Back when you were taught to use the biographical index
in the school library, when Cords still cruised streets, stopped by
semaphore-stop-lights, he squalled forth. The appeasement interlude
before the big war. He thrived, spent the duration wetting his bed.
Maybe you came later, when men were still expected to wear hats
& carry lighters. Maybe you watched the grey newsreels afterward
of Jews bulldozed into pits, wondering how in the hell
Jesus let that happen. Maybe you came later.
His was a boyhood fed by nickel matinees, Zane Greys, Buz Sawyer
flying sorties & the cartoon curves of his lovelies, Red Ryder
with that thonged lever-action that never ran out of bullets,
Lash Larue’s whip-cracks—ordinary days, when on the world’s
other side, shit rained down. Maybe like him, you hate clouds,
kitchen-cabbage odors, maybe you too avoid bullies, but could easily
be one. Things like that are common. In such an insulated life,
is it strange he hates any loss?—like that Ingersoll that filled
with home-plate grit on a fruitless slide. For years he kept the tickless
thing. Maybe your parents as well fed you on the dreck of loss, filling
you on bile, making you lick your plate. In his case Christian Scientists
prepped him after school, & for a while, he led on the Mormons.
He pictured theirs a fun, zombie-church when an 8th-grade cutie
averred her daddy baptized the dead. It’s possible you dropped
all that in your second-hand paper-bounds of Sartre, Camus & Kafka,
& maybe you avoided malleability & didn’t fit into corporate life
like he did. But it was a feint for him, being Republican—some
pack instinct he felt, as well as greed & crass ambition, for which
he later atoned, voting LBJ & mailing a respectable check to MLK.
Oral Roberts cured him of serious religiosity, but maybe you,
just in case, pray nightly on your pillow. No matter how well
he thinks of himself, he’s lapsed on honesty—with his flexible
fairway scores, his fictive gifts to March of Dimes. Maybe you
disagree with him, his denial that parents fuck you up.
(To you, perhaps, it’s mutual.) If you were his friend you’d notice
he’s grown deeper lately. He’s seen that the Heimlich maneuver
doesn’t always work. His uncle croaked on a plug of charred steak
he’d dished. Maybe you’ve caught up in seeing all it takes to die.