Being an American, I take the metaphor of drunkenness, which has been used by artists from Hafiz to Baudelaire, literally. Of course, Baudelaire probably took it literally, too, but it’s doubtful that Hafiz did, since he was probably just mainlining the divine, just like Rumi, and Mirabai, and Ikkyu, and all those other foreign poets we translate to contemporary idiom to justify our decadence–I do, certainly.
It’s not original, honestly; hard to imagine I could say something convincing about drunkenness, being preceded by such drunken lords as Bukowski and Carver and Hemingway and Fitzgerald and that long white-line of drunks that had time to drink because some Other back was bearing the burden of Western civilization.
Then again, beer’s pretty old. About as old as bread, actually. The Egyptians gave it to the Israelites, who worked in limestone rather than cotton, just as European slavers gave rum to the Africans, who were happy to get drunk because slavery sucked pretty bad. We’ve moved on from that as a country, clearly. My generation isn’t responsible for the 20,000,000 or so Africans introduced to the circle of life before their time, and, although we’re not to blame for the slaves of any generation that have labored upon the earth, we’re especially not to blame for the slave trade because we voted for Barack Obama, and can now officially declare the end of racial injustice, and rejoice in the happy accounting of the equal opportunities available to all in this one nation under God. Still, it really makes me want to take a drink, which I just did, because irony has never kept me warm, and the title of this post isn’t a metaphor.
Which isn’t to say that I feel responsible for history; it’s just a burden, like it is for everyone, but it’s a burden that’s a bit easier to bear if you’re drunk, because it’s hard to forget that our threads have already been portioned by Lachesis, and our grandparents are already gone or going, and our parents are not far behind, and then it will be our children paying for the nurses to spoon feed us the cream-of-mushroom soup we hated when we were young. We won’t be able to tell them though, the nurses that is, about the cream-of-mushroom soup that we’ve always hated, because we’re stuck between the present and the past like a Chinese finger trap, and can’t manage to to do more than mutter about the loss.
A better recommendation for drinking I cannot make, because although this post took a hard right towards Mictlan, it was meant to be a reason to take up your glass and throw one back, to ask a benediction of whichever god you own, and invite the slow slip of warmth to the skin, the warmth that Baudelaire knew came from other vines than the grape, from virtue, from poetry, from bodies whose rubbing together explodes the rest.
Right now, I’m drunk in Chicago, the town of praeries and architecture, the great hub of America, upon whose turning the West was won, and the South was receded. And I’m drunk because there’s nothing else to be, and there’s nothing else to be, and, there’s nothing else to be. The vine is irrelevant; it’s the fruit we follow. So please, if you’re finding this post on some night between now and when you’re too old to care, toast the Old Man, the One who so wanted for company he threw out the stars and the holes they disappear down, and the algae and the comets and the people that spoiled the fruits and ruined the grains to find the whole in the world that makes us forget the nonsense of it all.