THE BLUE SALOON*
August evenings into my fifth summer
I fetched my father
from the blue saloon leaving
Mother brooding by the screen.
Running down the block in stutter
steps, I never knew until
my eyes could pierce
the door ajar the stale breath
of shadows soaked in smoke
long enough to see
if his face was fallen.
Good nights were when he could walk.
He would spin off wondrous tales.
My heart fairly bounced between us
up the hill to home refreshed.
Of the bad ones when he stumbled
or was cut across the lip
or cursed loudly at the neighbors,
I remember nothing.
In later years my father fully healed.
The mend for me was less complete.
Drinking first at twenty-five
and even now at fifty
I cannot pass an open tavern door
without a sinking sense of something
sacred slipping loose inside.
Jerome L. McElroy
Accepted in The Portland Review (1992)