Buffalo Liquor

Greg Rogers

At the end of the day,
You would gather
With the neighborhood drunks
Behind the liquor store,
In the course asphalt lot littered
With beer-bottle caps and tabs of soda cans.
Perched on old milk crates,
Sagging with your burdens,
You sang slurred
Songs of labor and war,
Raised complaints to God
In the forms of Jack and Coke,
Vodka and orange, Schlitz,
Budweiser, and Coors.

Lapping up the poetry of your curses,
We weaved our way
In and out of your hunched shadows,
Stretched long and slender
In the descending California sun.
Then all three at once,
We would spring,
Tug your right arm,
Trying to bend it straight.
“Mighty Mouse,” they
Used to call you, years before,
When you were able to live
Without drink, when your chest
Stuck out beyond your gut,
When you could squat five hundred
And run a mile in under six.       
But still, after all the years
Of turmoil and despair,
Of wreckage and decay,
Your right arm
Would not give,
As if it were your final stand,
Your last resistance,
To all of what life
Offered you.


I am originally from Long Beach, California, but when I was ten, we moved to Bruno, Arkansas, a small isolated town in the Ozark Mountains with a population sign that read simply "Bruno 9." Although the culture-shock was almost unbearable for my older sister, I loved exploring the woods and hills surrounding our small farm. After I graduated high school from Bruno-Pyatt (a consolidated K-12 school of about 350 students), I got bachelor's degree in English from Williams Baptist College and a master's degree in liberal studies from Hollins University, where I had the privilege of taking creative writing courses with Pinckney Benedict. Currently, I teach writing and literature courses in the Lehigh Valley.