Poem: Episode



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.