Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Some of us can drink safely; others can't. I've been thinking about low-bottom drinkers ever since a friend recently wrote about her alcoholic father who would sleep in the bathtub and turn on the hot water when he got cold. I remember a student of mine writing about her father passed out on a picnic table in the rain, his mouth open. She described the rain falling on his face and into his mouth. I myself was mightily addicted to sugar. I made myself sick with food. While addicts stun themselves into oblivion, the people who care about them worry themselves into a feverish state that does no good to anyone.

It's a marvel to see a person stop drinking and come back to life, perhaps contented to become an "Inebriate of air" or a "debauchee of dew"--Emily's Dickinson's phrases.

I taste a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an alcohol!

Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.

When the landlord turns the drunken bee
Out of the foxglove's door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!

Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!

Yet Dickinson on air and we on booze, or whatever it is that lifts us out of ordinary life, want to get high, want to fly. Better to do it on air or dew.


  1. I just love the image of the father with his mouth open. There's a great saying that someone is as stupid as a turkey which would drown in the rain. They don't close their mouths, either.

    And that's a lovely poem. Thanks for thinking.

  2. That image made the whole piece my student wrote, and I never forgot it.

  3. It is the lady's words that intoxicate.

  4. They are intoxicating. Emily Dickinson is a marvel.