Before Smartphones

How long had you obsessed over the name of that band
that sang that song, Stuck in the Middle With You?
Religiously, you listened to WYSL’s Top 40,
but the answer never came. Of course, you asked
your friends. Was it Ambrosia, King Harvest,
Mott the Hoople, Looking Glass? No one knew
for sure, but that was ok. Someday,
someone somewhere was bound to get it right.
You were just happy to be with your pals at Whitey’s,
singing, getting wasted, talking drunken nonsense
about other times you got wasted
and all the random things you ever peed on—
police cars, garden gnomes, a piece of the
Berlin Wall in Vegas—anything, everything,
a whirling, tumbling gamble of language—Dude,
I can’t believe you listen to Ambrosia. No one cared
if anything anyone said was correct. Point is,
you were together, swapping stories, memories,
arguing for hours, happily glossing over facts,
being vague. Conversation flowed freely back then.
If you wanted an opinion, you asked for it.
If you shouted your question to the air
after chasing four shots of Jäger
with a pitcher of Pabst while Honky Tonk Women
thumped from the jukebox, and some tanned,
bluesy beauty in tight jeans, tube top, tennis shoes,
reminding you of Mary Stuart Masterson
in Some Kind of Wonderful, separated herself
from her friends at the end of the bar, wandered over
to where you wobbled, back and forth, and whispered,
on tip-toe, into your ear—Stealers Wheel—you married her.

Michael Steffen is a graduate of the MFA writing program at Vermont College and the author of three poetry collections: “No Good at Sea” (Legible Press, 2002), “Heart Murmur” (Bordighera Press, 2009) and “Bad Behavior” (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013). Individual poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Rhino, and other journals. New work will appear soon in Chiron Review, Thimble, Lily Poetry Review, Street Light Press and The American Journal of Poetry.