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2nd Place Poetry Contest Winner! revising my father's blood-alcohol content - Sarah Leidhold

after Andrea Gibson’s “Photoshopping My Sister’s Mugshot”

January 1970

I find you in salmon cutoffs

and a handmedown Budweiser

tee; here at 7, staring through

me with eyes a familiar

waterlogged chestnut.

Your smallness seems mis

-placed. Your pink palms

have not yet known the chill

of a beer bottle’s embrace;

they hang open, empty,

strangers to the shape of fist.

You go to the front door

and press fresh knuckles

into the peeling pallid

paint in a rhythmic plea.

Grandpa’s hangover barks

back, BAC as high as the 6

AM sun, pee in the woods,

you’re too damn loud!

You drag your size four feet

to the edge of the brush,

goosebumps raising in protest.

I fairygoddaughter you

an American Standard

with dual flush system

just beyond the pricker bushes.

Your first bemused smile

blooms then; soon after

to be sobered by his shouting;

your fingers curl in tight.

April 1978

The Navy boys are back

in town and your boy

-hood is long vanished.

When the Red Dog

brew rears its fat head,

your parched cells salivate

for the slake, for the save.

This is the origin story,

the first sip that will

brand your insides, shackle

you to its curse-cure.

Rocky, your kitten,

has just been drowned

in the river by the neighbors.

Desperate to blur the Kodak

sharp memory of his

bloated little body,

you wrap your long fingers

around the sure neck

and already feel at home.

After I edit the script:

the first drop lands

like acid on your tongue.

You release the bottle to the earth,

it shatters in symphony.

Your unwobbling legs walk

with soaked socks to Springfield’s

animal shelter, strut sure and

eyes as clear as Poland Springs.

September 1983

Instead of bumming a ride with her

because you had a DUI,

your paths are braided together

in the supermarket, both reaching

thirstily for the coffee syrup.

At the brush of your storied fingers,

she blushes and her aqua eyes

look like they could quench you.

At study hall, she confesses

that she’s always wanted a horse.

You take her riding

and you find your deepest

thirst quenched by the sound

of her unrestrained joy.

This sound, its reverberations,

becomes your addiction.

You buy it in 12 packs

and guzzle it nightly.

When the day is long,

you take a swig of those eyes

and everything they promise.

May 1999

I am holding your soft

hand as we walk into

Fairhaven Lumber Supply.

I lean into your jacket

and breathe in not Sam Adams,

but Paul Sebastian.

You fill up a cone shaped

cup with the coldest freshest

water for me and it’s like

ice cream but smoother.

With the wood and your hands,

you build a home with a room

that you paint violet for me.

At night, the purple dims

maroon; the color of your father’s

cheeks. But never your knuckles.

In the maroon glow,

you rewrite the bloodline.

When you tell me you love

me, there are no exceptions;

no alcohol third wheel.

It is a rule. It’s me and you.


The carpet never learns

the taste of your blood.

I never lock my door every

night and turn my light off

so you don’t find me.

You are never thirsty.


Sarah Leidhold lives in New England with her partner, their beloved pets,

and a tiny jungle of houseplants. She is a teacher of young children and is

also learning to embrace and heal her inner child.


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