On Alcohol

By Sam Sax

my first drink was in my mother
my next, my bris. doctor spread red
wine across my lips. took my foreskin
every time i drink     i lose something
no one knows the origins of alcohol. tho surely an accident
before sacrament. agricultural apocrypha. enough grain stored up
for it to get weird in the cistern. rot gospel. god water
brandy was used to treat everything
from colds to pneumonia
frostbite to snake bites
tb patients were placed on ethanol drips
tonics & cough medicines
spooned into the crying mouths of children
each friday in synagogue a prayer for red
at dinner, the cemetery, the kitchen
spirits how many times have i woke
strange in an unfamiliar bed?
my head neolithic
my grandfather died with a bottle in one hand
& flowers in the other. he called his drink his medicine
he called his woman  she locked the door
i can only half blame alcohol for my overdose
the other half is my own hand
that poured the codeine    that lifted the red plastic again & again & i’m trying to understand pleasure     it comes back
in flashes    every jean button thumbed open to reveal
a different man     every slurred & furious permission
i was sober a year before         died
every time i drink     i lose someone
if you look close at the process of fermentation
you’ll see tiny animals destroying the living body
until it’s transformed into something more volatile
the wino outside the liquor store
mistakes me for his son
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