The Daily


Poem: Episode

August 25, 2011 | by

Jennifer Michael Hecht.

It’s Thursday, as good a day as any for an incisive and surprising poem by Jennifer Michael Hecht about a hangover. We liked it because of the way it evokes the light mantle of head-clouded shame that follows too much bourbon or rum; its wrapping, self-analyzing lines convey the cloudiness and the strange clarity that come the day after drinking too much. Who hasn’t vowed that “nothing that ever happened/ will happen again?” —Meghan O’Rourke


Too much to drink last night and now
the symbol claps of shame in August.
Had I been wine-wise, I’d
have been at work for hours by now,
but no. Television is more relieving
than I’d guessed, I watched a show
I’d never seen before because I tend
from terrors on the molestation line.
It was easier to take than TV news
whose theme today is also how someone
who had once been a girl had been
abused. Outside the sky is blue
and bright white clouds remind me
that the other news has been wildfires
in California, with pyrocumulus
soot clouds rising white in the blue sky.
This shame of too much drink is
shockingly tenacious. I tell myself
it is no crime to be seen in cups now
and again, but find I can't
be disabused. I hold it all against me.

There must be water in these clouds
though, and freedom here, and nothing
that ever happened will happen again.

Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of three history books and two volumes of poetry. Her most recent book is The Happiness Myth.



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  1. Butterfly | August 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Wow. Absolutely riveting, and speaks to me in volumes.

  2. DUANE HARRIS | August 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Baroque is when you’re.out of monet.a little drunken shame can be cathartic… rain. Earthquakes…hurricanes..guilt…suffering pain…but. oh how clean when you’ve done enough.

  3. neers | August 26, 2011 at 12:25 am

    *gleeful clapping* 🙂 and she looks beautifully hungover.,.. or maybe i have one! 🙂

  4. Tiff | August 26, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Spot on. Haunting and placid at the same time. Love this poem.

  5. Jack Locke | August 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Like all “episodes” in life and TV, they will repeat. Thus, Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Episode ending, “…and nothing
    that ever happened will happen again” is eminently poetic, eminently dichotomous.

  6. Stephen Smith | August 26, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    I love her choice of words: how they create an elegant, dancing rhythm that slightly hypotizes the reader and carries him or her effortlessly through the piece.

  7. wall art | September 22, 2011 at 10:28 am

    What wonderful words, this has inpsire my day. Many thanks.

  8. Alcibiades | November 4, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Naive, illogical and no rhyme. Why can’t the outstanding happen again? On the contrary, especially that the madame is a historian (as well), it is guaranteed to happen

  9. KWill | October 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    There’s a deeper disquiet communicated through the repetition of the abused girl images on the news, and how the clouds recall, not escapism, but burning, and then the ambiguity of the final line. Quite sobering. The “outstanding” perhaps doesn’t happen, and in that way the tone and surface banality of the poem serves the feel of the hangover. But, the terrible already has. I think that’s what the poem is quietly pointing out.

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