Friday, April 25, 2008


Poetry never appeals to me in its most artistic and vague form, so instead I give you the first installment of "The Unambiguous Poetry Corner."

This one's by John Ogden Whedon, and it appeared in (you guessed it!) The New Yorker on November 10, 1928. It's called "Speakeasy."
Elbows on a sloppy bar,
Feet upon a rail,
Shutters drawn and chinks filled,
Cluttered tables, drinks spilled,
Pretzels in a broken jar,
Ice and sawdust in a pail.

Screeching radio and clinking
Glasses. Shouts, a song, a curse.
Drinkers--sulky, happy, pensive.
There a novice, apprehensive,
Ostentatious in his drinking.
There a poet scribbling verse.

At the door there comes a tapping;
General hush; the singers cease.
Heads befogged in dissipation
Turn in tense anticipation--
Then a grunt, and back to napping.
It's only the police.


Kimber said...

I never knew what a speakeasy was until I went to Montreal to visit my friend one summer. He and his roomy proudly led me through the creepy basement of their rickety three story townhouse and into "the speakeasy."

Yep, they had created their very own sleazy watering hole - complete with gravel floors, old barrels to lean on, an upturned giant spool thingy for a table, unbelievable grime and lots of candles. I'm sure it was a complete firehazard, but I have to admit that our drinks tasted better down there.

Kimber said...

AND the police never found us.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Ha, a speakeasy long AFTER the end of Prohibition (though I don't think we ever really had Prohibition in Canada, did we?)

I'm used to calling those things "Boozecans," though I've never been in one myself.

You have officially descended into the criminal underworld. Next step: opium den!

tanzi said...

Great poem! I think I'll share it with my writer's craft kiddies. They're a bunch of sweet, fun hoodlums and will love it.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

You do a writer's craft class? Wow, maybe you could tutor me in exchange for choice bits of 1920s poetry?