We pull several of the small, steel-topped tables
together in a row, order our beers; and, while we
sit, making small talk, and waiting for the rest
of the guys to arrive, I wonder if we will sing.
Some of the guys are new, so they won’t;
but we do have all four parts already, so
we could burst into song at any moment:
My Wild Irish Rose—something simple.
My beer, a tall glass of dark draft, is inviting:
before I sip, I feel like a kid about to open
a candy bar at the summer camp canteen;
its foam head reminds me of malted milk.
The new guys are quietly smiling: they are
waiting for the regulars to lead the conversation;
this shyness comes of entering what they see,
with some degree of reverence, as a tradition.
I remember being new at one of these After Glows:
I felt like a guy on a first date or a freshman
or a kid showing off his first bike, afraid of
a skinned knee or some kind of false move.
But the beer gives us what it could not give
the kid: soon, we are all talking about our
observations, experiences, like normal people.
These new guys are all right. But we didn’t sing.