Like the Eye of Sauron,
few can endure the blistering gaze of that aperture.
Many hunch over the bar, nursing that fourth beer,
wasted and woebegone, wild with lubricated abandon.
But few can stare indefinitely into that amber abyss.
The void at the bottom of that domestic beer bottle
is the void inside,
an emptiness that can never be filled
no matter how much you glug.
Throw all the clinking empties you want at that black hole.
Warm yourself, hollow man.
Blanket yourself in lager’s comforting embrace.
Rot your innards with slow-acting poison.
You can’t escape that bottle’s piercing stare
that sees through the murk of the dimly lit tavern,
that sees you for what you are.
Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, author, veteran, Society of Professional Journalists board member and Pushcart Prize nominee who frequently appears on Lakeshore Public Radio. His literary work has appeared in more than 100 journals, including Prairie Winds, Gravel, Chicago Literati, The Offbeat, Perch Magazine, and The Tipton Poetry Journal. Like Bartleby, he would prefer not to.