In this week’s poem, Jane Spencer’s “If the Universe was a bar,” we immerse in a rather chimerical watering hole. I love the delicious whimsy with which the speaker describes the drinks and scene, and the strangeness of the poem’s final turn – to an image of this mysterious bar once it’s closed.

Spencer’s work often contemplates the emotional and spiritual qualities of the natural world. After 20 years of using tools to make paintings, photos and sculpture, writing poetry has freed her to make more images with language. She lives in Georgetown at the end of dirt road.

If the Universe was a bar,

what would they serve?
My favorite girlfriend, Tori,
game for about anything,
took a violet drink, sat
at the counter, and then exalted in the
taste of lavender, macaroons, the smell of
powdery romance. And the crystal-faceted ice cubes,
beneath lush petals floating near the rim.
Men love her, the bartender wearing
a sequin of stars in his pointed man-bun,
made sure to link his sparkling eyes on hers, often.
I’m not into changing my drink,
and received my usual.
Vodka, corrosive as sleet.
Rocks dirty, spitting grit between my teeth,
live clams squirting sand.

Tori’s such a looker, currently engaging
with the woman in white to her other side,
who says, It’s not as if anyone who visited Hades ever got a
return ticket!

the despondent guy beside her says, if that
was God he would, and he’d better damn well return
to say he was sorry.

All the stools stood empty as a row of soldiers, asleep on
their feet. If I sat there long enough,
how long till they close?
Doors locked, purple cursive lights against the window, dimmed.
Policemen’s flashlights swung their blazes inward,
a den of pool tables, dirty linoleum squares, moving on
without eyes following them.

— Jane Spencer

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “If the Universe was a bar,” © 2023 by Jane Spencer, appears by permission of the author.

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