Algonquin Afterthoughts

By Rachel Wetzsteon 1967–2009 Rachel Wetzsteon

By the time you swear you’re his,
    Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
    Infinite, undying—
Lady, make a note of this:
    One of you is lying.

             —Dorothy Parker

Or else our drunken tumble was
   too true for daylight’s pleasure,
too much in vino veritas
   troubled the gods of measure
who sent bright draughts of sunshine down
   and sobered up my treasure.

All night rapacity had come
   as naturally as breathing;
we nibbled on each other’s necks
   like greedy babies teething.
How soon an empty bottle makes
   one feel a blissful free thing.

“Aspirin, aspirin,” he implored;
   I fed him several pills,
and when he wondered where he was
   it gave me frightful chills,
but still I told him of the party’s
   unexpected thrills.

Words woke us up, reflection turned
   affection to regret:
“After she left me I tried not
   to do this, but I get
so lonely” I showed him out,
   warbling “I’m glad we met.”

But now I crave the swift return
   of scotch-transfigured nights,
like Chaplin, horrified by his
   rich friend in City Lights
who only recognizes him
   from liquor-gladdened heights,

sticking a tall glass in the man’s
   upstanding hand (the clink
or worse awaits poor tramps like us
   if scamps like you won’t think)
and meekly scolding, in a voice
   weak with nostalgia, “Drink.”

Source: Poetry (October 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

October 2010
 Rachel  Wetzsteon


Born in Manhattan, poet and editor Rachel Wetzsteon received degrees from Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University. She made her home in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, which is the setting for many of her formally assured poems. Influenced by Charles Baudelaire, Soren Kierkegaard, and Philip Larkin, Wetzsteon infused her urban and emotional landscapes with a dry wit. As critic Adam . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Disappointment & Failure, Men & Women

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Syllabic

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