Satch Dobrey

A Drunken Toast

to the Memory of Nicholas Joost
(after ‘Enivrez-vous’ by Charles Baudelaire)

Fleurs du mal: Destruction by Carlos Schwabe

With the hollow men you walked, descended the stairs
                  each day to punctuate literature
Scholar, editor, poet, decoder of signs
                  once, steadfast in your work, now ravaged, gaunt,
though unsteady, “damaged goods” you marched on to teach,
.                    pausing before each classroom, you lingered
too long, looked skyward before opening the door
                  where fluorescent light radiates your skull
and the day’s short dream begins where it last ended.
                  With measured steps, to the pulpit of Lit
420 b, pause to catch fading breath, grasping
                  lectern, you face improbability—
southern gentleman has entered prairie classroom.
.                    You lift your head, and, gazing beyond us,
The Dial long past, Mexico, the Netherlands,
.                    a sunset mirrored against the back wall,
you appear to drift in and out of consciousness
.                    to cryptic hallucinations of time
before contemplating the alexandrine’s rhyme
.                    and move to English and pentameter.
Your voice cracked; still you coughed a verse from memory,
                  excused yourself, turning phrase into time
and time into rhythm that begs the mother tongue,
.                    for we must know why, one truth you divined—
‘Pour n’être pas les esclaves martyrisés du Temps’!
.                    Clinging to this line, fist frozen and bent,
lifting a palm to your ear as if a seashell,
.                    upon hearing no ocean swell inside
or any sound at all from us gathered, lost souls,
.                    embark with symbolists you theorized,
the ghosts of the sea and the voices of the dead.
                  From Coleridge and Poe to Baudelaire,
we watched the tortured albatross take flight once more
                  and with your broken wing assuaged our fear
of death and all matters else left upon the shore.


About the writer:
Satch Dobrey has a B.A. in English from SIU at Edwardsville and an M.A. in International Affairs from Washington University in St Louis. Poetry appears in Bluestem, Rampike, PØST-, Grey Borders Magazine, Red Earth Review, Painters and Poets and Blotterature; fiction, in Tribe Magazine and the Blue Fifth Review and CNF, in O: JA&L.

Image: Fleurs du mal: Destruction by Carlos Schwabe (1866-1926). Illustration for Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal at Paris by Charles Meunier. 1900. Public domain.