To clean up a bottle of good whisky
you have to get your hands dirty.
Never mind how
seven hundred milliliters of Aberlour
crashed onto my quarry-tile floor,
where it cried in the grief of shore widows
an elegy for sea salt, shire boughs,
and citrus notes.
Inspire with the nose of the finger
saturated earth off the burn,
the spirit of the air in highland mist.
Tactile perception is truest.
Press on it.
There, the resinous fragments
of unsaid things and what was meant.
Plunge into the sherried mahogany
and you might learn of modesty,
how our inceptions matured through seasons
can be requisitioned
and turn treasonous
with curiosity, leaping off the rocks
into secrets of the loch
that glance darkly into your reflection.
There’s the monster you seek.
As the paper towels swelled,
so did my lament for evenings ahead
when the squall of desire
inside the heart’s dormer
requires a sweet-bodied source
to anchor us on course.
What am I talking about
but tantrum, wroth chemistry – malt.
The difference between angels and devils.
The difference between nimbus and lumbus:
the former undefiled, airless;
the latter carnal, touchable.
What would you give to grasp
what cannot be had?
to the master distiller
on the lowing winds of the lea,
conjunctiva and tear
on a weatherworn eye
forming like a storm off Speyside,
and sheephooked words smoked with tannins
about freedom and regret’s long finish.
If I may. Let us stand today
not for an exequy of the lost
but a taste for the gained:
however flat these lines,
however bland –
not quite ageless,
not prescient as vermilion-gray scud
or narrative like moss and mud,
not inflammatory as thatched colors
on the tartan of MacGregors
or inscrutable as rock, magic as peat,
hard as thistle, coy like a tide
as it paddles windspray
at your face,
not amber as in spring’s auld expression
or like surprise softening
for the pulse does not lie about the difference
between love and admiration,
not vanilla, not marzipan,
not honey or cocoa,
the restraint of sentiment untold,
a feint redistilled until it vanishes
and achieves the lightness of wisps –
let us be witness,
at the bargain cost of forty-nine dollars,
I have purchased this poem
which I share with you now
as if by a brick fireplace
on a bright winter night of our imagining
with six-ounce Glencairns in hand.