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Date of last update:
18 February 2016

P oetry

These are works by alcoholic poets that describe both the anguish and despair of alcoholic insanity and the joy and hope that recovery brings.

The authors retain the copyright on all works unless otherwise noted.


Lament for the Night

Upon an hour
above the Sun
the Moon rules night and day
a ritual cauldron
spell of Bacchus
drains the room of pounding pace

Enjoy it while you live
but life rejects life that you give
my cards are slates of clay and sand
all you deal's a dead man's hand

that breaks the song
and cuts the night
alone I tread a shroud
the mime of music
grains of sorrow
echo still a lonely curse

Darryl W.

It is Cold at the Height of Summer

It is cold at the height of Summer
angels cry from clouds in sympathy

tears from heaven assault the thirsty land
the ground is moist but cold

its dampness torments my feet
as I dare to absorb the atmosphere

stormy silence shatters my sense of sanctity
mildew darkens the emptiness inside

and colour fades to monochrome
while all semblance of sanity is lost

the Sun has passed its use-by date
as I stand in wonder at the sudden eclipse

totally alone on a windy road
It is cold at the height of Summer

Darryl W.


Lover Won't Leave

I have a lover who won't leave,
though I ask him to each morning
Show me mercy - don't come back
I plead as morning's dawning

Cunning, baffling, powerful
An obsession truly frightening
Succumbing to it every day,
and a noose that's every tightening

It's compelling, my head's yelling
enough enough enough
Killing me slowly, spending my money,
and yet this lover I love

He makes me miss work, late for work,
and keeps me from my friends
He makes me anxious, tired and lonely,
and wants my life to end

In sleep I dream and see this end,
the one he plans for me
An end that's drawing nearer,
and from which I must break free

I see humiliation,
and the loss of all I am
The hearts of loved ones broken,
it's a love and life that's damned

Can't use, can't quit the mantra goes,
and there is no reprieve
Just a constant longing for this lover,
the lover who will not leave

Cathryn B.


Lament for Barney Flanagan


Flanagan got up on a Saturday morning,
Pulled on his pants while the coffee was warming;
He didn't remember the doctor's warning,
"Your heart's too big, Mr. Flanagan."

Barney Flanagan, sprung like a frog
From a wet root in an Irish bog -
May his soul escape from the tooth of the dog!
God have mercy on Flanagan.

Barney Flanagan R.I.P.
Rode to his grave on Hennessy's
Like a bottle-cork boat in the Irish Sea.
The bell-boy rings for Flanagan.

Barney Flanagan, ripe for a coffin,
Eighteen stone and brandy-rotten,
Patted the housemaid's velvet bottom -
"Oh, is it you, Mr. Flanagan?"

The sky was bright as a new milk token.
Bill the Bookie and Shellshock Hogan
Waited outside for the pub to open -
"Good day, Mr. Flanagan."

At noon he was drinking in the lounge bar corner
With a sergeant of police and a racehorse owner
When the Angel of Death looked over his shoulder -
"Could you spare a moment, Flanagan?"

Oh the deck was cut; the bets were laid;
But the very last card that Barney played
Was the Deadman's Trump, the bullet of Spades -
"Would you like more air, Mr. Flanagan?"

The priest came running but the priest came late
For Barney was banging at the Pearly Gate.
St Peter said, "Quiet! You'll have to wait
For a hundred masses, Flanagan."

The regular boys and the loud accountants
Left their nips and their seven-ounces
As chickens fly when the buzzard pounces -
"Have you heard about old Flanagan?"

Cold in the parlour Flanagan lay
Like a bride at the end of her marriage day.
The Waterside Workers' Band will play
A brass goodbye to Flanagan.

While publicans drink their profits still.
While lawyers flock to be in at the kill,
While Aussie barmen milk the till
We will remember Flanagan.

For Barney had a send-off and no mistake.
He died like a man for his country's sake;
And the Governor-General came to his wake.
Drink again to Flanagan!

Despise not, O Lord, the work of Thine own hands
And let light perpetual shine upon him.

James K. Baxter



I found myself in a bottomless pit
of sorrow and woe and despair.
When a ray of light revealed to me
the steps of a shining stair.

In vain I tried to reach those steps,
by myself it could not be done.
I cried for help and a voice replied,
"You are standing on Step Number One."

"Who's that?" I asked. "What do you want??"
"Can you tell me what to do?"
"Give me your hand," the voice answered,
"and you'll be on Step Number Two"

I held up my hand. I decided that I
alone could not set myself free.
But I trusted that voice and it suddenly said,
"You are standing on Step Number Three."

I stop there and rest, and look at myself.
I don't think I can do anymore.
From somewhere above the voice came again,
"You are standing on Step Number Four."

