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Drunk at a Party

by Lee Upton

He couldn’t imagine it now,
kicking back, back kicking,
wandering around with a glass,
weirdly morose or—what’s the word?—
jolly. His voice sounding vaguely Swiss
or Peruvian or Dutch. Could he
pick up the rhythm
of the lush he once was,
get lugubrious with that woman
from the controller’s office?
Break down, regret everything or—
the opposite—
boast? What latch keeps a brain
from spinning like a prawn
dropped on a stranger’s parquet?
Ages ago in a land far away
lucky people got three martinis for lunch.
Whole lifetimes hung on a ledge
disgorging the slippery
feelers of sloe gin.
Who would he be
if he passed out again?
Or if love plucked his eyes
and made any throat glisten?
This descendant of men who broke
their necks
in buckets of hard cider?
Why am I speaking
at this moment
as if I were a man?
What ruse am I guilty of?
What keeps a lobster out of a tank?


Lee Upton’s fifth book of poems is Undid in the Land of Undone (New Issues Press, 2007). Her poetry appeared in The Best American Poetry 2008. She is also the author of many short stories and four books of literary criticism. (4/2009)

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