McSorley’s Old Ale House

in Culture by

Lucy clearly irks this guy,
modestly-dressed as she is, curved

around her hard-won beer,
doing nothing except be there.

From across the room, he heckles her,
hand to cheek to amplify his scorn

over the expanse of sawdust
and peanut shells. He’s in his element,

a young Robert-Redford lookalike,
all canted muscly nonchalance.

His buddies egg him on
from behind like a Greek chorus.

Even the wall-art harrumphs,
Grover Cleveland or Teddy Roosevelt

with whiskers and tie, assorted
jockeys, boxers, the usual

tough customers. She’s aware.
You can see it in her pursed lips,

the tension of her hands on the counter.
This is no Happy Hour. Still,

some woman had to be the first
to suck tradition from the room

with her own foam mustache.
Tomorrow, she’ll bring a friend,

next week, a table’s-worth.



Devon Balwit’s most recent collection is titled A Brief Way to Identify a Body (Ursus Americanus Press). Her individual poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, Tampa Review, Apt (long-form issue), Grist, and Oxidant Engine among others.


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