Stephen Vincent Benét (1898-1943)
From The Bookman Anthology of Verse (1922). Read a biographical note.
He stood behind the counter, mixing drinks;
Pride for the old, who like their liquor tart,
Green scorn frappé to cheer the sick-at-heart,
False joy, as merry as a bed of pinks.
He had the eyes of a sarcastic lynx
And in his apron was a small black dart
With which he stirred, secretive and apart,
His shaker, till it rang with poisonous clinks.
I fumbled for the rail. "The same, with gin?
Love -- triple star -- you like the velvet kick?"
I shook with the blind agues of the sick.
Then, through lost worlds, his voice, "Fini, old friend?"
He poured black drops out, cold as dead men's skin:
"So? This is what we always recommend --"