Sips – Joe Arcangelini

“Go get me a beer.”
One of them would say,
my father or one of the uncles,
or even sometimes a family friend
once they’d learned the routine.
That’s one thing us kids was good for—
fetching beers. And I would jump
up and run to get the icy cold
can of beer from the fridge.
And if there were a cousin handy
we would race for it, jostling
each other through the house,
competing for the honor,
trying to remember to bring
the church key back with us.
Then the winner would present
the beer and stand waiting
while it was opened and
handed back for
the reward,
the tip,
the first sip.

Soon enough I learned to gulp,
trying to get as much of the
foaming golden liquid down as I
could before the can would be
grabbed back with an uneasy laugh:
“Hey, I think the kid’s startin’
to like the stuff too much.”
I suppose that is when the routine
ceased amusing them and it stopped—
when I started to like it “too much.”
When I flipped from being merely
the delivery boy, the cute kid,
to being something else—a potential
competitor. One of them.
As long as I was too young
and curled my nose at the
cold bitterness in my mouth,
I could have it. But
as soon as I wanted it,
it stopped flowing.
And I had to find
other means.


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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