Wherever you are, you don't understand,
I don't deserve to be alive.
For I am a liar, a thief and a con.
The voice said, "You're on Step Number Five."

I'm not well, I'm not right. There's a lot wrong with me.
Is there anything that you can fix?
The voice came again and so gently replied,
"You are standing on Step Number Six."

All right then, I'll ask--can you take these away?
Can you make me feel closer to heaven?
"I love you," the voice said. "Your heaven's in you,
and you're standing on Step Number Seven."

There's so many I've harmed, my family I've hurt--
all the pain and the grief and the hate.
"It's alright my child," the voice calmly said.
"You are now on Step Number Eight."

"You must tell them you're sorry. You must make things right.
And then in their eyes you will shine."
"I'll do it," I whispered. And then the voice said,
"You're standing on Step Number Nine."

I must keep a close eye on my motives and self
'Cause there's wrongs that I may do again.
"Look at you," the voice said, "at how far you've come.
You are now on Step Number Ten."

I pray and I ask for knowledge and strength
I want to keep my direct line to heaven.
The voice is so close--it's as if it's right there,
saying "You're standing on Step Number Eleven."

And so here I stand, almost at the top.
Into all of my past I did delve.
Now I want to help others who are still in the pit
And the voice says, "This is Step Number Twelve."

This all feels so strange, I have left it behind,
All the pain and the anger and strife.
And the great thing about it--I need never return
to that miserable way of life.

I'm bathed in that light I first saw as a ray.
I'm happy and joyous and free.
I pray for those whom I wish I would see in these rooms,
And would take their example from me.

For although I'm not perfect, I will always know
There are choices that I have today.
I can live in that bottomless pit of despair,
Or I can live my new life in AA.

Michelle B.


Toxic Antithesis
(For Clair Drucker - Debt Acknowledged)

Accompanying the power of addiction, my life
Began to bloat until my soul
Gave up control to something called belief
In one who grants insanity for sto-

Len acts of bad faith (1), breathed
Before tall risers with deep treads had come (2).
To both be restored as well as to have a future,
As if races once run could be re-run,

I paid the other, whom I owed, face-
To-face until the Other (3), satisfied,
Flash-bulbed me like sunshine mace;
And I walked, from those bribed

By substances, past moral inventories:
A body, once dead, now a living synthesis (4).

D. A. Hagelberg

For several years I was a very confused person...

I drank for happiness and became unhappy,
I drank for joy and became miserable.
I drank to be outgoing and became self centered.
I drank for socialbility and became argumentative and lonely.
I drank for sophistication and became crude and obnoxious.
I drank for friendship and made enemies.
I drank for sleep and awakened without rest.
I drank for strength and felt weak.
I drank because I thought my job called for it and lost my job.
I drank for relaxation and got the shakes.
I drank for confidence and became uncertain.
I drank for courage and became afraid.
I drank for assurance and became doubtful.
I drank to stimulate thought and blacked out.
I drank to make conversation and could not remember what I said.
I drank to feel heavenly and came to know hell.
I drank for power and became powerless.
I drank to erase problems and saw them multiply.
I drank because I had the right - everything turned out wrong.
I drank to cope with life and almost died.


Alcohol is my Master

Alcohol is my master, I shall always want.
It makes me lie down in street gutters,
It leads me into dark alleys,
It destroys my soul.
It guides me in the path of the insane,
For it's name sake.
I now walk in the shadow of the valley of death,
And I shall always fear evil,
For it is inside me!
The burn from the bottle,
It no longer conforts me,
It prepares a place for me,
In the presence of all my fears.
It screws with my mind and body,
Till I'm no longer alive.
Surely death or insanity shall follow me,
All the remaining days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the house of the dead forever,
Or is there another way?

Chet H.

A New Love

I left the bottle
and I cried and cried
for my lover
I'd hated more than loved.
I cried and cried because
everything had to change
and I wasn't ready,
and all my loves
had to change.
I cried and cried until
I was ready and
I found something
more important to love.

Kathy L.


Empty Bottles

I open you up, you swallow me whole
consuming all of my pride
I beg for mercy but it's too late
you've seeped into my mind

What's gray becomes black, the clouds become fog
and my reality becomes confused
I'm left with my thoughts, which don't seem to make sense
and the body that I have abused

I'm torn between pleasure and pain
I feel I am pathetic and weak
to ask for help would be admitting to failure
so I choose not to speak

Together we sit alone in the dark
thinking of times gone by
and of all the things I'm convinced are my fault
although I haven't yet figured out why

The daily stress of life, it seems
has gotten out of control
so I close my eyes and swallow hard
and sacrifice my soul

Now you are gone and I am scared
so I stumble off to bed
to lie alone night after night
a prisoner within my own head

Amy S.

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