Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Father's Day Post from Denise.

I don't usually post anything personal, but Denise's post to me was so touching that I wanted to share it with you.

Charles (center), Kyle (on the right), and I (on the left).

I love the picture, but the words she wrote made me cry. What a woman I have. I am so lucky.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Shiny Side Stayed Up

From high in the passenger seat of a Peterbilt truck, the featureless expanse of the Great Plains stretched to the horizons. Beside me The Cisco Kid, a Canadian trucker, my ride, a lonely soul who spotted me hitchhiking in Sacramento, thumped the steering wheel, keeping time. It was March, and Cisco — I never learned his real name — kept the cab cold and the music loud, just above the CB chatter.
“Ooh, I'm driving my life away, looking for a better way, for me,” Cisco sang in his scratchy voice. It was the hundredth time I’d heard Eddie Rabbitt’s song since my road adventure started.
Behind us an 18-wheeler carried a load of concentrated juice. Cisco drove and drank sweet creamy coffee while I smoked and told stories to keep him awake. Eddie Rabbitt was fading away, but never very far. Cisco reached for the CB and increased the squelch.
“Breaker 1-9, Westbounders on the I-80, how’s it look over your shoulder?”
“Lake Rat here. Y’all look good back that way,” a disembodied voice said. “Copy?”
“Cisco Kid copies.” He took a gulp of sugary caffeine juice. “Clean and green your way, but smile and comb your hair east of Des Moines. 4-10?”
“10-4. Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.”
The Cisco Kid winked as he hung up the mic. “Pizza and Murder by noon.”
“That’s right, boy. Chicago. The Windy City. Find me some country music.”
I gave a silent groan and fiddled with the dial. Seconds later Eddie Rabbitt’s voice returned. “Well, the midnight headlight finds you on a rainy night…”
“Great job!” Cisco said. “Yeah.”
“Gotta keep rollin',” Eddie sang. “Ooh, I’m driving my life away…”
Two thousand miles we’d come together, and I was far, but still nowhere further. I rummaged for my notebook and wrote a couplet.
“Looking for a better way,” Eddie sang, and the Cisco Kid grinned. I smiled back, inhaled toxic smoke, and watched the snow-covered cornfields shoot past.
“Looking for a sunny day,” I whispered along.
He’d heard me anyhow.
“That’s right!” he said. “Gotta keep rollin’.”

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy DetectiveThe Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective by J. Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective

It’s disingenuous to begin a book like J. Bradley’s The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective and not expect to wallow in irreverence, so don’t read it if your religious feathers are easily fluffed. Mine are not, so I enjoyed this tale, especially because it works at two levels, one at an unexpected depth, raising incisive questions about our society’s love affair with violence and how it is justified by faith, belief in the unproven and unprovable. As always… no spoilers. ;-)

Some of the reviews point out that there is no cohesion between the beginning of the book and the cases that follow. That’s just wrong. The second half of the book happens because of the geas laid upon Jesus by his father.

The book was good, but not without (in my opinion) flaws, and maybe it’s best I deal with these first, to focus on the positive, so here are my complaints:

(1) Mystery. A twofold problem here… First, the book is written in 3rd person limited omniscient with Timmy as the principal pov character. There are other characters too: God, the Holy Ghost dove, Simon/Peter, Uncle Leopold, Chief Inspector Donaldson, and Marie/Mary. One of the advantages of this strategy is that the narrator can disclose information to the reader to which the characters are ignorant. This is an especially effective device in a mystery, where a good part of the fun is guessing the meaning of the clues before the detective does or watching suspects incriminate themselves. Unfortunately, Timmy/Jesus, is divine and has far more hidden information than ever could be revealed, including access to Timmy’s stored history on his computer. This happens many times, especially in the cases, and it frustrated me because I feel excluded from the crucial part of the whodunit, not because I am outsmarted by Poirot’s little gray cells, but rather that Timmy/Jesus has access to clues I never heard about. Again, this is so part-and-parcel to the idea that Jesus Christ is the detective, right? And maybe the real observation to make is that AJCBD isn’t a detective novel at all, and, in fact, it’s right there in the title: It’s an adventure story, a triptych of Timmy’s adventure with Jesus at the conn. Fair enough, then.
In a few instances, however, we get to watch what was just revealed to one character get revealed to another, using dialogue, and it comes off a bit boring. If I were editing, I would suggest summary instead of dialogue for these instances. There were other minor editing issues (for example, “lighting rod” instead of “lightning rod”), but overall the book is well produced.

