Original poem reprinted online here: "Happy Hour" by Chard deNiord
Originally read: July 3, 2013
More information about the Poet: Chard Denoird
The epigraph in the poem is from Elizabeth Bishop's, "Visit to St. Elizabeths." The form of the poem is a cumulative structure like the song "The Old Lady Who Ate A Fly." How does Elizabeth Bishop's poem apply to this one? The structure isn't the same, but something is accumulating.
The poem itself is narrative, and there's a part of me that thinks this poem would be great as a short story, but at the same time I like the idea of break up -- stanzas and lines for this poem.
The narrative starts out as the speaker describing the last day of his job with, "Patients [who] glanced at me from the lounge" and with the speaker then declares, 'It's happy hour ! / All drinks are free!' / 'You're as crazy as we are,' Ruben said." With these lines the location is set at "the house of bedlam."
However, note that the speaker is using specific people in this memory. By doing so the poem becomes more personalized, and also the poem tells more about the speaker -- how important this memory is for him.
So the party starts. The speakers asks what everyone wanted for drinks:
Rhoda was on a upswing,
walking like a penguin down the hall.
"Give me a screwdriver,"' she said,
"to tighten my screws."
The poem plays, the speaker plays, and the patients play in this scenario. In this part of the poem though the patients play with the idea of drink and metaphor through free association. The jovial mood goes down with a two lines in the start of the next stanza, "I asked Kenny if he wanted a gin and catatonic. / Not funny. Suddenly quiet." Note how abrupt these lines are and gone is the dialogue.
And when the speaker tries to remedy the situation -- the situation of Kenny the catatonic stays the same, "He stood as still as a mannequin / against the wall and stared at something / so far away it came too close to him." Usually, the abrupt shift in the poem signals the end (kind of lilke a volta in a sonnet) -- but not in this case. Instead, the party continues. The party has to continue.
There's images of Alex in which the speaker states, "I pictured a worm devouring his brain / like so many leaves" this line could lead to something more serious however:
"I'll take a daiquiri," he said
The first thing he'd said in days.
I poured him a glass of air,
which he took and thanked me for
and drank, then handed back
the empty glass as real.
I quoted this part of the poem because I feel it's pivotal to the poem as a transition point. That, yes, the dramatic effect of someone talking when doesn't has a great scene impact, but the line, "the glass empty as real" starts to blur the poem a bit in between "real" and "empty."
Everyone at the lounge celebrates, "'We'll miss you, dear." and the last part of the poem kind of brings everything in, "I drank as Alex did, in a single swig, / then put my goblet down on the bar / and smelled that smell that was also mine." Yes, it does bring the narrative in -- the sort of connection there. But I think this is the biggest reason why I think this poem, to me, would be a better narrative -- the last event is a conclusion of sameness.
Meanwhile, I feel that the line, "the empty glass as real" holds a lot more impact in this poem. That there's so much that can be taken away from the line that a conclusion isn't needed. But, sometimes, conclusions are needed -- no, enforces the narrative to stick in place in which the statement is the narrative of the speaker is important.