Thursday, June 9, 2022

Whiskey Bar Remodeled

How weird boozing in old bars

No longer bars but restaurants


Crème-filled with families and fluorescent

Overhead lighting bright as church


The congregation not my crowd

Booths replaced the sticky oak bar


We leaned against evenings

Headed home from work


No more Cardinals and Harley-Davidson posters

Now No Smoking and unmanageable kids


But at one time bent-billed caps and

Shirts tie-dyed from bleach and sweat and


Concrete thick on boots or mud grease cow shit

Cigarette smoke wandering from lips and ashtrays


Tobacco spit in empty bottles fishing tales true and  

False and salt around the rim of beer cans


Lipstick kiss on a double shot glass the new

Bartender’s number calligraphed on my napkin


Bar phone jangling someone hunting

Someone late for supper dartboards pool tables


And a jukebox worth the money but now

Blond waitresses in sombreros belt out


Happy Birthday for embarrassed clientele 

Yellow trim around windows ferns dangling


Intermittently around a sterile dining room where

Bands once covered the classics back when


Porkchop and I perched on ass-worn stools

Down at the far end of the bar


Killing drinks and time and ourselves

Some might say but not me


I doubt in the future anyone reminisces about these

Orange curtains and Mickey Mouse balloons


No cobwebs coke-whores or buddies in the kitchen

Where is the dust


Sunlit particles orbiting between us and

Those filthy front windows now spotless


Where’s the bastard who still owes me eighty bucks

These people here need to know 


About the scuffle out by the air conditioning unit

That time I got barred


Two blackeyes and kicked the cigarette machine

Porkchop’s chuckle permeates the hallway by a


Long gone payphone like

Menthol cigarettes and the cheap


Cologne of rednecks prowling for action

I can still hear dead musicians


You tonight will never know

Every drink downed and accounted for.

Joey Dean Hale
is a musician and writer who has published stories and poems in several magazines, including Midwestern Gothic, Saturday Night Reader, and The Common. His story “Access Closed” was included in the Bibliotekos Anthology Puzzles of Faith & Patterns of Doubt.