A Drinking Song
By William Butler Yeats
Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
I’ll drink to that. And if I had a glass of wine for every poet known to be a drunkard, I’d be way past intoxicated and waiting in line to have my stomach pumped at the local hospital. For more poems on drinking, visit poets.org for a selection of a few great ones.
So, the question comes do you drink before writing your poetry? Alas, I do not. I have no way of knowing therefore, if my poetry would be better or worse on the bottle than without. I suppose this is the reckless chance I take in living a sober life. I have not always been so responsible with drinking, so I’d rather not find out. I have a bad enough track record with coffee drinking late into the afternoon after sleeping in as late as I can. Yes, I live the true glamorous life of an unemployed writer.
I started writing around age seven penning short poems but I didn’t really start drinking until age 19 when a new set of older work friends decided it would be fun to see how much I could drink before throwing it all up. That’s what I remember about my 20th birthday. In poem form it would go like this,
Pizza at Chuckie Cheese’s fades into
vodka shots at Shawn’s apartment
where a crowd has gathered to watch
me sing into the toilet bowl.
Vodka was always my drink of choice. When we motored across the Canadian border to gamble, I forewent the craps tables and sat down to watch hockey with Shawn drinking a cape cod, which is a vodka and cranberry juice. By the second glass, I complained that I couldn’t taste the alcohol anymore and Shawn agreed, “You’re drunk,” after tasting my drink. Later, he and the others, Renee and Alex, would have the task of transporting a minor back over the border drunk. “Just don’t say anything!” Shawn instructed as I slurred my words. The border guard let us pass and I didn’t learn my lesson.
Once married, I invested in minor social drinking as we trendily bought wine to go with our dinners or a six pack of beer until my husband was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago. Gradually, it fell out of fashion to drink until I separated from my husband for a few months two years ago.
I had new friends who were younger than thirty-something me and they liked to go out at night and see musicians play. Of course, I stayed up all night even though I had a morning job that commenced at 8am. A few times, I drank enough that I couldn’t even make it out of the bar. I puked in the toilet stall, once with my friend. Sarah, faithfully beside me. “Are you okay?” Another time, I tried to cover it up after a lengthy trip to the bathroom coming out and insisting I was fine and hitting the dance floor in heels no less.
I rarely slept during this manic explosion of activity. When I wasn’t drinking, I daydreamed about it. I wrote fantastically during my off-time with fervor in my blood. How does it feel I asked to fall down seventy times with a rose in your hair? The untitled poem points to my struggle with manic depression and ends with might as well be a junkie with stripped veins, dull and hollow insides, and burns in your mouth from all those times you ate out of the oven. In many ways, a manic depressive is like an alcoholic in that there’s a daily $5 show for the viewing audience and a $500 behind the scenes cleanup that no one ever sees.
I won’t go so far as to say I’m an alcoholic but I think drinking agrees with me like poetry agrees with me. Hence, I try to avoid it. I don’t think you have to be an alcoholic to be a good writer or poet although if that’s your method, you do as you like. I patched up things with my husband and have moved on from late night partying like a twenty-year old. Likewise, I can’t say I don’t miss it sometimes. But that is what poetry is for. It is to capture that moment you had and expand it for future enjoyment. In closing, unfinished thoughts haunt like pink corduroy pants.