Poetry Sunday: The Things I Learned as a Bartender

The Goodreads monthly newsletter came out this week. Each month they have a poetry contest and the newsletter features the winner. This is this month's winner.

I'm not familiar with the author but her poem touched me with its simplicity, a simplicity that masks a profound understanding and insight into people. It's the kind of insight that might easily be gained by an observant bartender or waiter who sees people in situations where they have "nothing to gain." It is then that their true selves emerge.  

The Things I Learned as a Bartender 

by Tricia McCallum (Goodreads Author)

There is no such thing as the perfect martini.
Jazz musicians make lousy tippers.
A couple can walk in fighting and after two shots of tequila
hold each other for dear life on the dance floor
like they did in high school.

A woman doesn't notice her date's drink order
as much as how he treats the waitress.
No matter how cool the pickup line
women want kind.
Even with nothing to gain
people can be small and mean.

A table of plastic surgeons
can be more obnoxious, abusive, than
a convention of professional wrestlers.
The plain girl alone at the end of the bar
has an achingly beautiful story
no one will hear.
The busboy with the bad skin.
His will also go untold.

Some people cannot be reached.
The hulking cab driver
who climbed the back stairs for his double cheeseburger
every night at 8:30, month after month,
stayed mute, no eye contact. He'd pay with a twenty
and wave away the change.
Leave without a word.
From him I learned 
it's impossible to imagine
all the damage done.


  1. It seems this bartender learned a lot from the people he served.

    1. Reminds me of the old adage - maybe Yogi Berra said it - that you can hear a lot by just listening. Bartenders and waiters are in a position to hear and see human nature in the raw.


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