Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Sestina About Hangovers For a 25-Year-Old From a Person Over 40

You told me you had a hangover

But you are really just a youth

You don’t understand failure

You don’t truly understand the demoralization of having been wasted

And waking up to utter misery

Wondering if there’s any point to being alive


You are still in a reality where you think water, or bacon, might make you feel alive

Might make your hangover

And your misery

Give way to your resplendent youth

And within minutes of properly hydrating you will cease to be sorry you got wasted

As you bid farewell to failure


I am afraid of bowing to failure

As I try to explain to you what it’s like to not want to be alive

Just because you got wasted

And have a hangover

Or perhaps I resent you for your extreme youth

And elementary comprehension of misery 


Actually I have no idea what you think of misery

Or failure.

I have no idea what your relationship is to your youth

What’s it’s like you be you, experiencing being alive

With your toy hangover

The result of having gotten wasted


With so little understanding perhaps of the horrible reasons we get wasted

Of the true though largely theoretical depths of your misery

Which when you are older are refracted through a hangover

which when large enough creates a sensation that failure

Is endemic not only to you but to all those alive.

But since you are a youth


And youth

is wasted

on the barely alive

and their toy misery

that makes sport of failure

as it ducks every hangover


In conclusion: just focus on staying alive. Big breakfast your way out of misery.

Ignore me and your youth. Get wasted.

Enjoy for these waning instants the failure of your hangover.


Previously: Sestina For an Annoying Publicist

Photo via rogerss1/flickr.

Sarah Miller is the author of Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl. She lives in Nevada City, CA. Follow her on Twitter @sarahlovescali.

14 Comments / Post A Comment


I wish I could see through the blanket generalizations of 25 year-olds and their "toy misery" to the actual point of this.

Miss Maszkerádi

@stroopwafel Yeah. As a 24 year old I really don't hear often enough that my depression, existential anxiety and crippling loneliness are somehow not real because I'm in my 20s and this is supposed to be the best decade of my life. If this is what I'm going to look back on as "toy misery", then fetch me an asp.


Meh to this. Tone-deaf, rude and high-handed. Everyone knows an over-40 punk that doesn't know anything. Love, Older Than That.


I feel like if this is a first draft of a better poem. Workshopping this or working it with an editor would help in getting rid of the air of smug condescension that's putting people off.
There's a poetic truth here (that hangovers do indeed suck more as you get older and young people and their resilience are repugnant when you're feeling old and hopeless) but it gets lost because there's more emotional venting and explanatory narrative in the verse than actual poetic expression. I dunno, maybe get rid of the "yous" in the first stanza, and try again.

This is unsolicited feedback, so take it for what it's worth, but also know that it's an attempt to provide constructive criticism rather than just rip this poem to shreds (my first response).

(Sidebar: a friend once told me that nothing made him feel more like a terrible person than being hungover around his children—let's close all the blinds and watch cartoons all day!) That simple admission haunts me to this day.

isabelle bleu

I quite loved this! Maybe it's just my own perspective reading into the poem, but I wondered if the author wasn't offering reprisal to their own past self instead of some Youth having a nice time.

Lady Humungus

Haha! I liked this - I didn't read condescension, I read bitterness from the throes of a current hangover.... I hate the world too, the day after a bender.


@Lady Humungus Exactly. I'm not even 40, but I remember being 20-something and believing that my lack of hangovers meant either that I was simply a lucky person or that my Italian, German, and Scottish heritages combined to form a Super Drinker. Little did I know I was simply enjoying the spoils of youth, and that in less time than I could imagine, drinking would make me, too, suffer incurably, sometimes for days, and for far lower sins by volume.

"Youth is wasted on the young" isn't an indictment of current young people so much as a lament that, in the speaker's own youth, she didn't know to appreciate all of the fleeting attributes of that stage. This poem only pretends to look outward at the 25YO; it's actually looking inward at the 40-plusser.

Sydney C

Haiku from a 20 something alcholic to a person over 40

I am in AA
I've had three day hangovers
You have no idea

vine fruit

I really like the simultaneous self-condemnation and total lack of sympathy in this, actually. (Not sarcastic, because when I read that sentence now it sounds like it could be.)


Huh, the reactions here are so interesting - I definitely read this as the 40-year-old telling something to her own 20-year-old self. I know that authorial intent is rarely dispositive of much of anything, but I'd be interested in hearing about that.


My hangovers were SO MUCH WORSE when I was in my teens/20s (as opposed to now, my 30s) because I would drink five times as much, and would drink awful awful things like Zima and Bacardi 151. I don't know anyone my age (who isn't an alcoholic) who should ever be as hungover as a really young person who's an enthusiastic partier/binge drinker.

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