Sad Café



The light is a strange bright dream entering

the ICU. As I pass each room, curtains flutter;

the escape of breath. It certainly can’t be true

but all I can think is that everyone is good and dying.

As good as dead.

I’m family, I explain to a purse-lipped nurse

as she walks with other intents from your empty room.

It doesn’t matter. Unsure of myself, I begin discarding

napkins and wrappers and bottles, the only evidence

of any visitors. Over this mess, I weep.

Hovering near the bed (a sterile cushion of white air

between us), I avoid looking. But I remember you believe

in the Lutheran way and so I murmur the long-version

Lord’s Prayer, holding your hand and I am a child again.


On the phone, Ma said the others said they found

dozens of empty bottles of “gut-rot” vodka and gin

at the house. My only thought: you could play the hell

out of a drum kit and all they can see and say right now

is how fucking sorry you and your choice of liquor were.

We would sometimes get drunk together. (But I don’t

need to explain that it was okay.) At summer fests,

you’d buy me a solo cup margarita for every two

of your crappy beers. Another time in a bar you laughed,

damn near startled but proud as I belted out Eagles lyrics.

Hey, kid, what do you know about the Sad Café?


The bite of rubbing alcohol surrounds us, its insistent,

insidious cleanliness puncturing everything like a migraine.

Your hands are heavy, sallow and forgive me, I call it a night.

The steady beat of your collapsing over and over again

was there, I know. We all know it from our own and

remorse is the broken glass we’ll always fall on,

the notes we hear as we hit the pavement every time.