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Drunken Old Solipsists in a Bar

ISSUE:  Autumn 1962

In their own cool gray alcoholic world
sealed from the sun at any time of day,
you find this circle of old heads. A glass
that fills and drains and fills again with gold
sits before each, to tranquillize the spirit
and burn slow fires in the stupescent brain.

The gray bar is the inside of a brain
selfgrown and shuttered on the outward world,
where, clammed in its own fumy shell, the spirit
rapt in the microcosm of its day
spells out the cloistered hours and guzzles gold
from the inverted barrel of the glass;

as if, gray in a cave or belled in a glass,
this bar, the unique inside of the brain,
trimmed with brown wood and bottles painted gold,
subsisted as the all and only world,
with no outside, no windows, and no day,
its walls, all body grown upon the spirit;

and there, reliving glory in strong spirits
as in the flattery of a magic glass,
they know themselves as on a younger day
with April lyrics singing in the brain,
the past recaptured to a rainbow world
drenched in fond sunshine and philosopher’s gold.

The catfoot barkeep doles his bottled gold,
and television, ectoplasmic spirit,
gray-glimmering ghost of the external world,
gibbers and mimes behind its convex glass,
with incantations feeds and stills the brain
on distillations filmed from the live day.

Then doors open, and into dazzling day
of summer afternoon with all its gold,
old knees, jerked by the strings of a half-blind brain,
float them toward home like disembodied spirits,
with faces stuffed and set, and eyes like glass,
and one still grin to give to all the world.

All through the drunken day this larval spirit
builds his bright palaces of gold and glass
in the domed brain which forms his private world.


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