Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Christmas in Hartford

I worked reading church bulletins
three nights a week. I started
my holiday at midnight, two days
before Christmas, when I climbed
the stairs to my bare second floor

apartment. I looked across
the brick wall at the dark windows
of the Institute of Living,
the only light entering the lounge
from the nurse's station, before I closed

my blinds and switched on my lamp.
I sat in the wooden rocker, my one
good chair lent to me by my sister,
set up my nine-inch black and white TV
on the table given to me by a woman

unwilling to leave her house
in the country, where we had stayed
together for four days, taking baths
and leaving our footprints in the snow,
while her husband celebrated Christmas

in Maine that year with his mistress.
I separated out the seeds, stuffed
my pipe with pot, celebrated the holiday
until 5:30, when the trucks delivering
milk, ham, and vegetables arrived

at the loading dock. Getting up
at 2:30, two hours before sunset, I sat
in the chair, drank coffee, watched
the traffic on Washington, the cars
stopping at Quiktrip, and saw a woman

getting out of a black station wagon
turn to glance up at me,
before I looked across the brick wall
at the windows of the insane, who stared
back at me and thought I was so lucky.

Using Phil Miller's poems of drunkenness as a model, I wanted to do something similar with the substance that I once used regularly. This poem of mine appeared in Phil Miller's The Any Key Review, an online journal, in 1998.