The Bartender’s Pledge

Poem by Steve Bazin. This poem was published in the Spring 2016 Wabash Review.

Slouch behind grimy plywood,
hastily spray painted black.
Set up shop for the night.

Sneak a bottle of what might be gin,
pour it into a glass – away from the boss.
Sip secretly to survive the night.

Witness the decadence of our youth,
our blasphemous attempts at affection.
They try to fill the void for one night.

Steal a sip of gin while boss’s back is turned.
DJ increases music to ludicrous volumes,
pop song marks the middle of the night.

Slide piss reeking beer to a new face,
save artisanal hard cider for the regulars and any chicks if they ask
Turn down the first drunk of the night.

Steal another sip of gin.
Slip a martini to that pretty young thing,
thankful it’s her first of the night.

Lots of pretty young faces in the crowd.
Wonder where my wife is,
did she even come tonight?

Lots of pretty young faces in the crowd.
Wonder where my wife is,
did she even come tonight?

Make a drunk girl drink water,
while uncorking pink Moscato.
Streaky mascara – she’s cried tonight.

Behind bar – your gin will still safe,
vodka and apple juice mixed in trash cans,
for the night’s mass.

Two strangers exit the bar,
glass of gin half empty,
not the first of the night.

Sip gin and scan faces.
No sign of wife –
can’t call this her scene.