Offertory Red

by Richard Stillman
The Poets' Graves
Honorable Mention, July 2009
Judged by George Szirtes


‘This wine was born the same year as me,’
he blushed. ‘I like to think the same day.
Chateau Ausone Bordeaux, eighty-two,
Although, of course, it’s many years in the making,
but then again, that’s rather like me too!’

One sip of ruby gave me sweet fruit
and black tea. It whispered love to me.
‘How about that for a finish?’ he kissed the air.
‘How about that for a start?’ I waved my glass.
He smiled, refilled my bowl, refilled his own.

‘How many glasses to the bottle, do you think?’
he asked as we held each stained glass in worship
‘The way you pour, maybe four,’ I guessed.
‘Well how many sips per glass is that?’
‘Maybe ten?’ ‘So forty in all, let’s say.’

‘Sure,’ I shushed, mindful of where the sum
was heading but living in this blissful wine
which made the way I drink anew; it was
the sun reborn. ‘So, forty sips,’ he went on,
‘That’s twenty-five pounds a sip. Enjoy, my friend!’

I knew then how his palate had been formed;
he hadn’t aged that well. I rose, ‘Excuse me,
I have to piss away five hundred pounds.’
He smiled at my poor joke, but wouldn’t take
another sip until I had resumed my place.


"Offertory Red" is damned elegant, like a perfect anecdotal short story. Reading it is like handling a piece of material from a well-stocked wardrobe. It is an admirable poem, a light close-to-satirical poem with satirical bite. It's a nice poem to have about your person somewhere and read with a cocktail in a bar. Which is something that one does want occasionally to do. It is, as I say, admirable and I admire it. I would certainly read a book by this writer. --George Szirtes

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