Todd Christopher Cincala


Four light beers and

          (I’ll be honest)

a pretty fat glass of the Balvenie
conspired against me
on the way home
this past Thanksgiving Day

          flashing red and blue in the rearview mirror
that’s why I’m here
this is the eighth meeting of nine
I’m required to attend
by the mandate of the judge
and the state of Pennsylvania,
I sit nondescript
at the back
near the door
as I’ve done seven unmemorable times before
and once again
I’m hearing
the same
this time from Bob
“I’m an alcoholic,” he says
          “Hi Bob,”
          the room responds
          (if drugs had been involved
          Bob would have said,
          “addict / alcoholic”)
Bob is forty-four
Bob has been sober for


          the room applauds


Bob starts by saying it is still
a battle
every day

against all odds;
some are worse than others
like today—
Bob was at his job
driving a forklift at the docks
when a rotten plank gave way
jammed his tire
tipped his pallet
“Forty some odd cases of red wine,” he says


          the room gasps


(the guy next to me
keeps crumpling something invisible
in his hands)

Bob’s foreman didn’t know
he was a recovering alcoholic;
Bob’s foreman couldn’t know
how difficult it was for him,
to be standing over a pool of wine
spreading at his feet like


          (Bob’s words)


“a blood stain”
Bob just wanted,

needed to tell his story
to people who could
I am not one of these people;

          the first step is admitting
          you have a problem;
          (I’ll be honest)
I didn’t know, really know
when I first started attending the meetings,
I had my doubts because
I’ve done things I shouldn’t
wouldn’t have done
if it had not been for my
but now I can appreciate
the difference between
affinity and addiction;
after hearing Bob’s story
          (and others
          worse than Bob’s)
          like Susan’s pincushion
          impersonation in a VW bus;


          or Roger’s theft of his invalid
          mother’s Social Security checks;


          or Mickey’s multiple vehicular
          manslaughter charges;

my fears are put to rest
like a snake charmed

back into its basket

by a swaying pipe-player;
after every meeting,
while the others go home chain-smoking
to spend the night
scratching the paint off their walls
in their horrible, desolate battle
day by day
against alcohol,
I go to the corner bar
and order myself a drink,
knowing full well and relishing the fact,
I can take a sip
and leave it.


Remember to Forget


The man stretched out
on the couch, remote
lying on the carpet
where it slipped
from his hand,
is not the

who cracks
his gum like
a grade-school girl
even though he knows
how it annoys you more
than anything in the
world, is
not the

who since
nine-eleven takes
exception to being
pulled aside in airports
points to the nearest
Arab-looking person
and says, SEARCH
HIM, is
not the

whom your
mother fears
will drive her
absolutely insane
when he retires
in a year or
two, he is
not that

you must
to forget such
things about your
father and never forget
to remember
he is also
the man

who was
the first in his
family to graduate
from high school (let alone
college then medical
school), he
is the

who would be
the first to admit
he could not have done
shit if it had not been
for your mother, he
is the

who saved
you from choking
on a Life Saver when
you were nine, he
is the

who made
your car accident
magically disappear
without any repercussions
whatsoever despite the
empty keg of beer in
the trunk, he
is the

who gave
you the very
chance to become
a man yourself so, once
again, remember to forget the
image of him lying there on the couch.


© 2003 Todd Christopher Czyk

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