Tomorrow I will lie to him will tell him when he asks, at least the first ten times he he does, that she is doing fine, that she is a tough old bird, that she’ll outlive us all, that she’s a Taurus, the bull and he will remember the end of their marriage, the Battle Royal that was the war of divorce, and he will smile a bit, and say, “I miss her,” and I will agree with him. I do miss her a bit, but even two and a half years of death have not grown the size of my missing appreciably. We will move on to other topics, will circle back and rerun the tape for with him every day is a series of scenes from Groundhog Day, but in his world, it never snows.
When I die, my friend Larry said one morning in the third inning of a double header of stoop ball, I want to be burned, not that I intend it to happen any time soon, but when it does. They burned my grandfather I think it was Dachau, but unlike him, I want to kick some ass before it happens. Just let them call me Jew boy I’d like to hear the sound of their balls imploding up into their bladder. They burned my grandmother too, years later, until all that was left was the cancer eating her stomach, but I want to be burned in an oven set up properly for the job, my ashes cast into the wind or maybe in the infield of Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium if Luke Easter is still playing first base for the Bisons. It was only two days later that Larry tripped on the curb outside the variety store on the way home from school and later that day they took his kidney and laid it, all bloody within, on the steel tray. When he came home his mother said he had to be careful when you have only one kidney you can’t fool around and you certainly want to avoid the strain that comes from kicking any ass.
First Appeared in Afterthoughts (Canada), Vol. 2, No. 4, Autumn, 1995.
I made it past 27, which says I’m either an optimist or have almost no musical talent. When I made it through 54 I knew I’d never get burned buried in Paris, never be mourned as a great talent taken or taking myself too young. Now it’s five years until 72 and I know if I make it, I’ll never have the guts, sense, or stupidity to do myself in, so lets now all lift a glass to Jim and Janice, Robert and Jimmy, and hope they play Kurt and Amy when my ferryman finally arrives.
Words have geographic homes and here old favorites seem ill at ease, fitting poorly into thoughts that demand their presence. I use them regardless, but we both know that they will hide their shadings, but in a world where words are the last option, we both know that I have no alternative but to turn to them, to wheedle, to cajole, and ultimately to submit to whatever they will allow me. After all, the alternative his silence, and for a writer, that is death by a single cut.
They clearly don’t get it and odds are they never will. They think perhaps prayer will work or youth will provide some sort of immunity, maybe an executive decree, good luck with that given the swinging there to that old White House, with the ridiculous spiked fence in the middle of an avenue named first state that’s actually a Commonwealth. They can’t imagine I have a list And all I do is make pickups and drop offs, no thinking, no planning just show up, tie up to the pier and then it’s off down and across the River all day and night, in and out for a payment you ‘llonly make begrudgingly, as if I care, for I have a family to feed too, remember.
Day gives way to night. Life gives way to death. Truth gives way to truth and falsity to falsity. Nothing moves, nothing cedes, all is constant. This is enso, one stroke, complete and incomplete and this is mu. You may enter freely, but will never leave, and once captured you have never been here and cannot enter. If this seems confusing, it is precisely what it should be and you have seen clearly. Welcome! Now leave.