POEM: “Straight Up”

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“Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again.” ~ James Baldwin


TheStoryIsTheThing.com photo-illustration | Image from High West Distillery

1.

I can only read
so much of Auden or
James Baldwin, just

like dark chocolate,
best taken in small &
savory chunks.

Buddhist monks (at least
of Theravadan persuasion)
eat no more after the

sun tolls noon. Except
for drinks & dark
chocolate, considered

salutory medicine. Like
that. But I dole them out,
too—Baldwin & Auden.

Bought in New York last
December at The Strand,
Auden’s “Thank You, Fog,

his last collected poems.
A hardback Random House
first edition, 25 bucks.


TheStoryIsTheThing.com photo-illustration.

2.

It’s a narrow volume. And
yet, I’ve not done reading
its measured words, clear

and limpid as a glass,
straight up, of Campari.
Like the year-ending one

I had with Michael, in
a Bond Street bar, after a
Broadway show, the day

after the Strand. A
celebration, of sorts.
After the triumph of

American Utopia.’ Though
David Byrne failed to show,
as is the custom, at the stage

door, post production.
Mister Byrne won’t be
able to see playgoers as

there’s another evening
show.
” We’d seen the matinee.
Instead, we sit & sip.


Scene from David Byrne’s “American Utopia,” colorized.

3.

A tres cher tumbler, almost
25 bucks, too, of my old libation
from heady days (& disastrous,

too) fronting Third Eye
Cabaret. I limit myself,
these years, to one glass

per year, to close that year.
This is my discipline now. So,
I cherish its … what?

Bitter herbs, its fruits & who knows
what. The company doesn’t say.
Its a brew some can’t stomach,

except in decorated form.
Titrated with gin and bitters,
maybe an orange rind run

around the rim. I drink it
straight. Imagine all the
sunny days, the rainy

nights, the fog & heat,
the rabbits, maybe, nibbling
at the many herbs it took.


James Baldwin | colorized photography by TheStoryIsTheThing.com

4.

Where? Who knows.
It’s a lot of herbs. Baldwin’s
straight Campari. Drunk

in sips, at least to my
untutored palette. Yet,
an intoxicating, a

challenging encounter. A
confrontation, even. And
Auden, he is distilled,

too. In a different, yet
an equal tour-de-force.
My brain, my ‘citta,’

as Thai monks say—
the ‘heart-mind‘—knows
it holds a drink as

complexly gathered &
brewed as the ruby swirl
of Campari, naked

in a crystal glass.
So, sip! What is
that flavor?


5.

But, too, Campari is
a flavor all its own. One
flavor, built of many.

Redolent. Worthy of
dissection. But also
of just resting on

the palatte. The
utter simplicity
of complexity.

Word by word.
Glass by single
year-end’s glass.

+ + +
columbus, indiana | sep14.2020

4 Comments

    • Douglas Imbrogno

      If you are in DC in December, and I have not yet had my year-ending Campari, perhaps we could lift a glass there? You could have something else. Not everyone gets Campari.

    • Douglas Imbrogno

      Thank you for reading and your comment, Mary. Very much appreciated!
      ___________________
      …From Archaeology
      one moral, at least, may be drawn,
      to wit, that all

      our school text-books lie.
      What they call History
      is nothing to vaunt of,

      being made, as it is,
      by the criminal in us:
      goodness is timeless.

      ~ W.H. Auden, from “Archaeology

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