Arnie Johanson


J. Alfred at Bartender School (or Prufrock Crocked)

Hey, let’s go man, you and me!
Martini class begins at ten of three,
and if by half past five I’ve passed the test—
when darkness spreads across the sky
I start my intern stint at Mermaid’s Eye.

Into the shaker the ingredients go, forsooth:
ice, six parts gin, and one part dry vermouth.

The master sips, declares, “That is not it at all.
You must begin anew.” I found it, as I drank it,
satisfactory. But how should I presume?
The classic mastered, then there will be time
for a hundred variations: chocolatini,
mango-tini, watermelon splash . . .

Into the shaker the ingredients flow, in truth:
ice, eight parts gin, and one part dry vermouth.

The master smiles.
I gain the prize: a shaker cast in bronze.
Licensure awaits
a superior’s imprimatur
attesting my exemplary
performance at the bar.

The customers are rowdy in the Mermaid’s Eye tonight.
Deferential, glad to be of use,
I keep their pitchers filled with beer:
Leinenkugels Dark, Coors Light, Pete’s Wicked Ale.
Through yellow smoke-fog curling round the bar
I hear the barmaids screeching, each to me,
“Pitchers of martinis, tables six and three.”

Sleeves rolled up, I disdainfully prepare
cocktails destined to disturb the universe.
Do I dare to add peach schnapps
as my future’s measured out in double jiggers?

Into the shaker the ingredients are poured
to mix the best martinis ever shaken in Duluth.
To start, one liter Bombay Sapphire gin;
I end with just a whimper of vermouth.


Arnie Johanson is a retired philosophy professor from Minnesota who moved to Durham, NC on retirement and started writing poetry. His work has appeared in several journals (including Light and Main Street Rag) and numerous anthologies. He has published two chapbooks: A Man and A Horse and Coffee, Songs, and Snakes: Sonnets for Grandma.