Eating Grief at Bickford’s
For Allen Ginsberg

There are no places anymore
Where I can sit at a threadbare table
Pick at the crumbs on my plate
And wipe
The white dust
From my pitch
Black shirt.

The old men
Who used to spout
Rants from
The cracked porcelain of their cups
Are gone
The boiling water
Ketchup soup
The mustard sandwich
They used to relish
All that so lean

Oh, Hunchback
In the corner
Your lonely reflection
In the glass of water—

And Tennessee Williams’ Blanche
Eyes me through her grilled cheese
“Pass the sugar, sugar”
She teases.

The queer
Late night
Security guard.
His policeman’s hat
Draped on his head
Looking like a
Sacrilegious rake
His countless
Of defending his honor
In the amorous, crazed embraces
Of muscular young men
How he protests…
Too much…too much.

The discarded men
Blue blazers
Shedding their threads
Outcasts with newspapers

Stains of baked beans
On their lapels
Fingering a piece
Of passionless cod

Lulled by their
own murmur.


Illustration © Stacy Esch

Illustration © Stacy Esch


Doug Holder has worked as a counselor at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. for over 30 years, and for many of those years has run poetry groups for psychiatric patients. His own work has appeared in the Endicott Review, Arts Around Boston, Stuff at Night, The Boston Globe, Compost, The Boston Poet, 96inc., and elsewhere. He teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. He is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. The poem above is an excerpt from his new collection Eating Grief at 3 A.M. from Muddy River Books.

Stacy Esch lives and works in West Chester, Pennsylvania, teaching English at West Chester University. Digital art and photography are the twin passions that compete alongside her interest in writing, reading, songwriting, and gardening. She has previously published work at Turkshead Review and wordriver literary review. She is currently selling a calendar through Spruce Alley Press.