May 8, 2012

Ode to Underberg

Walking along on a dusky springtime eve
I heard a noise of a bear starting to grieve—
What was this? I didn’t believe
But it was my own stomach, to which nothing did cleave.
I noticed a candle in a local watering hole,
And headed in to save my soul
(as well as my innards, which seemed an empty bowl
that was collapsing inwards as if chewed by a mole).
I ordered a feast of courses untold,
First bread and cheese filled with blue and mold
Accompanied by flagons of gin made bold
by lime juice, maraschino, violette—served cold.
Next up were plates that would make Hercules strain,
Pastas, ensalatas, empanadas, like rain
Were served alongside even more delicious mains
and a giant bucket of chilled Champagne.
I ate more food than any ten men,
The waitress came back and I started eating again
Following greens with green beans and then
Moving on to the sweets, the creams, the puddin’s.
And then the foods hit my center like a roiling brick.
I groaned, I cursed, my over-eating anything but comic
As I contemplated erupting like a fresh oil derrick.
Was there anything that could undo my stuffed predic-

And then like an angel dressed purely in serge
The waitress appeared or seemed to emerge
From my over-full haze and said through my dirge:
Sir, what you need, is a quick Underberg.
She handled me a bottle, small and in brown paper,
Made a motion of drinking as if in quick prayer,
And I, trusting her angelic look and manner,
Unscrew’d the green cap and turned into a gulper.
The moment the elixir of ‘berg hit my tongue
I felt that perhap’ my indulgence might be undone.
The flavor was of herbs and of spices far-flung,
Backed by a muscular fu tied to a tougher kung
And when the liquid miraculous hit my tum-tum
It cut through the food pounding me like a drum.
It bounced through the sweets all the way to the bottom,
And left me feeling as if I’d barely eaten a crumb.
Oh, Underberg, the god’s must have made you
For people like me, those was are known to
Eat enough at one sitting to turn them near blue.
Oh, Underberg, you’ve made my evening less askew,
And for this I will never forget your wond’rous brew,
Your lovely taste, your dark and magic hue,
Your little bottles, your quick rescue
Of my evening—I’d call it voodoo
Underberg, if I didn’t believe it a higher urge.
And so I left that night without out having to purge,
swearing that, whether in Miami or Pittsburgh,
I would never again be without my savior, my Underberg.

April 2, 2012

Cocktail Talk: The Mamelukes May Love

It’s now just about a year since the beginning of wife Nat and I’s last month of Italian pre-tirement (if that makes sense–we came back May of last year). Which is, if not tragic, at least personally sad. Luckily, there’s wine here–even if it does come packing a lot of markup. But it’s here, and brings some of Italy along with it. And luckily there’s Francesco Redi. Who was a physician (to some of those Medici dukes), scientist, and poet. Those days you could be more of everything (and by those days, I mean the 1600s). He was also from Arezzo (where I spent a few fun days when living there) and wrote the poem “The Mamelukes May Love,” all about wine (said poem translated in In Their Cups). The bottom is just the poem’s finale—hey, you can buy the book for the whole thing and help me get back to Italy.

Sweet ladies,
for a moment, do not drink,
but run your  fingers like garlands
through my hair. I won’t crave your
sugary egg punch, or golden
sorbets, a thousand fragranced waters,
because these indolent drinks are only
for your sweet lips. Wine, wine
is for those desire euphoria,
to forget their fears. But be not shy about it–
I tip my glasses crazily, happily,
at least six times a year.

— Francesco Redi, The Mamelukes May Love

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April 16, 2010

To Gin (Yes, You Get to Read a Poem)

This was originally published in the Spring 2010 Issue of the Khaos Apocrypher (a magazine you can sign up to receive, if you’re interested. Just email Dr. Gonzo, who I’m hoping doesn’t care that I’m putting this poem up here. But if he does, I’ll just buy him some gin. And, speaking of, I suggest sipping a gin cocktail while reading this. So, go shake or stir one up. Okay, you back? Let’s continue).


To Gin


It’s 10 am, and the word gin spills

out accompanied by a gentle twitch, Junipers communis

and I’m stuck in office chairs and prickly socks

distilled to only a toast: here’s to brisk bottles


and hosts, a soldiery row at ease waiting

for another vested soul  to pull them down,

to start gin’s accented engine. Where to begin,

in my dream of gin? I’ll open with noon’s


luncheon sin, a Martini made on dry’s couth

side, winnowed twist, skip the olive, its briny mistake

like the sobering taste in your mouth

from a long-forgotten  first date,


then I say amble into another kick in short pants,

a opaque smile designed for those desiring  lack,

gin’s pocket compass, the Gimlet camped

in cocktail glass freshly limed, please, or take


it back and listen to me swear, thirsty.

