Jed Myers

The Gift

 

Pour me another I heard the man mumble

across the bar toward Matt with the bottle

ready at hand. Matt knew the fellow

too well. No unusual night,

a Monday, and all of the football

crowd had risen, paid and gone out.

 

Now it was Matt, myself, and the white-headed

loner about to start on his fourth

Johnnie Walker. He was big red and wrinkled.

It was known he walked and wouldn’t be

getting behind a wheel. There wasn’t

a wife. What would it matter, another

 

dose? But a wince went over

the bartender’s face, a worried wonder—

what if the drinker went out and stumbled,

crashed against the cement, fractured

a rib, and the broken end punctured

the drunkard’s lung? There on the pavement

 

blood would invisibly fill the space

in his chest meant for accepting

the breath. There, in the dark

by himself he just might asphyxiate

and we wouldn’t know till maybe the next

night when he didn’t show. What if

 

the codger wove wide off the sidewalk

into the street and got hit by a kid

coming hard round a corner like kids did

in their hormonal fervor? There’d be the lug

all busted up on the asphalt unable

to move a limb. And whose fault

 

would it be? I thought I saw all this

cross like a cloud over Matt’s broad brow,

his full cheeks and lips like a landscape

changed by the changing light, as he lifted

the golden bottle in one hand and grasped

the tumbler in the other. Out flowed the gift.

Jed Myers lives in Seattle. He is author of Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award) and two chapbooks. Recent honors include the Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry, The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Poetry Prize, and the McLellan Poetry Prize (UK). Recent poems can be found in Rattle, Poetry Northwest, The Greensboro Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Shining Rock Poetry Anthology, Magma, Canary, and elsewhere. He is Poetry Editor for the journal Bracken.