Thursday, August 2, 2018

Pray Answers Won't Smell Like Alcohol

I’m over there in the corner
of a dive bar, quiet tongued
and soul eyed.

I pinch my arm to bruise present
on my skin, but thirty years a go
blinks beneath neon.

Reluctant, terrified, sober as a crucifix,
I walk questions to an empty chair
and pray answers won’t smell like alcohol.

Silence beads little droplets on my skin
until I’m feverish enough to gurgle who
from my throat in a semblance of language.

Frowning she places a finger on my lips
and speaks, Don’t ask…I just came
to learn how I can change my future.

©Susie Clevenger 2018

Written from some tough news I recently received. No, it isn't me or my family.


  1. I love your poem, though it seems a bit dark. You walk questions to an empty chair, and pray answers won't smell like alcohol. I don't totally understand, but I like it just the same.

    We never know our response to touch news.

  2. I'm not sure that I understand it, but the sense of atmosphere is wicked strong and i want it to be the opening of a long character-driven novel. I want to know more.

  3. Yes, such strong sense of atmosphere. Love "quiet tongued and soul eyed." Especially love the closing lines.

  4. The meeting of selves present and past I read here, and the crossroads -- face in a cracked bar mirror, sober self looking back -- is telling. Is it all booze? We channeled much of the same vibe in this challenge, I look back to a swimming pool in 1981 as the place America drowned. Thanks the work.

  5. How often when young we felt guilty in our lives hoping (whoever) wouldn't notice the alcohol, scent of others, stubborn silence or the guilty look in our eyes. I am so glad those days are over!

  6. this is brilliant - truly - even if there is no one precise answer here - this tells a very moving story - it reaches into the heart of darkness which we all share - intimately on a personal level, and collectively -
    and as so often in these life journeys, we shirk and skirt and dance, until finally, we must come to rest within these deepest places ~

    I appreciate all the lines, the tension, the specific word choices - this poem sings and screams -
    you've very subtly crafted an exceptional story - this is an incredible meeting - whether of self, as per the idea of Doppleganger, or of facing "ghosts" - memories, reflections, or spirits of another, or even possibly of whom once we might have been.

    Complex and brilliant. Definitely one of my new faves.

  7. I so wonder if my young self would approve of me... I can see how an alcoholic might fear a visit from the past... love the way you presented the story (at least how I understood it)

  8. That's an intriguing title, Susie, and so is the poem - and the bruise. It has some gorgeous phrases and I particularly love 'quiet tongued and soul eyed' and 'sober as a crucifix'. I also like 'I walk questions to an empty chair'. The ending is superb!

  9. This is so cool, Susie. I'm sure we have many times wished for the benefit of time travel, hindsight being the perfect vision.

  10. Beautiful writing, Susie! Thought provoking. I wonder if my current self will ever be comfortable with her young self.

  11. And I thought you wanted to dance. The question of how to change ones future is in the same book along with "How to raise a child" and "Why does the moon seem larger when it's near the horizon." Trouble is that this book has been lost for trillions of years.
    Nice prompt, Susie. You did well with it.