The Drinkers, by Betsy Mars
He hides the bottle behind the bush,
hoping the baby’s breath will not betray it;
born to the bottle, his spirit uncrushed,
the sugared green solace soon dims his wit.
As his body lengthens like the dragging day,
he finds himself on a summer’s eve standing
at the table with others who have likewise strayed.
In the jug’s jaded glow they find their hardships lightening.
Like mother’s milk to soothe his pain, the liquid pacifying;
he suckles, swaddled in the spreading heat.
His body aged by labor and imbibing,
the gravity of years on endless repeat.
It’s a Dickens tale at midnight. The man sways
between the suckling child and grizzled creature,
quenching his thirst, trapped with feet of clay.
He glimpses his verdant past and jaundiced future.
Again, he lifts his cup, lost in an emerald haze
seeing his life laid out before his eyes,
there is nothing to do but ease the way,
resigned to nothing, with no hope of surprise.
History’s ghosts have laid a table of spirits;
from birth to the grave the poor man follows suit -
his life rises and falls with no choice but to bear it.
and find a measure of comfort in the hypnotic root.
In the end, seeking asylum, the artist checks himself in -
an effort to thwart the searching and seizures -
but in solitary confinement - the cell his brain -
he remains, drinking his chartreuse pleasure.
Out of sight and darkened with dread,
the sweetness of life has turned bitter.
Like a green fairy, he flickers and has fled
to the sanctuary of the night’s starry glitter.
Betsy Mars has long resided in Southern California. She was born in Connecticut, but moved several times as a child, including spending two years in Brazil. She is a poet, educator, animal lover, mother, and traveler. She has her BA in Psychology from USC, as well as a Master’s in Communications Management through the Annenberg program at USC. Her work has been published by the Rise Up Review, Silver Birch, Gnarled Oak, and in the California Quarterly journal, among others, as well as in a number of anthologies. She currently indulges her need for risk-taking by substitute teaching and living with multiple animals underfoot.
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