Well, how the mighty fall, confessing into a tin can, “I
don’t remember this from years ago, but if it happened
it’s not alright, but it was years ago before I came here,”
as they roll down the Tower of Babel toward shallow
graves lacking topsoil so they won’t asphyxiate.
We hear you loud and clear, boys. No. The women you
looked through and threw yourselves onto said no
to you then, and we say no to you now. You’re about
to crash down and you won’t be dead, not yet. But
we’re clearing out the fog you’ve made with your breath,
so we’ll see you rising if you try this shit again.
You don’t have to speak for me to know your apathy.
Your two-yard stare betrays you, your tracing right
to left across the page and off the page into the
space between my two eyes. Goodbye, you’re conveying,
to these headlines, and they’ll take their leave later
today decreeing, “Until we three meet again.”
To keep my tears in, I kept my eyes shut
through all of last night.
I opened them at dusk and the tears ran
through my lashes and down into my mouth.
My cheeks are bulging out, but they are not
about to burst.
A wife can outlive her husband,
a husband can outlive their son,
by decades. When the gravedigger
digs their grave and the mason creates
their stone, the mason etches
the husband’s name and dates of birth
and death, the wife’s name under the title,
“His Wife,” and her dates of birth
and death, and the son’s name and
his dates of birth and death.
In advance, a wife can arrange
with the mason to have her name
and date of birth etched on her stone.
So, when the wife dies, the mason
can easily add her date of death on.
I sent you my phone number over the prison
email service and you never called me.
You must have run out of quarters. You could
have used nickels, you know, those pay phones
take them, too. So you could have always called.
I was going to congratulate you on beating
the rap and leaving yourself with just one life
sentence. I was going to congratulate you
on trying to beat the rap and appeal your one
life sentence. That showed commitment. That
showed you were committed on getting your
name clear, getting the names of those you
said you never killed cleared.
Now, all I want to say is I’m glad you ran out
of quarters. I’m glad you forgot about nickels.
This has to be the strangest funeral
in recorded history. All of the mourners
are sitting in chairs gathered around to
make a square with rounded corners
and they’re leaning back and they’re
raising their hands and having someone
call on them to speak and they’re speaking
about fucking when they go out to a
party on Saturday.
And the lights are glaring down and the heater’s
been cranked up and the door is wide open but
inching shut and the windows are barred
and the curtains aren’t drawn.
And they haven’t hired a rabbi nor monk nor
priest nor preacher nor nun alike to exult the
departing soul and there’s an eulogy around
that’s been written nor heard.
And they’ve propped me up on a desk at the far left corner of the room and they’ve forgotten to build a coffin around me.
His corset resembles a pair of tighty-whities
pulled too high. His belt is undone, his fly
is down. His white dress shirt has been
peeled back, revealing nearly his whole chest,
leaning toward the left.
His chest is only slightly covered by his right
hand. The scars run in all directions,
undercutting his right nipple, bisecting
along his diaphragm, slanting across
his intestines. His eyes peer out,
toward somewhere beyond the ceiling,
from shadows falling over his eye sockets.
It’s 1969, and somehow, he’s still alive.
Photo by David Montgomery/Getty Images