Snake-Charming Secrets of the Indian Subcontinent
by James Tate

I was seated at the bar having my usual
five o’clock cocktail, a martini. It had been
a hellish day at the office and I was trying to
shake off some of the tension. “Can I have your
olive?” the stranger sitting next to me asked.
“Hell, no,” I answered testily. “Well, then, can
I have a sip, I’ve never tasted a martini.”
“Get your own,” I said. That shut him up. I
went back to my thoughts. The boss was driving
me too hard, maybe looking for an excuse to
let me go. I wouldn’t be the first. I stared
into the mirror behind the bar. The man next
to me looked truly wretched. “What’s your
problem, pal?” I said to him. “You’re not
eating your olive,” he said.

SOURCE: “Snake-Charming Secrets of the Indian Subcontinent” appears in James Tate‘s collection The Eternal Ones of the Dream: Selected Poems 1990-2010, available at

IMAGE: “Martini with Green Olive” by Sharon Cummings. Prints available at