The Sunday Poem: Merimee Moffitt... The Seco Bar, 1973

It takes a special kind of poet to write a great poem about a bar. The only other ones that come to mind are The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Face on the Barroom Floor. Hang on to your hats and ponytails! And watch out for flying shot glasses! For you are there: in the Arroyo Seco Bar, 1973.

Merimee Moffitt (Phi Beta Kappa from UNM) now lives in Nob Hill and teaches at Central New Mexico Community College. She had a slam team when she was teaching high school and used to hold slams in lieu of finals. She led and followed her students into the community slam and open mic scene and is working on her first collection of poems. She is a co-editor of The Rag, a monthly poetry broadside.

The Seco Bar, 1973

I remember you, Michael, throwing me across the fender
kind of cowboy style, kind of wandering saddhu
sad seeking path
my face under your mad-as-hell fist
me dumber ‘n dirt at 27, you old at 38 sleeping with my skinny friend
kissing her in public, god, looking for love by the juke box
in the last rays of afternoon sun
all of us in wooden-floor nickelodeon light
full of gin and desire
Either I died or she did was my snap decision
Alcohol’s wild fission of rage and motherhood trumped
discretion then my bar glass thumped her head
a pull on her ponytail, a kick to her ribs
Five guys jumped and you trotted me
bouncer-like to the parking lot
Barb wire and tumble weed bordered Taos Pueblo lands’ miles
and mountains and centuries of coyote quiet
I said go ahead, big man, break my face
Looking down eye to eye, you paused
What stopped you, I wonder
Some mercy for me, orphan boy; did you see me?
The crazy want for you, my same want to be
done with you but
your hand proved more hopeful than hate.
In that Arroyo Seco showdown, I saved face twice
not knowing I’d leave you behind anyway—
the lone subtracted factor
both of us wanting a mother’s arms, the
triangular strength of family elusive until
we grew, each into our own
I didn’t know yet of two more babies who would
play French horn and viola with confidence
who would never guess I had to pull my voice out of
my boot one night and knock a woman upside her head
that one lump on her sorry, split-tongue face would open me like
a town of possibilities
Before anyone could depend on me for nada
I had to be my own ass-kicking best friend first
--merime moffitt

Poetry submissions are most welcome. Email

Views: 45

Comment by cathyray on November 8, 2009 at 8:16am
your own perfect ass kicking best friend!!! wow!

thanks so much for the joy this morning.
Comment by bg on November 8, 2009 at 8:44am
Girl fights are the worst. It is clear, the why. But pull it from your boot, if you must. Kick ass.
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on November 8, 2009 at 1:38pm
she didn't stand a chance--I got her from behind!
Comment by Johnny_Mango on November 8, 2009 at 2:52pm
In 1970 I used to be a bouncer in another wild bar of the time, Claude's Bar in Santa Fe. You captured everything perfectly. And yet here you are teaching poetry.

Myself, I went from being a bouncer in Santa Fe to teaching elementary school in Albuquerque. Btw, the current issue of The Santa Fean has an article on the infamous Claude's Bar and even interviewed me for it. Here is a photo from the magazine.

We all were lucky to have escaped the early 70's more or less in one piece.
Comment by Margaret Randall on November 8, 2009 at 3:48pm
I guess I escaped the early seventies too, by being in another part of the world... though it had its own early seventies. We never escape from ourselves. I love this poem, Merimee. Echo Grumpy's comment about it being perfect. It is. Very powerful. Sad how long it takes many of us to learn to love ourselves. This poem sings with the power of real life.
Comment by cathyray on November 8, 2009 at 6:20pm
I'm with Grumpy! Been here several times today.
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on November 9, 2009 at 8:57am
wow--thx for all the encouraging support from all of you-- I am grateful to Jon for loving this piece enough to post it--for me this poem is now an buoy marking those times--I will return to the times and dig around for more gold.
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on November 10, 2009 at 8:48am
Ben, I've heard about that game--those soccerplayers get pretty fired up! I can relate!
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on November 15, 2009 at 10:19am
I think Jon posted a photo of a bar in Santa Fe, 70s--Seco bar may be a B&B these days--haven't slowed down enough to look closely the two times I was there inthe last few years--Seco has revived, however, from it's malaise of the 80s, 90s-it's hippie hoppie now! and probably full of places for coffee


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