He couldn’t imagine it now,
kicking back, back kicking,
wandering around with a glass,
weirdly morose or—what’s the word?—
jolly. His voice sounding vaguely Swiss
or Peruvian or Dutch. Could he
pick up the rhythm
of the lush he once was,
get lugubrious with that woman
from the controller’s office?
Break down, regret everything or—
boast? What latch keeps a brain
from spinning like a prawn
dropped on a stranger’s parquet?
Ages ago in a land far away
lucky people got three martinis for lunch.
Whole lifetimes hung on a ledge
disgorging the slippery
feelers of sloe gin.
Who would he be
if he passed out again?
Or if love plucked his eyes
and made any throat glisten?
This descendant of men who broke
in buckets of hard cider?
Why am I speaking
at this moment
as if I were a man?
What ruse am I guilty of?
What keeps a lobster out of a tank?
Lee Upton is the author of fourteen books, including the poetry collections The Day Every Day Is (Saturnalia, 2023) and Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles: Poems from the Cleveland State University Poetry Center (2015); the story collections Visitations (Yellow Shoe Fiction Series, LSU Press, 2017) and The Tao of Humiliation, which won the BOA Short Fiction Award, was a finalist for The Paterson Prize, and was named one of the best books of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews; a collection of essays, Swallowing the Sea: On Writing & Ambition, Boredom, Purity & Secrecy (Tupelo Press, 2012); and the novella The Guide to the Flying Island (Miami University Press, 2009). (updated 4/2023)
Her poem “Drunk at a Party” from AGNI 69 was chosen for The Best American Poetry 2011.