David Thoreen

Scotch Whisky

Held to the light, it’s the sun itself, filtered through a Dogwood in bloom.
At rest on the table, it cradles the lead of midnight.


For the guys at Bissel’s Liquors, it’s the stuff that flies off the shelf;
for Uncle Carl, a lifelong friend—Time for me and my buddy to hit the road.


Poured over ice, it’s the sound of spring runoff,
your kayak stuttering in the eddies beneath Gunnar’s Bridge.


Straight up, it’s self-sufficient as philosophy,
perfunctory as the hug she tendered that last day.


But pushed your way across the bar, it sounds like Welcome home!
and, brought to your chin, smells constant as clean linen.


You order another double, await the droll boil of white water.
Hindsight’s 20/20, Daddy always said, but a pint’s just $2.95.


You were twelve. Raised to a Georgia moon in July: your first taste of doom.



Asleep, reclining in his hospital bed, my father writes urgently in air—
as if on deadline, though his hand is empty and the sun streaming in.
Two or three thousand, he says evenly, from sleep. Another world there.
Asleep, reclining in his hospital bed, my father writes urgently in air—
ten years he’s been retired. I whisper, I’m here, run a hand through his hair. Edema. They’ve ruled out CHF. They’ve taken him off the Klonopin.
Asleep, reclining in his hospital bed, my father writes urgently in air—
on deadline, hand empty, sun streaming in.



Push the piano onto the porch.
Stack the dining room chairs
shoulder high and pull the table
under the vault of the foyer.
Turn the sofa, love seat, ottoman
toward the windows. Unplug
the TV, sever the co-ax. Scuttle
the crockpot. Send Mr. Coffee
packing. Disconnect the lamps
and line them up like candlepins
in the upstairs hall. Strip the beds.
Pour their linens into the well
of the up-turned desk in the study.
Prop their mattresses on edge outside
the bathroom door. Roll up the carpets—
let them slouch in the corners
like broken men in a soup line.
Remove the paintings from the walls.
Photographs face down, face down.


The sun has shifted to the northern sky.
First one—now both my parents gone.
There are strange shadows on the lawn.


What Fortune Means in Fairytales

When the bloom was full,
she poured words over ice
and I drank them down.
She plucked the past from a sitar,
her foot keeping time
on the floor, gold anklet
flashing semaphore. I coined
a lucky witticism, so unlike
my usual schlock and drool
she offered me a smile. I trebled
like a sympathetic string. Listen
to the wind in the pillows, she said,
and I felt still in fiddle school,
befuddled by the body’s riddles,
how when gray December skies
and snow, the seventh grade
held mittens on the playground,
even Edna Karlovsky (cheeks coaling,
blue eyes blazing—a circle of song.


A bridge arose as if mirage. Words
swept away on wind. I heard Bézier
curve and midpoint, or maybe
baiser, nerve, and midnight, she
and me control points A and B; t,
the end of time. She wondered
was I gullible, risible, or mineral.


The shape of her shoes, the scent
of her hair, and I told her so.
That and the Seychelles, said she,
will get you from here to paternity.
A gold doubloon spun across the sky.
The iron railing had all gone green,
the Danube whisperless as slate.


When she held my hand, I knew
what fortune means in fairytales,
why merchant princes weep.

David Thoreen’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Verse Daily, Kestrel, The Midwest Quarterly, New Letters, New Ohio Review, Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, The American Journal of Poetry, Seneca Review, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of Minnesota Monthly’s Tamarack Award and a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

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