(2) Feminine Perspective: Aside from Colleen, I would have liked to see the female characters better developed. There is a real opportunity to use the Marie/Mary angle (in the “Hand of Fate” part), and I confess that I waited for the gut punch, but it never came. This is not a fatal flaw (Tolkien only has one “she” reference in The Hobbit), and you could argue that it reflects the sexist nature of Christianity, but I raise the point, because I felt there was a missed opportunity, just as it would have been cooler to see God be a woman with a punk haircut than a bald middle-aged man. Anyway, I really missed this angle. The “She was chosen” whisperings makes me wonder if this aspect is just well hidden.

Before I begin to discuss what was so pleasurable, I must describe the general layout. Essentially, about the first half of the book is a 7-chapter novella, “Hand of Fate”, that plays out a game of life and death with a demon and a deck of enchanted cards. The second half of the book is a mock purgatory (there is a real Purgatory with an interesting perspective, by the way) where Timmy/Jesus must solve 8 cases, each a bit more disheartening until he/He loses faith in humanity. The final two “cases” are mysteries without tangible solutions and form a conclusion, which I will not discuss further, besides saying that it is a mind boggling table turning.

Statistics: About 54,000 words. Favorite words: kipped, clownery, unsheathes, and clomps.

Now to what worked best for me, and I’m sorry, but I am somewhat constrained here by my no-spoiler rule:

This book isn’t really about Timmy Hightower or Jesus solving cases, although there is quite a lot of that going on. It’s a book about a conflict between God and Jesus about how worthy humanity is. Jesus says this in “Early Bird Gets the Shaft,” a story that explores, shall we say, extreme acupuncture solutions:
“Humans are so desperate to hold onto their mortality, they’ll try anything. My father keeps them good and scared because he needs them to die and from that fear, they create things like Scientology, crystal healing, yoga, acupuncture, things they think will stave off death if they practice them, believe in them hard enough. If they knew the truth, knew of the broken promise that awaits them after they die… until then, my father will continue doing everything he can to make sure they keep missing the mark.”

Jesus maintains a faith in humanity not shared by Jehovah, who true to form is selfish, arrogant, and uncompromising. I liked how this contrast was done, although I would have liked to see a little more of the revolutionary tone of the New Testament.

In truth, when I finally read the Bible cover-to-cover (as an adult), rather than excerpts selected by pedagogues for indoctrination, I was astounded by the contrast in the voices of the Old and New Testaments. That aspect of Jesus’s voice is not captured, though his insurrection is incorporated into the defiance that is the backdrop of the second section of the novel, “Cases.” Until the last two sections of “Cases,” it is Timmy’s inflection that seems dominant, and no attempt is made to incorporate the Thou and Thys. This was probably a good choice for a contemporary audience, and not much is lost, because Bradley still paints the willful nature of Father/God/Jehovah/JVHV/Tetragrammaton and a loving, caring Jesus.

The core of the book is about bringing the real offenders to justice, and I guarantee you that the twist at the end is worthwhile, outrageous, and thoughtful.

What else?

I enjoyed how Timmy Hightower’s world was painted and how his character evolved. Expressions like “rush minute” for the hallways at school made the story realistic. I liked the adolescent tension between Timmy and Carlos, but (again) I think that more could have been done with Marie. I would have enjoyed watching Jesus deal with some adolescent sexual tension. This is more than casual interest because, at one point, Jesus elucidates us on an undisclosed (except perhaps in the Gospel of Thomas) aspect of his life:

“Chief, I was married, despite what you may have read. I never required my followers to be celibate, either. My father, however, believes if his followers aren’t getting laid, then they use that pent up sexual energy to serve his purpose. The means to an end don’t really matter to him, as long as he gets what he wants.”

So, then, I wondered… If Jesus is brought back to humanity to save us, he must have left his wife somewhere, right? I can only imagine how being inside a 12-year-old Timmy with so few opportunities for sexual release (besides the obvious one) may complicate possession. And that led to wondering whether possession includes such hormonal responses. Does an adult who possess an adolescent get the baggage? I maybe shouldn’t be overthinking this?

Anyway, I liked the dialogue here, although (again) I thought there was too much. It did seem realistic.

In general, Timmy’s character is well articulated, and I especially like how, towards the end, we get more Jesus domination as the tension increases.

Another aspect that must be addressed is the chilling vision of modern society that is painted in these cases. The casual violence and the blasé murder of innocents, five here, six there… It is, unfortunately, an accurate enough portrayal of the real world we construct together. Every week we probably traverse the crosshairs of murderers, and our children are often victims.

