“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.