Happy Hour

The gregarious dark is shifting
when she puts her second drink,
the free one, half on the coaster.
The tipped wine poised at the brim
is the beginning of the bad girl
she’ll promise never to be again
tomorrow, who can taunt him now
to prove he doesn’t love her
and never could: her hand slides
up his thigh until he tenses—
‘My little prig, don’t you want
to fuck me?’ the bad girl
she couldn’t be at home, his wife on ice.
All he can do is smile back
as though she’s made a harmless
good-natured joke, and struggle
not to look around to see
who’s heard, who’s watching. He wants
to smash the wine glass in her face
so he can know for once
exactly what he’s done wrong;
but he places it instead
back safely on the coaster
quickly before she sees.
Never cautious enough, he is prepared
even if she knocks it over
to go down on his hands and knees
and wipe it up, kind and forgiving.
In all ways careful to acquit himself
so that tomorrow when she says
she doesn’t deserve him, he’s too good,
he can believe her. Tomorrow
will be his happy hour. There won’t be
anything she wouldn’t do for him.

Alan Shapiro, “Happy Hour” from Happy Hour (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987). Copyright © 1987 by Alan Shapiro. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Selected Poems 1974-1996 (The University of Chicago Press, 2000)
More Poems by Alan R. Shapiro