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On the Road to Damascus

(Joel Carillet/Getty Images)

“So here I am in the Radnor Township/Police Department Drunk Tank/in a white paper jumpsuit, shoelaces/removed to be sure I don’t hang myself…”

I had my first blackout drunk

when I was sixteen. Drank half

a gallon of Ernest & Julio Gallo’s

port wine on Snake Hill Road

in Buckingham Township, PA,

woke up next morning on the lawn

in front of my house in Perkasie.


Since then, I’ve graduated with honors

from high school; earned a Good Conduct

Medal, sergeant’s stripes, Honorable

Discharge from the U.S. Marines;

bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral degrees.

I’m a much-published poet and author,

high school teacher, husband and father.


I’ve never missed a day of work

because of alcohol, never went to work

under the influence, never had a DUI

or got arrested for alcohol abuse

or abusing someone else while drunk.

All in all, I thought I managed alcohol

about as well as anybody should.


So here I am in the Radnor Township

Police Department Drunk Tank

in a white paper jumpsuit, shoelaces

removed to be sure I don’t hang myself,

sixty-six years old, found passed out

behind the wheel at the intersection

of Lancaster Avenue and Ithan Road.

Handcuffs, mug shots, fingerprints,

A one-piece stainless steel toilet.

Not even a cell with bars; just a door

with see-through full glass window.


Maybe I should reconsider

my approach to alcohol.


W. D. Ehrhart has authored or edited a number of collections of poetry and prose, most recently Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems and What We Can and Can’t Afford: Essays on Vietnam, Patriotism, and American Life, both from McFarland & Company, Inc. He holds a Ph.D. from University of Wales at Swansea and taught at The Haverford School in Pennsylvania from 2001 to 2019.

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