Do you remember your first drink?

I do.

Oh, not the sip of froth off Dad’s beer,

or the little glass of watered wine on special occasions:

Christmas, birthdays, wedding anniversaries.

I remember my first drink like it was yesterday,

40 years ago, or near enough.

We stole a bottle of Beenleigh Rum

from Greg’s Dad’s liquor cabinet.

He never even noticed it was gone.

Plenty more bottles in the walnut veneer bar,

with its padded leatherette stools and bullfight posters.

And we sat in the little Bondwood caravan

at the back of my house,

and drank it neat from plastic cups.  Mine was orange.

And we choked it down and felt like men,

12 years old and desperate to be older.

And as it hit, it was as if some great God

had entered me, and flaming fiercely

raised me to the sky.

For the first time to feel as others must surely always do –

or so it seemed.  I felt I was a human being.

The feeling of fellowship; of commonality: of normality.

The thoughts that crucified me vanished.

They fell from me like a feather weighing tons.

Gone the fears,

the constant thoughts,

the ceaseless shame,

the secret guilt

– hidden, always hidden –

for things I knew I had not done,

could not have done.

For that brief moment I was free,

I knew them for delusions:

the glowing God incinerated all.

Too soon the God departed.

Draped limp around a lamppost, I vomited him up.

And some Samaritan brought me home

and took me to my Mother,

who murmured “my sweet baby” as she sponged my brow;

gently held my head over the bucket as I retched

until all that was left was bitter slime drooling from slack lips.

And even as I heaved and shivered,

even as she laid me down,

even as she watched over me that night,

I knew that I would seek the God again

and steal the coruscating fire that seared my fears,

and held me pure, perfect, whole: blazing in the sky.