Stephen Benz The 2River View, 8.1 (Fall 2003)
Stark Hung Over in Belize

That Sunday morning, finding the Fisherman’s Pub
closed, Stark stood for an hour outside its door.
Not once in his entire time in country
had the Fisherman been closed before,
and he trembled, feeling the DT’s coming on.

Gone were the three gaunt men
who played dominoes under the breadfruit
tree that never lost its leaves,
and a hot wind swirled dust
around the overturned dominoes
table. Stark’s head ached
for the cool dank reek of the pub.
He wanted to hear the fat woman’s fish
sizzle and crackle in the pan
while her white-haired man pried
open bottles of Guinness with his teeth
and read Stark’s fortune in the foam.

Opening his eyes to a white hot blur,
Stark saw an old man, arm severed at the elbow,
and called out to him. The man shook his head,
waved his stump: Storm comin’ to town, man,
no gonna get drunk dis day.

At the Coral Reef Hotel, Stark staggered
past a herd of worried tourists waiting
for the airport bus. His bare feet scraped boardwalk,
the brown glass of broken bottles sparkled
and sang. Stark’s throat constricted.
Moaning, he couldn’t swallow.

At last on a flyblown road
where the sewer fructified and impervious goats
gnawed on rot, Stark saw a sign
Beer Joint and Carpentry
wobbly misshapen furniture scattered out front.
Hallelujah! A choir of angels cried, Hallelujah!
Beer Joint stood opposite
The Church of Christ, Belize,
hysterical now with shouts and cymbals,
hand-clapping and wailing.
For more than an hour Stark heard it:
Hallelujah, Lord! Yes, Lord!
Oh, Jesus, yes thank you, Jesus!
And the Guinness was not at all cold, not even cool,
was in fact a little stale, which is to be
expected from Guinness on tap in the tropics.
Stark didn’t mind: a joyful noise filled his head,
a hot wind blew through the bar and women
carried bibles and baskets on their lovely heads
while somewhere out in the ocean, defining its eye,
a storm, a bloody big storm, was drawing ever nigh.
Amen, he sang, then sang it out again,
aloud in basso profundo for all to hear: Amen.

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