A Poem for International Whisky Day

March 27, 2009International Whisky Day is launched at a whisky festival in the Netherlands, to honor Michael J. Jackson, the English journalist and author of many influential books on beer and whisky, including Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion; he was also the host of the popular UK television series, The Beer Hunter. Jackson was born on March 27, 1942, and died in 2007 after a decade suffering from Parkinson’s disease, so this day also supports research on Parkinsons.

Terry Collett has been writing poetry since 1971, prose since 1995, and stage plays in 2005. He is married with 8 children, 8 grandchildren, and lives in West Sussex England. His two slim volumes of poems were published in the 1970s and are now out of print.

To read Terry Collett’s poem, “Sorting the Boys from Men” click:

Sorting the Boys from Men

by Terry Collett

It was near Christmas time
and you went along
to see old Pete
who lived alone

in a two up
two down house
not far
from where you lived

he was about 96 or so
and still went
to mass each day
and did the collection

at mass on Sundays
dressed in his best
suit and tie
you knocked

on his door
and after a while
he opened the door
come in

he said
and you followed him
into the main room
where he had a fire going

and sat
in an old armchair
sit down
he said

so you sat
on a chair
beside him
there was a cat

on the mat
in front
of the fireplace

want a whisky?
you said
( you used to drink

back then)
the bottle’s
in the sideboard
over there

there’s a glass
in the kitchen
so you went
to the kitchen

and took a glass
from the draining board
and took the bottle
out of the sideboard

pour yourself a drink
he said
what about you?
you asked

can’t drink
I’m on too many pills
you said

and poured
a couple of fingers worth
more than that
he said

what are you
some kind of woman?
so you poured
half the glass

and put the bottle
on the small table
beside you
Pete sipped

his milky tea
well here’s to Christmas
he said
and raised

his mug of tea
you raised your glass
and said
here’s to you

and you sipped your drinks
he talked of his wife
who had died
some years before

he spoke of his son
(without much affection)
and his grandson
whom he seemed

to speak well of
and his grandson’s wife
who he said
was quite pretty

but not as beautiful
as my wife
Pete said
she was one

in a million
he went quiet
he sipped his tea
and you sipped

your whisky
he talked about
his master builder days
when he worked long hours

and over six days
and saved money
where and when
he could

he became silent
my son is always
on the want
he knows

I have money
and he is always
for this and that

he drained
his mug of tea
you drained
your glass of whisky

want another?
he asked
I must be going
you said

have another first
he said
so you poured
more whisky

into the glass
( half a glass again
he having insisted)
and he talked

of the women he knew
and how he teased them
and flirted with them
and made them laugh

you know those old dears
like to be flirted with it
makes them
feel young again

he said
when they laugh
you can see the light
flash in their old grey eyes

and their dead dugs
tremble with memories
and he laughed
and drank

from a bottle
of mineral water
by his armchair
he sat gazing

into the fire
you sat draining
the whisky
from the glass

the room smelt
of cooking meat
and wet cat
and you said

look Pete I best go
the wife will wonder
where I’ve gone

he said
and so you washed
the glass in the sink
and put the bottle away

in the sideboard
and patted his shoulder
see you around
in church

he said
you replied
and walked swaying

up the road
you’d only went
to Pete’s
to wish him well

and to deliver a card
and framed picture
of a female saint
he liked

but the whisky
had been a bonus
a kind of

for being
a friend
to an old man
it was the sort of gift

you liked back then
the whisky kind
sorting the boys
from men.

“Sorting the Boys from Men” © 1971 by Terry Collett

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Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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