Hateful When You’re Sober

Hate, the alcoholic’s remedy to sobriety. I drink hate coffee

        in the morning and a hate soda

when I need the fizz of a noon beer. No one ever tells you the truth.

        No one says, Hey man, I drink

until I am face first in the toilet or the sink, whichever is closest.

        Most nights I fall asleep quaking,

rolling back and forth. I drift off to the soft sounds of the bed frame’s

        squeak. I don’t talk about those nights,

those two years spent drunk or getting there. The poems I don’t remember

        writing, girls I don’t remember dating,

and the scars on my left leg I can’t place for the life of me. All the close

        calls and the sound of my car skidding

to a stop at the edge of the lake. How when you need the brakes

        to work the most, they splinter into a million

red hot pieces and you are stuck swerving your way into what you

        are sure is hell. I don’t talk about any of it.

I lick my lips, let the taste of hate go numb like gum that has been sitting

        at the back of my throat for an hour.

I yell at passersby and shoot children down in the streets with my middle

        finger. But look! I am alive, sitting

outside of a café on Railroad, a death mask for a face. I watch the birds fly

        over my head and I don’t feel the need to count them.


Tanner Barnes is currently wrapping up the last leg of his BA in English at Florida State University. His has been stress eating lately over applying to MFA programs. His work is forthcoming in the Oakland Arts Review.