American Life in Poetry: Column 006
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Rhyme has a way of lightening the spirit of a poem, and in this instance, the plural, spirits, is the appropriate word choice. Lots of readers can relate to "Sober Song," which originally appeared in North Dakota Quarterly. Barton Sutter is a Minnesota poet, essayist, and fiction writer who has won awards in all three genres.
Sober SongFarewell to the starlight in whiskey,
So long to the sunshine in beer.
The booze made me cocky and frisky
But worried the man in the mirror.
Goodnight to the moonlight in brandy,
Adieu to the warmth of the wine.
I think I can finally stand me
Without a glass or a stein.
Bye-bye to the balm in the vodka,
Ta-ta to the menthol in gin.
I'm trying to do what I ought to,
Rejecting that snake medicine.
I won't miss the blackouts and vomit,
The accidents and regret.
If I can stay off the rotgut,
There might be a chance for me yet.
So so long to God in a bottle,
To the lies of rum and vermouth.
Let me slake my thirst with water
And the sweet, transparent truth.
We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted from Farewell to the Starlight in Whiskey, Rochester: BOA Editions, 2004, by permission of the author. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.