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  • Writer's pictureLaura McBride

Poem: Henry's Manhattan


Henry's Manhattan.jpg

I

There is something seductive about a

cocktail glass, not a coupe, not the ones with

rounded bottoms, used (wrongly) for champagne.

A cocktail glass, perched on a reed-thin stem,

connecting a solid flat base to the working

part, the essential part, the triangle with an oval

opening that whispers elegance, urbanity,

recklessness, sophistication, tantalizing flavours

and aromas, crystal clarity, decadence.

All that, and more, is held in the five-ounce bowl

of a classic cocktail glass.

II

Nick and Nora Charles, the fictional Thin Man and his

wife, drank from coupes. Well, OK. They can be

excused. They had a dog, after all, that went

everywhere with them, and Nora's clothes were

never covered in dog hair. They had cocktail

parties for criminals. Not big, bad ones. The

1930s version of midnight tokers. Prison, sure,

but for nothing much. Nick was a PI, you see,

and hung out with low types. Did I mention,

even now, a friend of mine in Tennessee faces

jail time for pot? No elegance in US society

today. Not even any sense.

III

This was supposed to be about Henry's Manhattan,

but it went someplace else. Henry's Manhattan was

made with Jameson's Irish Whiskey, not much sweet

vermouth, and three cocktail cherries. Always. So,

now, are mine. Henry was old when we met, over

80, and died a few years later. I mixed his Manhattans for

his daughter's guests the night of his funeral, a wake

of sorts.

IV

Dorothy would only eat lobster salad for lunch, served

with champagne. Only champagne. I don't know

whether Stanley agreed. He didn't stand a chance.

He married a former Ziegfeld dancer ten years his

senior, and they had lived happily ever after. And then

of course there was Frances who took Valium every

day for years and would not watch a mystery because

she said they upset her. She wouldn't cook, either,

except matzoh brie and coffee, instant. She took all

her meals out. Not wealthy. Single. Small apartment,

big restaurant bills, enormous heart.

V

I wonder what people will write about me when

I'm old. I AM old. I can't believe it. I am old, over

60. People have begun to die. These people, all of

them, have died. And yet

they live. Here, on this page, and deep in my

heart, joined by more, so many many many

more who informed my life in ways too odd

and numerous to count. But count them

I will. There is time, yet, for a few stories, and

I mean to tell them.

VI

Thank you, Henry, for teaching me about a better

Manhattan, and heading a section in my

book of life.

Copyright 2014, Laura Harrison McBride

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