The Bartender’s Tale
Part One: New Hampshire
We are having lunch with our poet artist friend,
Looking down toward the big lake,
Luminous glow of peak reds and golds
In an October mist.
The bar is crowded,
Favourite domestic brands on draft.
Why would you go to a bar at noon on Monday?
To watch replay of Sunday’s game,
To see if the Patriots win this time,
Or have a beer with your sandwich,
Which you could do by the window,
At the table next to ours,
And look out at the muted foliage.
Mainly, we conclude, for companionship,
The sense of being part of something,
Even—especially—in a resort town
In the off season.
We are ready to go.
We hug our friend and say
So long until June.
There’s an empty place at the bar now
I may come back in a while.
Part Two: North Carolina
At the supermarket where we shop
The marketing folk have sought to
Redefine the grocery experience,
So they’ve put up a sign out front
That says “Welcome to Our Farm”
And have installed a beer garden
In the beverage section,
Craft brews with exotic ingredients.
So at one pm on a Tuesday
There are people sitting at the bar
Enjoying a cool one.
Who drinks beer at a grocery store?
People who work for the distributor?
There is no TV, no football,
Sometimes no one to talk to.
They may be wishing for a companionship
Yet to emerge, a kindred spirit
To appear from down the produce aisle.
Part Three: Pennsylvania
I think of the bars on every corner
In the sad rust belt town
Where I grew up.
Priestly barkeeps move their towels
Back and forth with Rogerian attending.
Jesse and I walk by at dusk
Carrying our baseball gloves,
Close enough to hear those Pennsylvania voices,
The murmur of disappointment and companionship,
Esslinger, Schmidt’s of Philadelphia,
Old Reading Beer.
I have created templates
In my computer
Wishing speedy recovery,
Funny cartoon characters
Sending all good wishes,
Thinking of you.
I cannot yet bring myself
To send condolences
These things all happened the same day:
The phone rang at six a.m.
A stranger from Memphis
Sought our help
In contesting someone’s will.
Sarah fell putting out the bird feeders.
A raccoon had gotten into the garbage.
The cable was out for twelve hours.
Then, toward midnight that same day,
The faint dampness of soiling nightclothes
The aroma of being eighty-one,
A point in life when
You run into a friend
And are afraid to ask
How’s your wife.
Retirement home dusk
A bicycle built for two
Rear seat riderless.
Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.