Monday, November 23, 2020

Through the Fumes of Whiskey by Gregory Luce

Like fallen powerlines

drifting in water her hair

floated toward my face

but stopped just short.

I started then froze.

She spoke: 

Stop asking fools 

for what you had and lost

back there in Texas.

I stared and sniffed

and caught the scent

of whiskey and another,

the smell of air after rain.

What are you wearing,

I asked, eau de bourbon

et l’air? A weak attempt,

but she smiled slightly

and went on. Texas

is Texas and everybody

is from somewhere and you

could get another drink.

She was right.

I was half drunk myself

and not getting there

fast enough. I found the bar.

When I turned around

she was right there.

I couldn’t get past her,

so we sidled, a pair

of snakes trying to

emulate Astaire and Rogers,

toward a dark corner,

ice cubes tinkling like

broken keys in

accompaniment to our

jagged choreography.

What do you know

about me and Texas,

I asked. Her eyes

went vague. Oh,

you know, people

say things. I felt

a sudden chill

and thought someone 

had opened a window.

Luckily the bourbon

was working and

rekindled some warmth.

She was looking off

toward another corner,

eyes half closed, maybe

trying to make someone out.

I have to go see—she

mumbled a name I couldn’t

quite catch and faltered off.

I noticed her boots

for the first time.

Her right foot kept

slanting sideways

as she stumbled across

the room. I felt a bit 

rickety myself. Home

or another whiskey?

I made my way haltingly

toward the bar.

Gregory Luce, author of Signs of Small Grace, Drinking Weather, Memory and Desire, Tile, and Riffs & Improvisations (forthcoming), has published widely in print and online. He is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He writes a monthly column on the arts for Scene4 magazine. He is retired from National Geographic, works as a volunteer writing tutor/mentor for 826DC, and lives in Arlington, VA.

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