Dive Bar by Josh Joseph

Sometimes I drive to an unfamiliar town and pull in at the most miserable bar it has to offer. The scene is always similar. Cigarette smoke swirling beneath yellow-stained light fixtures fixed above the heads of yellow-stained people. Old-timers. Frail in both appearance and demeanor, lighting the next smoke before the first is done. In the corner, the evening news plays on a small television set from the last era. A 30-something couple plays grab-ass by the pool table, spilling their drinks on the floor. Happy to be in a world of their own. The bartender is usually an aged woman, a forever fly, gaunt and spirit-broken. Hospitality is her last dream of the day. She grunts and I say lager. She pours it before retreating to her stool and the local news. The air. Rank and dense. The smoke wafting around me. As I imagine Bukowski at the corner stool, slumped over the oak counter, mumbling to his whiskey prose for the poem he’ll write when he stirs from his alcohol-induced inertia. The old-timers glance at me from behind their Marlboro masks, wondering what my game is, why I have come to their place of worship. I don’t belong. I’ve been made. I try to pretend this is my game. The drinking. The decaying. But my con is a weak one. I finish my beer. Give a nod to everyone. And I move to leave. Leave the denizens to their sacraments. Opening the door, the evening summer air is heavy and fresh. Filled with vitality. And life continues to move.


Josh Joseph is a poet and writer with a B.S. in Nutrition. His poems have appeared in Barren Magazine, Into the Void, and elsewhere. He lives in Pennsylvania where he attempts to find a balance between the arts and sciences.

Photo by Elliott Blair