|Country Western Singer
I used to feel like a new man
After the day's first brew.
But then the new man I became
Would need a tall one too.
As would the new man he became,
And the new one after him
And so on and so forth till the new men made
The dizzy room go dim.
And each one said, I'll be your muse,
I'll trade you song for beer:
He said, I'll be your salt lick, honey,
If you will be my deer.
He said, I'll be your happy hour,
And you, boy, you'll be mine
And mine won't end at six or seven
Or even at closing time.
Yes, son, I'll be your spirit guide;
I'll lead you to Absolut,
To Dewars, Bushmills, and Jamesons,
Then down to Old Tangle Foot.
And there I'll drain the pretense from you
That propped you up so high;
I'll teach you salivation's just
Salvation without the I.
To hear his sweet talk was to think
You'd gone from rags to riches,
Till going from drink to drink became
Like going from hags to bitches,
Like going from bed to barroom stool,
From stool to bathroom stall,
From stall to sink, from sink to stool,
From stool to hospital.
Now the monitors beep like pinball machines,
And coldly the IV drips;
And a nurse runs a moistened washcloth over
My parched and bleeding lips,
And the blood I taste, the blood I swallow
Is as far away from wine
As 5:10 is for the one who dies
© Alan Shapiro
Virginia Quarterly Review
Cheers: Reading a Poem by Alan Shapiro