Saturday Nights at the Dellwood Pavilion
What a lovely word, pavilion, conjuring visions
of butterflies, sumptuous parties, silken ladies.
A soubriquet suited for elegance
yet in rural Wisconsin, a moniker stuck to
a low-slung, roach-ridden tavern slash dance hall -
the Dellwood Pavilion, where any visions were
drug-induced, the ladies drank like men
and the smoke haze would kill any butterfly gutsy enough to enter.
They called me Cocktail Waitress
heroic hoister of enough Pabst Blue Ribbon to launch
a thousand muscle cars.
The trick was to stack the bottles against the lip
of the tray, mixed drink glassess inside the semi-circle,
and wade through the steamy crowd, fully loaded.
Uniform of the night was jeans and halter tops
the tie at the back triple-knotted against those funny, funny
Chicago slobs looking for easy tail and yanking
at the sash like it was a curtain pull
that would part at their command.
A plastic cocktail tray makes a lousy weapon
even when you're not sucking up for a tip.
This one Saturday night I'd had enough.
Give me bartending or give me death by drunk puke
I said. So the old guy Dick Traeger, we called him Trigger
said, Tucker Joyce is too drunk to pour anyway. You do it.
I put the bar between me and the crowd
a thirty-foot fortress, its battlements
just-washed glasses lined up like archers
soon filled with sloe gin fizzes, screwdrivers, 7&7s
stabbed with stir sticks, a buck-fifty a drink.
Eleven weeks (one week off for good behavior) I swam
in the Pavilion's petri dish of life lessons.
Newly educated in the art of tequila shooters, pouring a short shot
insulting drunks, getting high on break, dancing the polka
and talking a good game of deer hunting
I escaped back to the city, ambitions intact
millions of brain cells lighter
fully educated in the insidious ennui of rural existence.