Monday Apr 23

McQuainKelly Kelly McQuain grew up surrounded by the mountains of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. In 2013, his chapbook Velvet Rodeo was chosen by poet C. Dale Young as the winner of Bloom magazine’s poetry award. His poetry has appeared on National Public Radio and in such venues as Painted Bride Quarterly, Kestrel, The Pinch, Assaracus and Weave, and in such anthologies as Poems for the Writing, Drawn to Marvel: Superhero Poems, and Between: New Gay Poetry. His prose has appeared in Kansas Quarterly/Arkansas Review, The Harrington Gay Men's Fiction Quarterly, and many anthologies, including the Lambda Award-winning Men on Men. Visit him here.

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The Absinthe Drinker



It’s clear he’s hit the road
—a Kerouac, a Hemingway—

leather journal, expensive camera,
t-shirt from the Kafka Café.

He struts in, sits beside me,
asks the bored barkeep to set him up:

etched glass, silver spoon, cube of sugar on top
over which acid-green absinthe is poured

drop by drop. In broken English
the Czech barkeep starts to instruct—

the young American waves him off,
doesn’t want to hear it. He’s got a guidebook,

knows about this stuff. He clicks his lighter,
sets the soaked sugar afire. Spoon plunge,

quick swirl. His glass glows—a blue flame—
and before the barkeep can translate or I can explain

douse or blow out the kid drinks it down.
The scent of anise and fennel collapses

into a stench of burnt hair. The kid’s eyebrows gone now.
At least he’s still got both eyes. I pound his back

as he coughs into the bar. Our barkeep no longer bored
but raising an eyebrow in a way my new friend

can’t anymore. Stupid kid, I think
as I signal us a second round. The two of us

both flotsam. This rainy day. This bar. So I listen
to my younger version blame all his folly
 
on the green fairy’s hallucinogenic effects.
Only stopping over in Prague, he tells me.

Running with the bulls is next.