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.