Until the cases began unfolding, each of them a depiction of human shortcoming, I wasn’t paying attention enough to the background radiation of death and destruction. This is probably because it was so ubiquitous that I didn’t give it weight, but each of these cases resolves into a personal story, almost always involving a horrible end, and—look—the storytelling tone isn’t different. It’s a cant, a bit whimsical, but overwhelmingly disturbing when you realize what is being discussed.

And I think this is where Bradley really succeeds and, by syllogism, also disappoints. If the premise is that God is responsible for all of our violence, that it’s some kind of game to prove humans are unworthy, then we have no agency. That’s the problem with ascribing our choices to divinity. While it apologizes for them, removing us from the blame—I am so sorry I must have sinned—we lose the power to fix, well, anything about our flippant savagery. And while that’s not Bradley’s fault… That’s our fault. It would be nice if we aren’t looking for a way to affix it to anyone but ourselves.

That isn’t what the book is about, though, but it gets my mind there because of the theological questions raised and a clever ploy where Bradley works in the paradox of the Trinity to answer the “Why are you here?” question.

So, is the book hopeful or hopeless? I am going to fill in the “both” response, and I’ll back it up with quotes:

“I have to believe, Leo, I have to keep believing in them or all hope is lost.” (About humanity. Jesus says this.)
“Great reward does not come without great risk. Faith, Peter, remember?” (Jehovah taking a chance on Jesus’s soul.)
“When you are ready to give up on humanity, I’ll let you come home.” (Jehovah setting up the parameters of Jesus’s spell with the humans.)
“Monsters… aren’t born. Moments like this… make them.” (Leopold about why he doesn’t let Jesus murder, so he won’t become like his father.)

Finally, I really liked this expression:

“Motherfuckers back from cresting over his bottom lip.”

Lots of fun! Recommended.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 28, 2017

Cold Observer

Supine was I, diagonal, set upon the table,
eyes frozen, fixed upon two paper lanterns—
suspended like dirigibles: Crest white 
and cash green. Still, but more in motion
than I who lay below, shivering, lying,
telling myself two hundred dollars matter. 

You plucked fish from fans splayed
across my refrigerated skin; you prodded
sand dollar shells shielding my aching nipples;
and you laughed about my brazen vulnerability.

I’ll answer now your bass and tenor speculation, 
the “why does she?” of my nyotaimori
When you push away, bellies full, balls starving, 
if my talents are inferior, why did you pay me?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Portrait of the Brontë Sisters (and Branwell fading in) by Branwell Brontë

Did he reuse the canvas or is he seeping into our consciousness? The artist, Branwell Brontë, elder brother of the sisters, hoped to become a professional artist. The painting was described by author Elizabeth Gaskell in 1853 when it showed just the 3 sisters separated by the column. Now Branwell is emerging from the column.
It was found folded on top of a cupboard in 1906 by the second wife of Charlotte’s husband Reverend A.B. Nicholls.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Teaching the Insomniac

