One Thriller. Two Poems. Three Drinks.

Below, a crime fiction draft is read aloud; two poems are offered; and three cocktails highlighted from a new recurring feature, “Drinks I Have Been Drinking.”

Crime Fiction

I had a chance to read at the Hoover Public Library the nine-minute opening of a political-thriller-in-progress, the working title of which is “The Whisper Book.” Many thank to the good folks at the library for all of their hard work in hosting the event. Also, my jacket is not orange. That’s just the lighting.


Molly McCully Brown

If you sign up with the Academy of American Poets, you will receive a free “Poem-a-Day.” Many offerings are less than memorable, but this one—”Virginia, Autumn”— by Molly McCully Brown was striking:

October, I’m dragging the dog away from perfect birds 
lifeless on the pavement. By the water, boys in dress blues 
with bayonets, the blistered hulls of boxships. Everything  
is sunshine. Everything is dead, or dying, and this isn’t  
a new thought. I grew up here, but farther from the ocean. 
Each April, they took us to the battlefield, marched us 
in schoolhouse lines up courthouse steps: here 
is where the war ended. Never mind that it was fall  
before the final battleship lowered its flag; never mind  
that we still haven’t fired the last gun. What business  
do I have wanting a baby here: in this body  
where I can’t keep my balance, this country 
where we can’t keep anything alive that needs us,  
or dares not to, not even the switchgrass  
pale and starved for groundwater? And still,  
I do want. I search the news for mention of the birds,  
whatever poison or disease I’m sure is claiming them  
in such great numbers: meadowlarks, house wrens,  
chickadees, starlings. Once even a gray gull, pulled  
open at the chest before we found him, hollowed 
of his organs. It takes a long time—too long—  
for me to understand the sun in this season  
is blinding, and the birds are flying into windows 
all around me, fourteen stories up. Flying into glass 
and falling. What we love is rarely blameless. 
Is it a failure that I wouldn’t trade this brightness? 
I imagine pointing upward for my daughter: 
Look, there, how it catches in the changing trees.

Another poet I belatedly discovered is Dana Gioia and his recent collection Meet Me at the Lighthouse (2023). The title poem is wonderful:

Drinks I Have Been Drinking

There is a fine line between sharing one’s experience and imposing it. The former, one hopes, offers the recipient utility or pleasure. The latter gets ignored or resented. With drinks, though, it is perhaps easier to go down the former path. Cocktails are both genial and dangerous. The trick is to stay on the balance beam. That is the goal of this new section—”Drinks I Have Been Drinking”—of White Collar Wire.

The Iron Maidens (Madame George) (NY)

The “Iron Maidens”—Old Duff Geneva 100% Malt, white port, Dubonnet rouge, Luxardo Maraschino, and Fernet Branca—is a cross between a Martinez and a Hanky Panky served at Madame George in New York (45 West 45th between 5th and 6th—walk out the back of the Sofitel and cross the street. The bar is not well marked).

The “Brandy Crusta”—brandy, Cointreau, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, Luxardo Maraschino, Angostura bitters, and sugar (for the rim)—as served at Truss & Twine in Palm Springs. According to Neal Bodenheimer and Emily Timberlake in Cure: New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix’ Em:

“The purported inventor is Joseph Santini, who worked at the St. Louis Hotel [in New Orleans] in the 1840s. What is notable about this drink is the introduction of lemon juice—this was not common practice at the time, and it set the stage for other delicious, important drinks like the sidecar and the daisy (an inspiration for the margarita).

And finally . . .

The Acadia cocktail (single malt Scotch, apple brandy, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Clear Creek Douglas Fir eau-de-vie, maple syrup, orange bitters, Angostura) (via Death & Co)