Isn't that a great title? It's the title of a book of terrific poems by Hayden Carruth, who I started reading many, many years ago--probably when I was in high school and stumbled on Carruth's stuff when I was prowling the public library in Grand Forks, North Dakota, as I did habitually and compulsively.
I've been reading Carruth off and on ever since, and a couple years ago I picked up SCRAMBLED EGGS & WHISKEY. I've been reading and re-reading the poems in it every night lately, just as I did last year around this same time. I have no idea why I've been reading him in the early fall, but I have. Maybe this is the best time for good poetry. A good, wool-gathering time of the year.
Hayden Carruth...one of the great writers of the past century and then some. I salute him here for all the years I've considered him my own, which is the highest compliment any reader can pay any writer.
QUALITY OF WINE
BY HAYDEN CARRUTH
This wine is really awful
I’ve been drinking for a year now, my
retirement, Rossi Chablis in a jug
from Oneida Liquors, the best
I can afford. Awful. But at least
I can afford it, I don’t need to go out and beg
on the street like the guys
on South Warren in Syracuse, eyes
burning in their sockets like acid.
And my sweetheart rubs my back when I’m
knotted in arthritis and swollen
muscles. The five stages of death
are fear, anger, resentment, renunciation,
and –? Apparently the book doesn’t say
what the fifth stage is. And neither
does the wine. Is it happiness? That’s
what I think anyway, and I know I’ve been
through fear and anger and resentment and at least
part way through renunciation too, maybe
almost the whole way. A slow procedure,
like calling the Medicare office, on hold
for hours and then the recorded voice says, “Hang up
and dial again.” Yet the days
go by fast enough. They fucking fly like the wind. Oh,
Sweetheart, Mrs. Manitou of the Stockbridge Valley,
my Red Head, my Absecon Lakshmi of the Marshlights,
my beautiful, beautiful Baby Doll,
let the dying be long.