This is my favorite poem from the June 2007 issue of Poetry. (The first and last lines of each stanza are supposed to be indented a bit, but I can't be bothered to learn how to override HTML's efforts to standardize all formatting.) It makes me want to have a whisky—always a good sign in a poem or novel, if it makes you want to drink what the characters are drinking. But I'm on antibiotics, so no Laphroaig for me. (And I can hear that latch clicking at the end.)
THE GOOD NEWS
A friend calls, so I ask him to stop by.
We sip old Scotch, the good stuff, order in,
some Indian—no frills too fine for him
or me, particularly since it's been
ages since we made the time.
Two drinks in, we've caught up on our plans.
I've sleepwalked through the past few years by rote;
he's had a nasty rough patch, quote unquote,
on the home front. So, we commiserate,
cupping our lowballs in our hands.
It's great to see him, good to have a friend
who feels the same as you about his lot—
that, while some grass is greener, your small plot
is crudely arable, and though you're not
so young, it's still not quite the end.
As if remembering then, he spills his news.
Though I was pretty lit, I swear it's true,
it was as if a gold glow filled the room
and shone on him, a sun-shaft piercing through
dense clouds, behind which swept long views.
In that rich light, he looked not like my friend
but some acquaintance brushed by on the train.
Had his good fortune kept me from the same,
I had to wonder, a zero-sum game
that gave the night its early end?
Nothing strange. Our drinks were done, that's all.
We haven't spoken since. By morning, I
couldn't remember half of what the guy
had said, just his good news, my slurred goodbye,
the click of the latch, the quiet hall.