a tip-off I'd been sold out,
jumped in the Cad in a blackout in a panic, slurred across the highway
into a pillar. Sailed to Singapore in a Sling. Safe for now,
still wake in a sweat having dreamt the door-knock, The Ding-a-ling.
But damn, when I think of the untapped market on that dry continent,
my mouth waters. America, you’re not just devoted to one God;
you have mouths enough to worship every flavor I got.
But if you ever want to get loaded onto a cattle truck,
Why don’t you just give in, indulge, order
a sloe gin ghazal for which its worth getting garroted,
a White Russian villanelle as you await the Black Maria,
the blank verse vodka that gets you shot?

Raise a glass. A glass to those who raised the bar. Raise the bar, my bardic friends.
Why is this window open?

-Richard Tyrone Jones

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