Sestina to Rotgut Booze By Shelby Stephenson

What’s more important than rotgut booze
is my father’s love of it and my love of his rosy
cheeks and steps to reach the Mason jar
in the cabinet – to see him, purely destined bound,
reach for the jar and shake it just to see the beads
swirl around the top as if he were creating a waking Adam.
His Eve, named Maytle, my mother, is there for her Adam,
saying “Ah, Paul,” as he pours his booze
he calls a toddy, then leans taller, raising the beads
which seem enamored in their zinging action, his rosy
face complete voice and satisfaction as he swallows the shot-glass of whiskey bound
for his belly, a best gift, new delight from a jar.
Forthwith up, shoulders back, he places the jar
back on the shelf and makes, oh, ten steps, straight as Adam,
to his La-Z-Boy Recliner where he clears his throat bound
in glorious warmth, lights his pipe filled with Three Nuns and hums a tune for booze,
feels beside his chair for his checkerboard to begin his rosy
getaway from boredom, the gentleman farmer he is, preferring beads.
I can hear the checkers scatter on the board like beads
gathering his merits as champion checker-player while the jar
within his hums trembles with his talk, “your move” and “crown me,” his rosy
cheeks a wee red, as if he were really divine Adam
and his Maytle were Eve enjoying the smell of the booze
she honors without impairment.  She even feels sort of heaven-bound.
His checker-book open to his favorite moves, he is bound
by that fruitful taste of pure peach brandy whose beads
make him swear by good stump-hole, rotgut, mouth-watering booze.
He has paused not, the arms which lifted the jar
moving checkers, as if he plays himself and the Adam,
the knowledge-despising wanderer whose life became rosy
when Eve showed up as his wife and as Maytle Samantha, her rosy
life never sinking down to fall asleep but bound
to call her husband out as Paul and not Adam.
What would they do without each other and those beads,
a musicale, clearly attuned to the shaking jar
the love-labored earth designs in a jar filled with booze.
I appreciate seeing his rosy cheeks and those beads.
I never saw him high, yet bound, even then to reach for the jar
as long as he lived like Adam who drank drams without drowning in Nature’s booze.

Shelby Stephenson was editor of Pembroke Magazine for 32 years.  His recent book is More.

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