Bitter Old Leather

Antioch Writers’ Workshop Poetry Contest
1st Place, Youth

I am used to old beer-guzzling men
with gunmetal hair beneath veteran caps,
with leather jackets and leathery skin,
and scars and wrinkles somehow defiant.
Openly private, and more likely to share social security numbers than war stories.
These old men, intoxicated and intolerable,
have tattooed their regrets onto their sleeves
and wear their piercings to remind themselves
that no matter how much space they take up,
things can still go through them.
Unapologetic and amused by life,
they shout—
“If I knew then what I know now,
I’d do the same damn thing,
because even after all these years
the sweet is just as potent as the bitter.”
Slow and steady is the beat of the old man heart,
but if you look closely, you can still see
a restless soul pressing behind their eyes.
I am used to old beer-guzzling men
sweaty and tired but not finished
and not afraid.

about the author
Jaylin Paschal is a junior at Northmont High School, where she works on the newspaper and literary and arts magazine. When she’s not writing, she’s reading.