Happy Hour

I’ve been toying with the idea of joining together the various rhyme challenges on this blog into a humorous free verse poem, the sort of thing that might be read out over a tinkling piano late at night.  I had my chance last night, when I was a guest speaker at the annual dinner for Canberra Repertory.  Man, those Rep veterans can party.  And just as well, because the entrees didn’t arrive until after 9pm, and my talk, scheduled for after the main course, was in danger of being out of date by the time it was delivered. 

I edited the speech as I ate, and removed the poem from its ending; I’m putting it here.

My talk was about those magically creative moments that happen in theatre, that are the reason theatregoers go back to the theatre, and that are never the most expensive moments in a show.  Those moments are, I proposed, every bit as available to an amateur group as they are to any professional body.  Morever, professional shows in Australia, so often a dogged reproduction of something that worked five years earlier on Broadway, can be less surprising and less creative than many shows produced by amateurs.

I planned to wrap up with a recollection in verse of happy hours I attended after Rep shows, back in the late ’80s, usually at Tilley’s Devine Cafe Gallery, where I drank Strongbow cider (erroneously believing that it wasn’t vile), and tried too hard to impress my elders. 

I took some liberties with events, and made myself much wittier than I am.  My excuse is that I was trying to string together all these words that supposedly cannot be rhymed.  Because if they can be rhymed, what other impossibilities are waiting to be demolished?

Happy Hour

Thomas always promises
“There’s no band like Thomas’s!”
His band? He’s just the drummer.
They play that punky foreign jazz,
their singer’s hair as orange as
a mandarin in summer.

The girls sit listening, prim, knees together,
hands on laps.
The boys all smoke like chimneys
and look in vain for gaps.

Simon chats up Kelly, levels of lust ascending
to a dangerous high,
his dreams of justice ending
with her every sigh,
and he says to me, “Might have an early night.
You should too, son.”
I say “Simon, I think it can be done.
Yes, I think it can be done.”

Theven year-old Thally
whoth jutht lotht a tooth
ith futhing, futhing, futhing
over nothing, nothing, nothing.

Her mother, Sharon, says
“Tokyo’s oakey-doakey,
but only for a visit.
The Vatican City’s pretty,
but too itty-bitty.”
And here it comes … “Oh, Paree!”
(where she discovered absinthe, cheroots and potpourri)
“Are you bored?” she asks. “Have you even been abroad?”

and I say, “Three things I gained while overseas:
a mug, a Japanese fan, vermouth.
Three things I lost while overseas:
my luggage, appetite, and youth.”

She’s miffed, and murmurs,
“I try, but I never find it funny when you make fun.”
I say, “I think it can be done.
Try harder, ‘cos I think it can be done.”

Her new man Joe plays the banjo,
sings of farms and woe,
but he went to Dara,
moved to South Yarra,
and he’s a great writer, he says,
or he could be one.

Me, I don’t challenge
a J. D. Salinger,
not even a would-be one.

So, imbibing plonk,
sold as sauvignon blanc,
I find a gent
I know only as Director, Resident,
holding forth
on his play
about Ollie North.

He says, “A hostage Ollie North
would cost a jolly penny in ransom.
They let him go, July 4th
because he’s so damn handsome!
Do you see?”
And the chorus boys chorus, “Mais oui, mais oui!”
He sees me smirk, and announces
“I find it odd
that those who need one most
have no God.”

I
reply
“It was so like Jehovah,
that putting one over.
Trust him to oblige a
man like Elijah
to take up the prophecy trade.

That small voice, I’m thinking,
would set me to drinking.
I’d probably try gin,
a drink as obligin’
as any that man’s ever made.”

He says, “My dear,
I never knew a career
could be ended before it’s begun.”
I say, “Well, it can be done.
Oh, I know it can be done.”

So later, in the kitchen,
Melissa heats a
pizza
in an oven meant
for the victims of Hannibal Lecter,
according to the government inspector.
I steal a slice, and she asks,
“Will a new album ever top
that one by Dylan,
you know, before Blonde on Blonde?”
I say, “What, Highway 61?”

“Yes,” she replies, then smoke gets in our eyes,
and I think, I guess, why not?
If we all took a shot,
I’m not sure how,
but I think it can be done
.

She kisses my neck,
says “Any objections?”
I assure her there are none.

Besides, I think it can be done.
Yes, I think it can be done.

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