The Stuff

Today’s free-verse experiment in…something.

The Stuff

Ah, yes, you remember the Stuff
and miss it fondly on occasion.
Day coming, day going,
there was a liquid for the moment.
The socializer, the bravery fuel,
the red ritual accompaniment,
the bubbly social lubricant (not like that, ya perv!),
the perfect tart, acidic white to go with food,
or a hot, sunny day
or some exotic spot out of country
or an elegant dinner
or a gathering with friends
or a chat with your buddy
or a lonely, sad night by yourself.
You won’t judge now
if others still consume:
you had those moments yourself,
many a time and again.
Though you worry when you see others
follow your dark path
long after you turned back.

Eventually you had to stop, of course.
No blackouts,
no lost weekends,
no coming-to
in a puddle of your own making.
But you weren’t quite on top of your game, either, were you?
not with that Stuff.
The work always suffered a little.
The mornings always starting a bit slower.
The weight always creeping that much higher.
And you kept coming back for…
The medicine. The anesthetic. The stimulant. The depressant.
The coping mechanism. The Muse.
The Stuff always called,
and you always answered.

And what do you do with yourself now?
You take reality straight, no chaser.
You’re forced to face the face that faces back:
gray-haired, watery blue-eyed, overweight,
aging, unstable, neurotic, intellectual, sarcastic geek.
All the stuff that made you self-conscious
is all you’ve got left,
and now you’ve got to live with it.

There’s a woman willing to take you
but she doesn’t know the Drinking You.
She sees only the vulnerable, middle-aged, non-drinking dork
who’s been forced into honesty
with himself and with others
because he’s got nothing left.
She hasn’t seen the surly nastiness,
but she doesn’t see the inspired creative, either.
No roller-coaster emotions,
no need to cope,
but nothing to inspire visions on paper, either.
That’s your story without the Stuff:
one day like another,
just calm and well-balanced
with nothing to say.
She doesn’t see how weird that is,
how frightening.
And you don’t trust
that the Stuff won’t return.
If you could drink in moderation,
you would be.
But you’re not, and your life awaits.
Get to work.

/b 11/29/22

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