Where There Are Vipers John McDermott Poetry

local_library Where There Are Vipers

by John McDermott

Published in Issue No. 241 ~ June, 2017

Los Angeles, 1999


This was during the bloom of Y2K panic:

the girl in the pencil skirt drank chartreuse,

its eerie green glowing in the flickered

light tossed and retossed from the red candle

in the center of the crowded table.

Years before the young actor had seized up

on the sidewalk outside this greasy club

but no one talked of River anymore.

Where there are vipers there is always sleep

and where there is sleep there is forgetting.

The olive at the bottom of her glass

languished without the dry vermouth and gin,

drained by the unemployed bass player

moments before. “Belladonna,” he’d said,

“isn’t for dreams. It’s used for solutions.”

She imagined solutions suspended

in laboratories across the Valley

where her problems floated like lemon garnish

in so many drinks in so many bars

not so different than the one right here.

A voice from the kitchen cut through the din,

laughing, something about the Rio Grande,

crossing it hard and still surviving drought.



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John A. McDermott's work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Cutbank, Florida Review, and Juked. He teaches at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogoches, Texas, where he directs the BFA program in creative writing.