“Auld Lang Syne,” a Poem by Michael Lista

From the Collection “Barfly”

June 7, 2024  By Michael Lista

Auld Lang Syne

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There used to be too many things anyway—
Plans and people and places to go.

If you weren’t careful, you could waste
A whole day with someone else.

The movies stretched fifty feet high,
Went on forever, and smelled like popcorn

And kissing. My favorite bar
Didn’t even get to drink itself to death.

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It died of thirst
And loneliness, and didn’t even wait

For me to go first.
Before it was zilch

The pay was a pittance.
Good riddance

To baseball, which was even more boring in person
Because everyone was smaller in real life, whatever

That was, and you had to walk so far and wait so long for a beer.
Let’s be clear:

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Someone could call you out of nowhere
And say, “I miss you”

And then you’d have to cook them pasta,
Listen to Duke Ellington, and dance

Until one of you said basta.
Worst was that it felt like it was going somewhere,

All of it, proceeding to a point,
Arranging like a spider with its web,

But when it went,
The long nights and handshakes and work,

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It proved itself figment
And fragment,

A thin hypothesis
In the process of disproof, then

Now you can’t even vanish

In plain sight. You disappear
Into the year.

Whoever loves you can’t even volunteer
To be there.

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Shopping lives on
Like lichen,

And won’t die. I’d kill for a high-five,
Or a fair fight.

You can’t even get your ass kicked anymore.
I wish I could say, “What survives of us is love,”

But love was first to go.
Bread stayed,

And booze, thank god,
And you.

It still rains.
And I can still complain

That the sky is sometimes somehow blue,
Like some smug proof.

You can still shut the lights off,
And even turn them on if you want to.


Barfly - Lista, Michael

Excerpted from Barfly by Michael Lista. Copyright © Michael Lista, 2024. Excerpted with permission by Biblioasis. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Michael Lista
Michael Lista
Michael Lista is an investigative journalist, essayist and poet. He has worked as a book columnist for the National Post and as the poetry editor of The Walrus. He is the author of five books: the poetry volumes Barfly, Bloom, and The Scarborough; Strike Anywhere, a collection of his writing about literature, television and culture; and The Human Scale: Murder, Mischief and Other Selected Mayhems, a book of longform journalism. His essays and investigative stories have appeared in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, Slate, The Walrus, Canadaland, and Toronto Life. He is a contributing editor at Toronto Life and Maclean’s. He was the 2017 Margaret Laurence Fellow at Trent University and the winner of the 2020 National Magazine Awards for both Investigative Reporting and Long Form Feature Writing. His story “The Sting” is being adapted by Adam Perlman, Robert Downey Jr., and Team Downey into a television series for Apple TV+.

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