Naugatuck River Review Summer 2010 Issue 4
San Diego Reader, September 13, 2017



Drinking at Mabel Murphy's

My dead relatives have rolled out of their graves

this afternoon, to sit at Mabel Murphy’s bar in Scottsdale,

where I mix drinks wearing western pants, a purple shirt

with snaps down the front and a cheap cowboy hat.

Straight shots of Ancient Age for Ida and Buddy

Vodka Gimlets for Gail, rum and coke for Kay

Still a full blown hoodlum. Is that a switchblade on the bar?

This is not the right job for the granddaughter

of a 33rd degree Mason from Chicago, cremated

in a ceremonial apron, black tasseled red hat,

sickle and hammer ring. Where is Milton anyway?

Aunt Clara wears an early 20th century church hat

fastened to her head with bobby pins.

“I’ll have a Virgin Mary,” she says.

The tall ghosts of the Smith family are the most forgiving.

Aunt Marge, her husband Monk, Royal Sr. and Marie.

Christian Scientists all. My father Buddy is at the end of the bar,

slumped down humming post war love songs, hoping I don’t recognize him.

His legs dangle out onto the parquet dance floor, cigarette ashes

caught in the creases of his black pants.

“You should have been around,” I say. He writes on a napkin,

pushes it across the bar with his long bony fingers

“I made some bad choices.”

It’s seven o’clock. They’re getting noisy, telling tales,

arguing about the way it really was and who did what

to who. “Whom,” says Gail.  “Another round,” says Ida

As a slivered moon rises over Camelback mountain.