Portrait of a Poet in Middlefield Tavern
By: Madison Newman
Published for the 2023 Spring Magazine
Sitting on a wobbly stool between two vacant-faced deer heads, I am an imposter: all oak and long hair and good, panicked smile. The bartender is a woman who is beautiful in the way that she is a bullet I do not startle away from. When she tells me, you’ve got those big brown doe eyes, bet the boys all love ‘em, I spill out a laugh and listen to her fire off across the bar about her ex- husband, shaking a drink like she’s imagining pulling a trigger. Reloading, she says again, look at those eyes, you’re sittin’ there lookin’ like a deer in headlights. In this light, I could be mesmerized, frozen, run- down. In this light, I become a hit-and-run at dawn. The bartender tells me the bar owner shot the deer on the wall himself; the rifle bounces on his knee in a framed picture like his child. They stare down at me like judgmental gods, marble eyes like trapped black pools, pulling me under their water. They do not belong here, just as I don’t. I beg the deer for mercy as I step out into the dark, away, out of range: Please forgive me. Please forgive me for being able to make it out.