I’ve always been a closet poet. I consider myself a novelist, but poetry is at the heart of all writing. I’ve never shared my poetry like I have my prose. It was something secret and a way to get better at writing when I was too stubborn or frustrated with my novels. Then I found Everette Maddox’s poetry. Two things instantly attracted me to his writing: New Orleans and the Maple Leaf Bar. How I have went this long without knowing who Everette Maddox is, still stumps me. But I’m glad I found his work. It inspired me to share my own poetry. Well, one poem. The rest will remain hidden for now. I shared it with the owner of the Pensacola Bay Brewery and the response I received – not just from him, but from the patrons of the bar – was exactly as I hoped. I was apprehensive and embarrassed, but went through with it anyway and I’m glad I did. This is a photo of the poem that the owner shared on the Bay Brewery’s social media. I am also including the transcript for easier reading. Enjoy!
And as always, criticism and heckling is encouraged in the comments.
225 Zaragoza Street
Reading Everette Maddox poems
and ruminating on his love of the Maple Leaf
I have come to understand
how lucky one is to have a bar to call his own.
Where you are greeted warmly
and everyone seems genuinely glad you are there –
whether they are genuinely glad
you are there is not worth thinking about for too long.
They are nice enough to fake it,
if faking it is what they are doing. But I don’t think it is.
When one thinks of bars, images may arise of heavy, swirling smoke
burning off the ends of cigarettes held by yellowing fingers,
sweating Collins glasses filled with gin and tonic,
forgotten sounds from the juke box,
and dingy, dank darkness.
That is all fine and sometimes needed.
But other times, it’s clean and well-lit.
The open door lets in the salt breeze from Pensacola Bay
and the covered patio protects you from the Florida sun
or an afternoon rain shower.
Across the street is a 186 year-old church
occupied by ghosts of civil war soldiers and ancient priests.
People arrive on bicycles,
the men without shirts and the women in flowing sundresses.
There is unlimited freshly brewed beer
and barefoot children swing in the shade of 200 year-old oak trees
or climb the Crepe Myrtles.
Maybe some local chefs on their day off
grill bratwurst and oysters.
And an osprey flies overhead with its dinner in its clutches
and everyone stops for a moment to stare at it in unison.
The owner, a white-haired old dude that doesn’t act a day over twenty-five,
holds court, having created a gathering space for the degenerates of the town
to drink and laugh and spend a day in the splendor of a world
that is being destroyed by politics and greed and mass shootings.
But at this moment, while those things are raining hell all around,
it’s as if this place is shielded.
We know it’s not, but for those brief moments, we are the protected ones.