“Late at night we’d waken—

someone hooting, scotch glass clinking,

hi fi needle at the end and rasping.”

 

Welcome to a cocktail party hosted by poet Jill Dery’s parents, circa 1960. You can print out the broadside here–or scroll down to see the poem in plain format. May the spirit of Sinatra smile upon you.

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Archeology

 

The cocktail parties of the 1960s

were glamorous, mysterious.

Laughter and Sinatra, Tony Bennett.

Perfume and cigarettes.

 

Before bedtime we’d be introduced

as everyone arrived—

the women in high heels,

effusive. Pink-lipped.

 

The men, already drunk,

suggestive and suggestible.

Men, women—shiny Polaroids

instead of people.

 

Late at night we’d waken—

someone hooting, scotch glass clinking,

hi fi needle at the end and rasping.

Someone fingering our piano.

 

Next morning we’d excavate the ruins:

glass tubes sticky with liqueur

floats of melted rainbow sherbet,

jokey cocktail napkins torn and stained.

 

We’d raid the fridge for what was left,

spoil our breakfast while our parents slept—

pimento cheese and fancy crackers

crab dip guacamole cocktail onions.

 

When they woke, the mystery was a different kind:

my dad, still woozy from scotch,

still angry from an unremembered slight.

My mom, smiling and pretending all was well.

 

Each generation makes the same mistakes—

dressed up in different fashions,

different anguish, similar excuses

covered by the same thin dust.

 

 

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Jill Dery has published stories in Bellingham Review and Fourteen Hills; she’s published poetry in Antiphon, SPRR, Flyway, and Penn Review, and she has poems forthcoming in Tule Review. Born and raised among the cocktail parties of Los Angeles, she’s lived in Anchorage, Alaska, since 1992.

 

True stories. Honestly.

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