And then there’s the way I lisp, like a trout,

after three Bronx in row, orange blessing

and fraternal vermouths, gin within and without


while I’ve lost another hour, now, absent gin’s zoo,

gin’s mill, gin’s soak, boots, piano, truth,

gin burn and gin singe, tingle and curaçao

blossoming into caraway and angelica root.


Give me the Rickey’s twentieth century sass,

bubble my black suspenders with Vespers nightly

losing sleep with Lillet before breakfast,

get me a big tray made from lime’s core, a White Lady


up on the chaise, Cointreau cornered

by gin and it’s 2 pm, somewhere eyeballs eye

 Italians, gin’s Florentine mourner

wreathed in orange oil, bitter and red. But I


almost left the Campari out of the stanza

during my reverie of Negronis. I like mine up

but won’t turn gin away, even if tepid

I’ll take any highball, rocked and passed abruptly


across the room, a dimly lit gin sashay,

where the Last Word slips beneath sheets,

gin cuddling Marschino, Chartreuse, and lime swaying

into another ménage, making  gray sky incomplete


unless someone, me, you, drinks them penitent 

for what we will now receive: pass the gin, please,

echoes over cubes or neat, penitentiary

pleats or double strained, petticoated , and greased


with Angostura. The preference of ladies, Pink.

The gin, after three straight rounds, speaks:

Old Tom, London Dry, Hollands, Genever, Plymouth.

Thinking Englishly, I’ll be round in an hour, work


winks at shaker boys, undress cocktail waitresses

of cocktail napkins, blame gin, naturally,

and gin will soak it all in, knows it takes us places

we long to live within, from the Cornwall’s


coast to the furnace room under my Pierre St.

pied-à-terre where I tipped a bottle with soda

and a sliver of scotch (gin’s not afraid to meet

another as it turns the dark to stars), a comma


to New Orleans, Henry C. Ramos, and gin’s comfortable

motion, full conjunction between juices lime and lemon,

sugar, cream, egg, divine orange flower water,

an afternoon’s worth in one glass and time,


time, time, there’s never enough gin

or enough balance on my credit card, it’s not even

the end of the day, but I won’t delay gin’s hard choices

longer, a sip here and there like a bartender’s grin,


I’ve finally reached the bar and the words I’ve lingered

until five to hear–what’ll it be friend

come without stopping. I breathe, unbend,

and say, finally, for me, make it gin.

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December 15, 2009

Cocktail Talk: Catullus, Poem 27, Translation by Ed Skoog

It is the middle of the holiday cocktail party season. There are, let’s see, daytime work holiday parties, and nighttime work holiday parties, afternoon drinking parties with friends, and evening drinking parties with friends, holiday booze-teas with families, and holiday booze-luncheons with families, and holiday booze evenings with families, and then a host of parties thrown by those that might be friends, but not good friends, but parties you feel you should go to anyway, in the spirit of the season. With all this holiday partying, it’s possible (if not probable) that one or two of the parties may be more chore than cheer. With that, I’d like to present the following poem by Catullus, ancient partier. The poem is about these later parties a bit, and may well be worth reciting loudly when you’re at any holiday party. The translation (because, well, I can’t read ancient Latin) is by modern partier and poet Ed Skoog (did you get Mister Skylight yet? Cause if not, I’m sending a zombie Catullus to haunt you) and is, well, delicious.


Poem 27


Are you tending the bar, kid? Pour me the strong stuff,

the Falernian wine, and one for yourself. We’re going to need it,

the way this party is going. Our host, Postumia, is drunker than

these grapes. No water, please. It kills what wine is.

Save water for the fool who prefers his own sorrow.

This wine is more than wine. It’s the blood of the god

whose mother was destroyed by his father’s splendor,

the god of madness and ecstasy, who shares it with us.


— Poem 27, Catullus, translated by Ed Skoog


PS: Enjoy this drunken poetry and lit’rature stuff? Then you must, I say must, visit the blog Drunk Literature. It’s a literary boozehound’s dream blog.

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