Ode to a wine-lover’s friend
by JC Sulzenko

Not that I’m a drunk or that we’re drunks.
But, after five months in isolation,
ten boxes of empties languish
underneath the basement steps.
Nowhere safe we can recycle them.

Barolos list and lean on Rosés
with the occasional Pinot Gris
and a magnum or three, attesting to
many, many, long, long evenings with
only each other to face and entertain.

What to do with the evidence?
An answer walks up our driveway.
His name is David. He’s thirty-seven, wears
a baseball cap and an unmasked, crooked
smile. He speaks few words with a slur.

David collects empties from around
the county during COVID-days.
He turns them in, donates what he earns
to charities he likes the best.
This gives him purpose, his mother explains.

Two-by-two, David hoists our crates into the van.
He refuses offers of help, raises his hat with joy
when he’s done. Then tilts toward me, runs fingers
through his new brushcut, mumbles what he heard
the barber say, You’re a handsome boy! Indeed.

PHOTO: Wine bottles on stairs by Pixabay, used by permission. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I focused this poem on my first meeting with David, although his backstory also merits further reflection. When I called to book his visit, his mother explained he had been living in a group home when the pandemic hit. When she was told she would have to stop seeing him given the restrictions, she brought him home to live with her and with his stepfather. David’s success at recycling has led to stories in local media, and demand has overwhelmed their capacity. “We are retired, after all!” she laughs. Now they are recruiting other families to come on board.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JC Sulzenko’s poems appeared on Arc’s Poem of the Year shortlist, and have been featured in Vallum, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, Oratorealis, Naugatuck River Review, and online — either under her name or as A. Garnett Weiss. The Light Ekphrastic and Silver Birch Press have published her work. In 2019, she won the Wind and Water Writing Contest and WrEN Award (Children’s Poetry), and judged poetry for the National Capital Writing Contest. In 2018, Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology (Mansfield Press) as well as the Poet’s Pathway and County CollAboRaTive projects featured her writing. Point Petre Publishing released her South Shore Suite…POEMS in 2017. Her centos took top honours in The Bannister Anthology (2016, 2013). She has presented workshops for the Ottawa International Writers Festival, the Griffin Trio, MASC, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the Ottawa Public Library, and a number of Alzheimer societies, among others. She has published six books for children and co-authored the chapbooks Slant of Light and Breathing Mutable Air with fellow Canadian Carol A. Stephen. She currently curates the Glebe Report’s Poetry Quarter, plus serves as a selector for bywords.ca. Visit her at jcsulzenko.com.