Our marriage’s tides rise and ebb. I sense their rhythm, those neap phases and spring highs. Denise, my wife, loves calm water, but I yearn for the surf, so we each steer our craft different ways. Somehow, we avoid floundering.
In 2009, I traveled alone to Switzerland on business. It’s my most frequent destination, because I write computer programs for a customer in Sankt Gallen, near the Austrian border. The Swiss are punctual and demanding, but their fame for honesty and discretion is well-earned.
The all-night flight spent working, a train, a taxi, speaking rusty German, and the daylong office debriefing all took their toll. After showering off the travel muck and sliding between my bed’s crisp sheets, exhausted and half-drunk to boot, the hotel walls closed in, leaving me studying the ceiling. Ten almost identical nights followed. I exchanged wine and tequila for hashish and absinthe, but aside from adding psychedelic patterns to the ceiling, nothing improved. I programmed past midnight, stumbled back to my room, and fought demons until dawn.
Imagine my joy when a couple I knew, Raul and Simone, invited me to a club on Langstrasse, in Zurich. They knew a local reggae band playing there. Since I was returning to Florida the next morning, I offered my hotel’s sofa bed, sparing them the return drive to their Alpine cottage. Switzerland has zero tolerance for driving inebriated.
We met at the club, and they introduced me to the band. Simone used to sing with Ernst, the drummer, in another act. The band grooved, and by set break, the audience was ecstatic. They left the strobe lights and steam machine on, creating a surreal ambiance. Hoarse from screaming and smoke, I angled for space at the bar, squeezing in between a lip-locked couple and an inked transvestite in a sleeveless frilly gown. Simone and Ernst were the tonsil-probing pair beside me.
The crowd around me tightened. Before I was crushed up against the lovers, I escaped downstairs to the street level, feeling alone in the multitude. I squeezed outside onto the sidewalk where I could breathe freely again.
It was late, but the streets were still busy with happy cavorters. I set off to explore. A few blocks away, as I passed through a park, someone called my name. It was Raul.
“I’m waiting for coke,” he said.
His restless pacing suggested he had already indulged.
“There’ll be plenty.” He licked his teeth, making fleeting eye contact. “You can have some.”
“My twelve-hour flight’s in seven hours, Raul. I haven’t slept for a week.”
“He’s late. I already paid.”
I wasn’t comfortable leaving him alone, but neither did I want to stay. Zurich is almost Disneyland-safe, but blow attracts violence like sugar does flies. His nervousness was contagious. I worried about the police too. People smoke pot on the late-night Zurich trains, but cocaine is just as illegal there as America.
“We should go back to the bar,” I said “Simone is there.”
His frenetic motion ceased and he squinted at me, studying my face.
“She’s always been a free spirit,” he said. “Besides, they are old friends.”
“Hey, if it works for you guys, that’s great.”
He heard disapproval in my voice I didn’t intend.
“Michael, this is Europe, not America. We live in the twenty-first century. We are modern people. We can love whomever, whenever, and wherever we want. It’s our life, our rules.”
In my mind I heard the crash of the surf. I envied him, imagining the myriad fantasies they could pursue together.
“And I am a man who lusts for novelty trapped in a traditional marriage?”
He snickered.
“You must be so frustrated.”
“Simone never gets jealous when you stray? My wife would slice off my cock.”
“No. I am faithful, though. Once you have the best, why keep searching?”
I was stunned by the gap between my fantasy and their one-sided reality. Fortunately, my awkward moment ended with the arrival of his apologetic dealer, returning the money. By then, Raul wasn’t craving it anymore anyhow. In fact, he was yawning. I was still wired.
We found Simone alone at the bar, the band long departed. I checked the train schedule and discovered we had a half-hour to reach the station. Between gulps of beer and kisses, she detailed her conquests while we meandered empty sidewalks.
“They let me sing,” she said.
“I’m sorry I missed that,” I said and meant it. Simone has a great voice.
“Everything is shit,” Raul said when we reached the station. “I’m shit. You are all shit.”
“You’re just tired,” I said. “Let’s catch that train.”
“Trains are shit too.”
He bolted off. Simone, bored, remained leaning against a spotless marble column. She shrugged, and I realized that I was a mere extra in their frequently replayed drama.
After a while Raul returned. They argued in German, too fast for me to understand. Raul started crying. She left him and approached me, her voice a conspiratorial whisper.
“He’s so possessive.”
“Can you make sure he doesn’t run off again?”
“He won’t. I promised we’d screw when we get to your room.”
“We? Us?”
She made a face.
“No. Me and him.”
Swiss summer nights being short, the sky brightened before our arrival. After showering, I discovered them fully dressed, snoring, entwined, in my bed. I left for the airport.

Life sometimes arranges a parade. Going home, I observed couples, loving yet imperfect, just like Denise and I are. Raul was right: We all make our rules, choosing whichever ones work best, and that night I realized a libertine lifestyle was not for me. The true lesson, though, took years longer. I now realize now that it’s not the ones who satisfy every fantasy who win at life. It’s those who can enjoy a good night's sleep.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Four Drops Dribbled

Vegan, I remember my chunks of meat.
Once, starving, I wolfed down a burger,
a gift from a kindly waitress in a 24-hour cafe.
Another time I sat across from a grateful mafioso
who wore a gold Sagittarius pendant,
dropping chunks of ropey tripe
into a potted rubber tree.

My favorite Mussulman Curry:
Thai hot over starchy white rice.
My meat: chunks of tofu, golden brown.
Potatoes, peppers, bay leaves, cardamon pods,
cinnamon, onion, coconut milk,
nuts, and enough chili powder
to breathe dragon fire.

Chewing, eyes riveted to my glowing Kindle,
I splash beer chasers into my maw.
A forkful tumbles and splashes
to lie beside a labial palp, wings, and thorax:
thumb-sized, a dead cockroach,
bathed in glistening coconut milk,

I read about entomophagy and Angelina Jolie,
escalating from crickets and a beer to scorpions,
making crispy fries from fangless tarantulas.
Four beers later I push it aside with my fork.
It splatters a line of creamy drops,
one for every not-so-vegan meal
I’d eaten there before.

