The Sommelier

Maybe if I knew the form right,
The way to swish the words around in my mouth,
To suck in air and oxygenize them
So that the flavors stay trapped there for a moment
Or two,
This wouldn’t be happening.
Maybe life wouldn’t seem so overbearing
If I knew, you know,
How to pick out the flavors—
The stone fruits, the oak;
The wild and under ripe, freshly crushed, freshly cut;
The important aromas that give nuance and grace,
Beauty and enjoyment,
To what I find astringent and unpleasant at best.

(My face flushes; my teeth turn comically putrid.)

Maybe if I knew the earth,
The soil,
The valleys of the old and new worlds—
—Isn’t there some book to reference?
Some expert to consult?
Some prophet who will give me more guidance than “taste and see”?
It has never been that clear to me.

I spin my cup round and round;
I observe the legs, the tears.
It’s a tic, he told me, the spinning.
A compulsion.

And all the while, Mother Earth is spinning us round:
           “Is that black currant buds I’m getting?”
It sounds more couth,
Less alarming,
When you know how to say it.

But I don’t.
I can only say that this tastes like cat piss to me
And I’d rather drink the Kool-Aid and be done with it
Than keep spinning
In hopes that some revelation will suddenly bring life
To this bone-dry glass of spirits.


**This poem was originally published in RiverLit No.14, Volume 4, Issue 2.