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The Liquor Store

Tyler Altman

The right road to the five-and-ten lost,

We turned down a street, found another back-

And-forth along the road, and were still lost;

I stood and muttered, “Wyatt, we’re lost”—

Who, shrewder than planned, rejoined “You’re lost,

But go past this fence, dully gleaming road’s side,

And you will know whether or not you are lost.”

I wanted to know if I was lost—would be lost

If I had let him know the way his cherried lips

Had preoccupied me; I pursed a lip

To try to taste the offer I had lost.

But boundaries that can’t be crossed hand


Fuels to loss that bite their feeding hand.

The fence bowed under his weathered hands,

Snowfall-lentamente, and I passed from being lost

Into the security of his hands,

His ignorant and two forgiving hands.

We came to the drugstore from its back

Entrance, handle cooling in my twitched hand;

Wyatt entered, unaware that my hands

Were shaking, so I pinned them to my side,

Hoping he couldn’t tell. Side-by-side,

We were wanderers beforehand,

Now becoming cavalrymen—that blip,


an eye through which our twin fates slip.

So the game is ready, and Wyatt sideslips

His share of green-backs to my small hands. 

I know how I should act: disdainful, lips

Curled (so that the poor girl with her stiff lip

Won’t look at my ID and say we’ve lost

Our little game—a fear that drowns me to the lips

With sick fear). I look back, and Wyatt’s lips

Curl to form a kind of grin—the feedback

I was looking for played differently back

Through those features—a surprising eclipse

Of any nervousness I felt inside


By the friend I loved who stood by my side.

Into this worker’s steady line of sight,

I laid the card and cash. She opened her lip-

Glossed mouth and began to cite

The words she had to say, her brass-eyed

Face half-asleep with her cheek on her hand:

“Which would you like?” Mock-pensive, I decide

On any heavy liquor. Any would coincide

With all that we even wanted: to get lost

In so much gold, we forgot that we were lost:

Admittedly, we had both thought of suicide;

He couldn’t live. Could I hold back


From flickering my torment in a flashback

Singed with Hell? But heavenly, we walked back

Through mist so anesthetizing it was sighed

By God, merely enjoying beauty. Yokeless back,

I watched lamp-lights flickering in his bare back

Whenever he paused, letting glass to lip,

Repeatedly bringing its underside back

Up into the air, its lip brought back

To his or mine. With his flushed hands,

He grabbed mine, and I grabbed them back.

In all that silliness, our shadows flossed

Between the street’s teeth like a dream, lost.


But with Wyatt, I never felt completely lost!

And with me, was he ever taken aback?

Although I sometimes looked at him and sighed,

I otherwise kept my much-used lips

In my mind, faithless as Dream in our emptied hands.

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