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.