2 Poems

Poetry / Andrew Hemmert


:: The Liquor Store Delivery Driver Considers Ornithology ::

A swift flies like a bat made of straight razors. In summer 
I watch them sweep and curve through the mazes of moving cars, 
chasing the proliferating insects—mosquitos and caddis, 
black flies whose guts rorschach my windshield in yellows and greens 
and always the swifts behind them, like hunger given weight
and weightlessness, like hunger given speed. The way they fly, 
it seems they do not remember the ground is there. 
And nothing makes me feel grounded like watching them. 
Watching them, I might as well be a cattail by a retention pond 
or a shopping cart sunk in that retention pond, or a pond 
full only of oily overflow and no red fish darting
through reeds. When a swift doubles back its belly feathers shine 
like surgery. I am driving my car full of liquor 
into the city, under the swifts’ oblivion joy. 

:: The Liquor Store Delivery Driver Considers Quitting ::

Leaving feels like something for which there should be some ritual. 
On my last day at the store, a brand-new driver was t-boned 
in an intersection. I went to get him. Parsed his story 
from those of the witnesses, peeled the company decal 
off the totaled delivery car. The other driver 
though stumbling refused an ambulance. My driver spent 
the ride back to the store with his head in his hands. The ruined 
car we left in a restaurant parking lot for the morning.
What ritual for this? In the end I spent too much money 
on a bottle of rum and drove home under open skies. 
I left my uniform—a black t-shirt, a matching hoodie, 
a fake-gold magnetic nametag—lying on the counter, 
what else is there to say about it. A job is not a life. 
I went out into the night wearing only my own clothes.

From the writer


:: Account ::

When I moved to Thorn­ton, Col­orado, my first job was deliv­er­ing liquor for a local liquor store. These deliv­er­ies were pri­mar­i­ly res­i­den­tial, not retail. I’d been a patron at the store for a few months pri­or to receiv­ing their email adver­tise­ment seek­ing deliv­ery dri­vers. Hav­ing been out of work for near­ly two years at that point due to the pan­dem­ic, I was eager to con­tribute to the household’s finances in what­ev­er way pos­si­ble. And hav­ing at the time recent­ly com­plet­ed my first Covid vac­cine reg­i­ment, I felt rel­a­tive­ly com­fort­able return­ing to a retail envi­ron­ment. Now, a year since hav­ing left that posi­tion, it’s still hard to cap­ture the reg­u­lar absur­di­ty of being part of a liquor store deliv­ery depart­ment. I’d antic­i­pat­ed that the job would pro­vide me with count­less sto­ries I could use as fod­der for poet­ry or fic­tion. And I’m still try­ing to fig­ure out how to chis­el most of those sto­ries out. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, dri­ving fac­tors heav­i­ly into the expe­ri­ence of these poems. And dri­ving has been a major theme in my pri­or books. But this was my first oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss dri­ving in the con­text of per­son­al labor.


Andrew Hem­mert is the author of Bless­ing the Exoskele­ton (Pitt Poet­ry Series) and Saw­grass Sky (Texas Review Press). His poems have appeared or are forth­com­ing in var­i­ous mag­a­zines includ­ing The Cincin­nati Review, Cop­per Nick­el, The Keny­on Review, Prairie Schooner, and The South­ern Review. He won the 2018 Riv­er Styx Inter­na­tion­al Poet­ry Con­test. He earned his MFA from South­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­si­ty Car­bon­dale, and cur­rent­ly lives in Thorn­ton, Colorado.