This past Sunday was a fabulously nice day, clear and sunny, warm but not too hot. Moreover, it was one of the first such perfect days this year. We are not yet jaded this season from seeing such perfect days, and it carried a golden grandeur just for being here. Sunday was a kind of day that would have been good to spend entirely out of doors. I did not take a picnic, however, to go to the lake, to go kayaking with a friend, as I should have done if God could forget my name long enough to leave me alone. Instead, I ran a cash register.
During my two 15-minute breaks at work, I wrote the poem below. I’ve been revising it for three days, and real poets will note that three days is not enough revision to be a serious poet. I agree that real poets work at it, and I don’t. I’m not a poet, nor ever claim to be one.
I don’t believe that poems must be miniature documentaries written with short lines, so that every word in them must be What Really Happened. A poem, like a short story, can be fictional. It can be, but in modern poetry, it often isn’t. The poem below, however, has a good bit of fiction in it, though it takes some real events and works with them. The pub is real. The fried chicken was real, as were the carriages. The village where the real part occurred is called Millheim, a place with a German name, about a half hour from where I live.
The beer was called Winkleblink Ale.
We drank in the pub where they made it,
the pub where the owner stood looking out the door,
at his two-street village
in the summer green middle of Pennsylvania.
and eating fried chicken,
we asked the owner how he started making beer.
“It’s my heritage,” he said,
and he didn’t say more.
He had a German name, so we thought we understood.
One main street in that village.
A truck drove by.
A loud car sped through too quickly.
Then an Amish carriage came through,
clipclopping quick horse,
a bearded man driving,
a young girl looking out the side.
I sipped my beer
and a second carriage clattered past.
Almost 300 years ago
ancestors of the people behind the horses,
came from other villages in Germany.
Now these bearded men, these cap-covered women,
these children like small adults,
ride through town in black carriages.
Their horses trot by the brew pub
where we are drinking Winkleblink Ale,
looking out the window,
watching them pass.
I stare like a tourist.
Little Amish girls
as I take another drink.