A poem from the series Seniors Discount Poetry Day. Each poem was titled and written from prompts sent to Rick Webster and I through social media. There are 12 poems by the two poets, written over the course of one year. This one is dedicated to the long time bartender at The Only and Catalina’s in Peterborough, Ontario, Bill Batten. He is also an amazing artist.

Pastel work by Bill Batten

The Secret Life of Bartenders

James Matheson

No one asks.

Not at the two beer buzz,

Not at the last, garbled syllable

before blackout.

There is a lot of telling at the bar;

only one person listening.

3:17 in the morning,

closed sign finally up.

2 cars pass in the frozen streets.

Short cut through a snow-filled alleyway.

Key in lock, slow creak of hinges,

an echoing thunk as the door shuts.

The light above the stove, in the kitchen

Casts weak, blue light

along the silent hallway.

Floorboards each make short, aching reports.

As the fridge door opens

White, antiseptic light bathes the room.

Left-over pasta, eaten cold

punctuated by drags on a Du Maurier.

Head spinning and clattering

with the noise of bar chatter.

Past fist fights. Asshole bosses. Great cars. Adultery. The fawkin’ Leafs.

Hitch-hiking to the Rockcliff in Minden. Pets. Family Deaths.

Racist Jokes. Fucking welfare bums. Incomprehensible Utterances.

Bar chatter.

No one asks.

Not at the two beer buzz.

Not at the last, garbled syllable

before blackout.

No one asks,


the bartender

is loading his brush up with cadmium orange

and carving with colours, a huge canvas

at 4:46

in the morning.

(for Bill Batten)