American Life in Poetry

Rhyme has a way of lightening the spirit of a poem, and in this instance, the plural, “spirits,” is the appropriate word choice. Lots of readers can relate to “Sober Song,” which originally appeared in North Dakota Quarterly. Barton Sutter is a Minnesota poet, essayist and fiction writer who has won awards in all three genres.

Sober Song

Farewell to the starlight in whiskey,

So long to the sunshine in beer.

The booze made me cocky and frisky

But worried the man in the mirror.

Goodnight to the moonlight in brandy,

Adieu to the warmth of the wine.

I think I can finally stand me

Without a glass or a stein.

Bye-bye to the balm in the vodka,

Ta-ta to the menthol in gin.

I’m trying to do what I ought to,

Rejecting that snake medicine.

I won’t miss the blackouts and vomit,

The accidents and regret.

If I can stay off the rotgut,

There might be a chance for me yet.

So so long to God in a bottle,

To the lies of rum and vermouth.

Let me slake my thirst with water

And the sweet, transparent truth.


Reprinted from Farewell to the Starlight in Whiskey, Rochester: BOA Editions, 2004, by permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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