Impulse – Joe Arcangelini

Standing in line at the market
idly checking out the impulse items
carefully placed on display there-
one last chance for corporate hands
to slip into my wallet before
I pay for my goods and leave.
There, among the marshmallow
critters on a stick, tabloid papers,
butane lighters and breath mints
are racks of little liquor bottles:
neatly arranged in rows, dust free,
attractively packaged and so convenient.

The old familiars are still there,
as though mentoring the upstart brands.
I note that there are now enough flavors of
schnapps and vodka to make Howard Johnson
himself turn green with envy.  Not even a
wooden case of 24 Nehi sodas sitting
beneath the grape arbor to keep cool on
a hot summer’s day could offer so many
colors and varieties of sticky sweet
liquid to catch the light and
thereby the eye.  But those are
easy to resist, I’d stopped playing
with such confections fairly early –
relegating them to Christmas stockings
and other people’s birthday parties.

It is the half-pint, pocket size
bottles of bourbon that cause
my arm to impulsively twitch
as though about to shake the
hand of an old friend, long gone
but now unexpectedly returned.

On this day, if I could push a button
and atomize all of humanity, I
would push it. Without hesitation.
Thrust the entire useless mass of
us into the air, to scatter into
loose formations of drifting
lazy cloud and then rain
back down as something which
might yet have use in some way.
Which might nourish instead poison.
Still, even in such a mood my hand
hangs at my side, then slips away
to safe constraint in a pocket,
fingering coins, folded knife
and a small brass disc with a
roman numeral in the center
of one side. Not today.
It won’t happen today.


Joe Arcangelini: Born in Pennsylvania, 1952. Migrated to the West Coast in 1973. Began writing poetry at age 11, stories in my teens, and memoirs in my late 40s. I’ve had work in a lot of little magazines as well as The James White Review, Bear Magazine, and Jonathan. I’ve written for small newspapers and had work in three anthologies, including the Lambda Award-winning I Do/I Don’t: Queers on Marriage. A collection of poems, With Fingers at the Tips of My Words, is available on Amazon or at Blog:

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