The Pleasure and the Power Together in the Strain.
He awoke cold and damp in the dark, well past the midnight hour.
He’d spent most of the last year drinking away his late Mother’s dower.
More often than not he crashed in a chair on the porch rather than a bed.
The house reminded and contained the broken dreams that lived inside his head.
His inked and hardened hand stretched to reach his bottle friend.
Money gone, his indolence must now come to an end.
Swillin’ back the Jim Beam put him back to snooze.
Tomorrow’d be his first day without the booze.
He woke as the sun invaded tree tops then staggered through the door.
Last nights’ dinner plates, next to late Mothers’ dog, scattered ‘cross the floor.
The bathrooms’ mirror reminded him he was lookin’ ill and mighty frail.
Liquor manifested mean streak, he tromped upon the sleeping mutts’ tail.
He microwaved yesterdays’ coffee and sweetened with Jim Beam.
“Hair of the dog”, mixing with a rusty nail instead of cream.
Once, he was a hand who’d earned his good repute
For skill an’ work. Now, the drink his resolute.
News of his Fathers’ passing, then finding Mother cold left him floored.
Their deaths led him to liquid courage, sadly his double-edged sword.
The bottle became the white-wash to paint his blues away.
It was time to put the hooch down, he knew he couldn’t stay.
He’d found the gumption to make a call to get his old job back.
He knew he’d have to reclaim discipline of which he was slack.
The boss man knew the call would come.
He knew their deaths had left him numb.
The words ‘show up sober and we’ll do some talkin’
Grounded him to the trail he’d presently been walkin’.
He mustered about until the jitters wore him out, he would see the foreman in the morn.
Shaving, quaking hands and wits, thus and thus, caught between the nervous and fevered. He was torn.
He hadn’t slept. The toast he swallowed, irksome, trying to find one or the other direction forth.
He sat behind the wheel, said a prayer for the first time in months, backed down the driveway and headed north.
The sweat of apprehension filled his shirt, the bottle in the glove box beckoning.
Trepidation filled his head, reuniting ranch hands, this his earthly reckoning.
Through the ranch gate, happy to be the first one there, the foreman’s truck right behind.
“You showed up. You can assume your old duties. Do your job. Too the rest I’m blind.”
Hands, old and new, offered a firm and fair shake. Humility nudged him further than before.
He counted days then weeks without a drink, he cringed of his transgressions and recounted his inner war.
He cursed himself. How could he have gone so far wrong as to wallow in the shadows of the dead.
Grieving or relieving o’er their passing with the drug that was their demise poisoning his head.
They’d had their doubts but he showed up, sober, and he busted his butt everyday.
He embraced the work, did more than most. By his third month back, he was there to stay.
He figured ‘twas better to have got up than to have never fell.
It was his time for reclamation. Pride. In self, and job done well.
Childhood and family that wasn’t. Of heritage and habit pouring life down the drain.
But as cowhand, he had learned and earned well the pleasure and the power together in the strain.
copyright 2019 Mark Munzert