Read Poem: The Things I Learned as a Bartender, by Tricia McCallum

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.