Rum has a mixed history, and like all distilled spirits, it can be your friend or your enemy.
Rum has long been associated with sailors and pirates. In the West Indies during the 1600s, large plantations grew sugar cane. When they extracted the sugar, they created a by-product called molasses. For years, the molasses was a waste product until it was discovered it could be distilled – and that is how rum came to be. Rum not only became a commodity for trade but was also a ration on the ships that delivered it. It remained a tradition in the Royal Navy that British sailors received an allotment of rum until the practice was discontinued in 1970.
In 1764, the British Crown placed a tax on the American colonies for sugar, molasses, and rum. This tax was called The Sugar Act of 1764. The unrest this caused led to more friction between the colonials and the crown, starting the colonies on the road to the American Revolution.
Rum is now the third most popular spirit in the U.S. Only vodka and all the whiskeys combined beat it for first and second-rankings. The spirit is used in citrusy mixed drinks, and cool blended summer cocktails, conjuring sandy beaches and drinks with brightly colored little umbrellas. However, dark rum is also used for hot mulled punches and toddies in winter.
Molly Fisk (1955) American poet and essayist; her poetry collections include The More Difficult Beauty, and Listening to Winter. She has also published several essay collections, including, Blow-Drying a Chicken: Observations from a Working Poet; Using Your Turn Signals Promotes World Peace; Houston, We Have a Possum; and Naming Your Teeth: More Observations from a Working Poet. In 2019, while serving as Poet Laureate of Nevada County, California, she was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow.
To read Molly Fisk’s poem “Dark Rum & Tonic” click:
Dark Rum & Tonic
by Molly Fisk
Sometimes what you need is a road
house, blast of laughter and warm air pouring
out the door, where the waitresses know
your name but the customers don’t, shrill
on the third martini or fifth Blue Ribbon,
steaks searing on a huge propane-fired grill.
Two birthday parties in full swing—
mylar balloons leashed to a chair-back slowly
turning—tonight you’re a few years shy
the median age, at your back-wall table drinking
iced tea because you don’t spend time with
the person you turn into after a frosted glass:
chardonnay, dark rum & tonic, you remember
her well, that girl, that woman, with great
compassion: her loneliness behind the amber
liquid disappeared, or seemed to, she got funny
and affectionate, softer, sexually daring but
not a femme fatale, always more honey
than darling, her courage long-gone by morning,
that terrible waking into a stranger’s sheets.
You don’t miss any of it. Headaches, longing
that’s miles easier to bear when sober,
wishing a friend would come along and love you,
even though you’re just getting older.
Some nights you need a road house, boisterous
laughter and warm air pouring through open
doors, the kind of place where your choice
is simple: well-done, bloody, or medium rare,
and no one gives a shit that you’re by yourself,
writing in a notebook. Nobody turns to stare.
© 2014 by Molly Fisk – “Dark Rum & Tonic” originally appeared in The Lascaux Review in 2014