Which Poet, Which Beer (4)

I come here to sit quietly, emerging from my shack, if only briefly, to eavesdrop and observe, to sip beer and participate in the world of commerce. Ah, yes. The grocery store. If only all of them housed craft-beer bars. I place cilantro and shallots in my basket, add arugula, asparagus and a lime, and wander over to the fish case where two small fillets of Chilean sea bass, the commercial name for Patagonian toothfish, catch my eye.

Finally at the bar, I order Lone Pint Brewery’s Zeno’s Pale Ale, and overhear a disquisition on hydration and landscaping, and a conversation on war and snipers and gratitude. The ale arrives with a light, lacey head, exudes a bready malt profile upfront, and a pine-citrus punch at the back. I can’t quite uncover the truth of the flavor, but enjoy the search, and amidst the swirling combination of voices and beer I somehow think of Veronica Golos’ “Snow in April,” a ghazal in her stunning book Vocabulary of Silence.

“Has my flock of flowers died? An ambush, a bullet-shot
of cold. Undone beneath the snow, what’s truth, in April?”

What is the sniper’s truth? What gratitude might we find within April’s layers? I have no answers, only more questions, and with more questions comes thirst.

My second beer is a curious blend of old and new – a Belgian-style quadrupel that, don’t laugh, smells a bit like a cola, but in a good way. Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles is dark brown, let’s call it mahogany, with a fruity but mellow flavor and a toasty malt finish. And well balanced – with an alcohol content of 9%, it’s strong, but not too strong. Historical undercurrents flow through this brew, yet it also brings with it an appreciation of the new and popular, which leads to thoughts of one of my favorite poets, Frank Bidart, whose work often refers to and resonates with historical figures (in the book at hand, Watching the Spring Festival, Tu Fu and Catullus come to mind), and his poem “Sanjaya at 17,” referencing an American Idol contestant:

“There is a creature, among all others, one,
within whose voice there is a secret voice
which once heard
unlocks the door that unlocks the mountain.”

Today the mountain does not swing open for me. Perhaps a second Trois Pistoles might have done the trick, but instead, knowing I have to prepare dinner, starting with a compound butter of shallot, cilantro, garlic and lime zest, I request a mere taste of Founder’s Breakfast Stout, because, well, the idea of stout for breakfast has a certain appeal, though in my case would not be practical, as it would likely put me to sleep. And yes, it contains both chocolate and coffee (Sumatra and Kona), tastes a bit smoky, is smooth and luxurious in the mouth, and makes me long for a lonely, cold winter’s night in a far-off country, a fire crackling with just a hint of madness, and the full moon leering down at all of us, but particularly the dead genius that was Thomas James, whose poem “Wild Cherries,” from his one and only book Letters to a Stranger, ends:

I watch you eat, tasting yourself perhaps,
Some bitterness that is a part of you,
And I accept it gratefully. When you smile,
I see you dying in that single instant.
Walking back home, into ourselves, we enter
A far-off country neither of us wanted.”

Oh, those things we want and don’t want. To feel. To write. To cook, to sing. To share. To love. To be alone. To be numb. To do nothing. To do everything…

51 thoughts on “Which Poet, Which Beer (4)

  1. I love Founder’s Breakfast Stout and can see why it reminds you of the James verse. I was at Founders, in Grand Rapids, last week. While the Breakfast Stout wasn’t available on tap, they did have a Nitro Oatmeal Stout, and it was fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. well – I LOVE the stores that have the craft beer bars as well – and your post is officially going to be adopted by me to serve as my sentiments the next time I feel grateful for such a luxury…. and our local wegmans now has a restaurant inside the grocery store – great idea and have some friends who love it – but it is way over the top and sometimes the little beer pub/bars are all that is needed….
    loved your ending….

    “To feel. To write. To cook, to sing. To share. To love. To be alone. To be numb. To do nothing. To do everything…”
    and…
    to drink beer while grocery shopping

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. “I watch you eat, tasting yourself perhaps,
Some bitterness that is a part of you,
And I accept it gratefully. When you smile,
I see you dying in that single instant.
Walking back home, into ourselves, we enter
A far-off country neither of us wanted.”

    This read, like a drawing out of Self, a ‘get over yourself’ and ‘get it together woman’ read… ha! Who’d have thought the reminder of being a little social, the drool over a great beer and the love of words would assuage the bitterness? The power of poetry & great beer shall never be underestimated. Thank you. I loved this.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This was so enjoyable to read, Bob. I have a three camomile blend tea on the go right niw but I think I’d rather a tripel karmeliet (my fave beer) to accompany my fire side poetry reading. Thanks for the introduction to that last poet.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is all so wonderful. And Founder’s Breakfast Stout is a staple in our house, when the right season comes; we seem to have a second summer started now, so it will have to wait. I also am a fan of Left Hand’s Milk Stout Nitro, but it’s a little pricey so I consider it a special-occasion purchase. I’ll be sure to enjoy it with some of your poetry when the time comes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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