“What Really Drives You To Drink” – Poetry by Jeff Laughlin

The Drunkard's Progress, Nathaniel Currier, 1846
The Drunkard’s Progress, Nathaniel Currier, 1846

Much like literature’s most famous chronicler of the Flapper Age, Jeff Laughlin has quite a flair for zeitgeist-capture. In his poem “What Really Drives You To Drink,” Jeff examines the darkness and sadness that plague us– drinkers and teetotalers alike– and he does it with great elegance and wit. You can read this poem along with other fine lit in our Spring 2014 Issue, now on sale for just $3.

{ X }

I.
OF COURSE, WE ALL WANT REVOLUTIONS
with piano loops playing behind us
driving us to the light of salvation.

We all want the moments of dreams,
caricatures of our destinies; we want
model-sizes of us writhing against evil.

Yes, we ache for sustenance beyond
substances, data ahead of information,
a wealth of armies, breaching battalions.

We want the lines between injustices
ruptured, to rip thousands of tears in our
oblivious brain-skin and sensibilities.

We want to be buried in beautiful
graves, our thoughts and actions resting
non-anonymously but not autonomic.

Above us, floating, are the souls of everlasting
life, their bombastic screams louder than
the empty bottles they hurl at us blithely.

Just out of reach, the albatross, the overt
and countercultural masses; all that lays
here is middle-ground, pain, and sincerity.

Here is intransigence, where we are.

II.
Numb music, numb logic, numb ache,
no love, no hope, no difference, no change,
no impetus, no interludes, no, yes, noise.

The mountains of measures that stack
against us, again the grievances, again
the inconstant, a grain of growth in hand.

All the emotionality, every incumbent politic,
the body enormous, the entirety of selection,
the vastness of vagary, the width of walls.

Vents press air into rooms, terrific weight
into our lungs to be released as intoxicants,
we don’t need to see people before death.

We already know they are dead, as we are.

III.
The hefty weight of every night is the speech
we can handle: motion, courage, weather,
poison, pinnacles, depths, aroma, origin.

The alcoholic lives in peril without thought or
intent to harm, but only for hours before
inebriation; before the skies are slick, black.

The misunderstood element of surprise is the
unbridled slip of senility, the sudden loss of
thought as the body slithers around columns.

Enhancing experiences is not the point, rather
the point is to caress the cordiality of the
evening as if to whisper hello to the afterlife.

We know exactly what, though not where, we are.

IV.
The body often eats itself whole: the brain
despises its state, the skin bruises, the hands
shake and wither, the muscles atrophy alive.

But, like the most grandiose of nights, there are
periods of expansive brightness: ravenous hunger
and want of the primal and simple carnality.

Those are the nights we’d most remember
if the memories proved capable of staying, but
they slip out like the liver escaping; bleeding out.

We know how we’ll die despite who we think we are.

V.
Shellac me with drinks for the generations of
mistake-makers, mishandled wonder, morose
thought, ungratefulness, thankless tiresome woe.

Contract me, fold me into sickness, into drivel,
into a prison of folly, of mangled explanations,
failed connections, colorful one-time relationships.

Trample me with spiked heels, designed tread,
adaptations of nights past, golden stories spun
onto looms by weary-cum-fastidious hands.

Disgust me with my own corpulence, I am
fattened by the desire of drink, but don’t judge
my wont to caress my sweat-soaked bloat.

Amongst me are the finest minds– the madding
crowd be damned– and those that wish to disguise
life’s impurity, no matter the irony of how we do so.

Bring me masses to one spot and I will
entertain them all: hordes of drunks, we
must swallow what bitter pills we have left.

We are our own guides: maps guiding destiny, we are.

{ X }

JarffJEFF  LAUGHLIN writes about the Bobcats for Creative Loafing Charlotte & about sports in general for Triad City Beat in Greensboro, NC. His 1st book of poetry, Drinking with British Architects, is riddled with mistakes but available free if you want it. His 2nd book Alcoholics Are Sick People contains the poem you just read. If you ask nicely, he’ll probably give that to you too. Contact Jeff on his seldom-used twitter (@beardsinc) or email him (repetitionisfailure @gmail.com). He likely needs a haircut.

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