Do you remember the Bob’s on 30
In 1992 where you’d wait tables
and refill my coffee while I read
and wrote horrendous poetry and made
caveman-quality drawings on the backs
of paper placemats with 128 different
colors of Crayola? Someone claimed
the servers fought over the patterns
I left behind, caffeine-buzzing home
in my mom’s mini wagon, wishing
my best friend didn’t have a girlfriend or
to be more particular, wishing
his girlfriend was mine. It must’ve been
a joke – I was no artist, just a kid
with the idea of himself as a poet
and the idea that poets live to excess,
chase girls, get high – meanwhile
I’m packing up and driving home
at 10:30 on a Friday night. Shit,
Crystal, where’d the time go?
I mean you had a whole-ass
lifelong romance since I last saw you
in here, just minutes, mere decades ago.
All these years later and no one will ever tell
the true ingredients in those off-white ceramic
containers of non-dairy creamer. I used to think
sitting in here for hours, not making friends
with the kids on county road adventures
that my life was just wasting away, trickling
and pooling into nothing important like coffee
spilled on a crayon drawing on a placemat
not yet soiled with cigarette ash so long ago.
I used to think tomorrow or the day after,
or the day after that anyway, sometime
too-soon, we’re all gonna die. It’s not been long
since your husband died. The only thing
I can think to say is I wish I hadn’t of been right.
They trained us to barricade
the classroom door with any
things available, stash an extension cord
below your desk to tie to the handle,
pulling tight out of sight on the other end.
Imagine this. It’s no seniors vs freshman
Tug-of-War. In the training in the morning
before conferencing with parents
to prove a horrid point they had us hide
under desks, behind file cabinets. The head
of my department who can bake
like Martha Stewart entered with a phony gun
pointing it around the room at people,
victim after victim, commanding
“look at me in the face when I shoot you.
BANG!” We looked at her and we were told
now in this next drill, you’ll feel empowered.
. . . they told us what they’d train the kids
in elementaries to do, so I thought of my own
7 year old boy, a locally twitter famous
goofball, scrambling with his classmates
crazily and randomly about a room
in his newly-built elementary school – imagine
training the kids. Just imagine. “Boys and Girls,
This is called fish frenzy.” Now imagine
commanding them. Fish Frenzy, boys and girls. Fish Frenzy, Now.
This is what we’ve decided to do about
disturbed young men with guns bent
on murdering our children. Imagine
this, imagine all of it. Admit
that this is what we have become.
There were 3 of us and we joked
about aging as The Golden Boys,
argued over who’d be who
all of us thinking of ourselves
as the smart and sensible one,
the Dorothy, which is a laugher,
a joke we never understood
was always on us. Two of us
decided to have an intervention
for the other, the one “with the real
problem” and we all ended up
drunk, the light-er weights on endless
domestic beers and Peppermint Schnapps,
the heavy on whiskey and beer.
We figured these hard truths might go
down easier with a chaser. After
I’d been sober 8 months or so
my pal said “I think you’re out
of the danger zone – let’s go out”
so I drank 5 Cokes while time dragged
at Rex’s Rendezvous. Bored and drunk,
he said “We should go to Fort Wayne
sometime soon” and I said “for what?
For this?” As I drove him to the Time Out
to continue his fun he said you’re
my best friend, Steve. You’ll always be
my best friend. And I said surely, same
for me, but I wondered if I wanted it
to be true. Was it true? On Halloween
last year we had matching Chesire
Cat and Mad Hatter costumes and we
won a contest, but this year we didn’t
even bother to go out.
I’m telling my son he’ll die
of malnutrition if he doesn’t eat his triangles
of quesadilla. In my backyard
this is cutely macabre but
in other venues the comment
would undoubtedly elicit you’ve-gotta-
say in a third world village where the residents
must walk two miles for water daily
I am trying to teach the boy the effortless knack
for saying otherwise witty things
in exactly the wrong context
because I want him to blow up on the internet
when I was a child I was the child of the President
and the Secret Service codenamed me “Fuckhead”
worst kept secret in American governance
not including all that alien shit
Someone told me we invaded Iraq to steal
their ancient Egyptian stargate. He really meant it.
Really, he believed it to be true. I trust he and he alone
with all the stories of my embarrassing transgressions
and with the care of my children and with the lockbox
containing our Social Security cards I do not know
what to believe about anything least of all what he says
lesser still what to do with these bizarre thoughts
stalking me as I anticipate alarms for hours
He is, in truth, my best friend
If I came upon him groaning oddly in the whispering forest
or surrounded by broken glass at our town’s most unfortunate
intersection I would get down on my knees
cradle his head in my soft suburban hands and weep
Own your compulsions.
Try not to think too much
of yourself. Take action. Don’t try
going where the action is.
Be the change you wish
to give to the bum.
Sleazy does it
and does it and does it.
Ask questions. Your interlocutors
cannot read your mind.
There’s a perception that
the Great Reality is right here,
swimming in the space between
our electrons. Don’t fight it.
In the valley of the shadow of death
the sword is useless. Try singing.