Friday, February 17, 2017

White Whale

Well, that’s it… I’m so gay. It’s been an odyssey. For years I’ve navigated minefields of anxiety, carrying backbreaking loads of guilt like millstones. I’ve grappled with monsters: my mother’s rejection, my father’s silent disdain, and my religion’s promise of an eternity of torment. Those claws and fangs no longer instill my heart with dread.
It started with violence, a fight in front of the Pleasure Box, my busy South Beach club. It was quick business: two untrained testosterone geysers tossing fisticuffs beneath the marquis amongst the gawkers and paparazzi I never let inside. Beneath the glow of neon chasers, I recognized one fighter. I hadn’t seen him since leaving high school fifteen years ago, but nobody else possesses his pouty-lipped sneer and perpetual self-amusement.
 “Luis?” His swimming pupils scanned my face. “We went to Central together. Don’t you recognize me?”
“I am a little looped.”
He straightened his ruffled jacket. I lit a Lucky Strike, drew it deep, and lowered my voice.
“You used to call me Pinkie. I hated you.”
“Sorry. I really don’t remember.”
“Do you want one?”
“No. Those things will kill you.”
“I was about to eat. Come join me and we can catch up.”
“Didn’t we do that already?” His playful eyes gleamed. “I’m just messing with you.”
We walked towards the wrought iron spiral stairs leading to the VIP lounge. Around us were strobe lights, pounding beats, and mayflies finding and losing each other.
“What was the fight about?”
“Last night that dude slipped me a roofie. I awoke on the beach. Robbed.”
“How much?”
“Two hundred.”
That’s what I charge for the Moet & Chandon Imperial.

“You first.”

I admired his ascent. He looked fit. I’ve been putting on too much weight. I hurried, following him to the loft where, hidden, I could watch the floor. It was comfortable enough, though its decor still reflected my ex-wife’s choices.
We sat at the chabudai on rice straw tatami. The discotheque was muted like we had closed a casket. Two kimono-clad minions served us, one, a reedy brunette I tried to wheelbarrow a few nights ago, averted her eyes. I waved them off once they finished.
“It’s raw,” he said. 
He washed the mouthful down with my most expensive sake.
“Beef Carpaccio. Try it with the mustard sauce.”
“Blood is life.” He already sounded drunk.
“No, blood is sport.” I chewed appreciating its texture, how the rich flavor inundated my tongue, the traces of lime, olive oil, salt, and pepper. We made small talk, each of us lying, him following my lead. Then I said, “You don’t remember me at all, do you?”
“I didn’t go to Central, but—”
“Liar. The things you did to me in school…” His mouth was full, but he stopped chewing. “You forced me—”
“No. Don’t say it.”
The music downstairs dwindled. I chewed in silence, letting my hatred and guilt marinate him, while pondering murder. Sometimes you do.
“I got help,” I said at last. “Heterosexual reparatory therapy. The church gives you a straight mentor. You confess, pray, and beg forgiveness. Eventually, they say you’re cured.”
He regarded me like he had never seen nightfall, and I was a total eclipse.
“Luis, you made me gay.”
“That’s fucked up, man. Come on. Nobody makes you gay. Being gay is a choice.”
He stood and stumbled backward. Did he intend to leave? He wouldn’t get far. The alcohol must have enhanced whatever he was on. He teetered a moment before tumbling back to our tatami. Sipping my drink, appreciating the fragrance of violets and flavor of melons and passionflower, that subtle hint of cherry, I discovered I was smiling. I wondered if my cheeks were as flushed as his.
“I’m not Luis.” The ochoko shook in his trembling hand. “I was just hungry and broke.”
“You were pretending?”
 “Listen. Someone molested you so you’ve confused being gay with being violated. That’s horrible, but your church and their labels don’t matter, only your choices do. Your life needs to work for you. You need to define it, not them.”
“I’d rather just kill Luis.”
It was getting late. Downstairs they would be cleaning. I opened my wallet and removed two crisp hundred-dollar bills and pushed them towards him. If I tore one in half, I could tape it and spend it without any effort at all. People are so much harder to stitch together.
“What’s that for?”
“The price of absolution.” I took my last bite. “So, what do we do now?”
“I’m Carter. What’s your name?”
I had to laugh. We had discussed my greatest shame without exchanging our real names.
“Have you ever seen a white whale?” 
I shook my head.
“Want to see mine?”
That white tattoo, delicate and benign, smiling even, stretched across his hind cheeks. My heart was pounding by the time he finished.
“Yeah, I ain't got much on the porch, but my backyard is a funhouse,” he said. 
I exhaled and yearned, but my voice failed.
“I’m good with knobs and levers,” he said. “Let me fix you.”
Quietly I took his hand, guiding him to the elevator to my penthouse apartment, to these sweat-drenched sheets where we spent our night unearthing gut-wrenching delights. 

I’m not in love, but at least, Good Lord, I feel like I am living.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Haggling Aboard My Charon

If there is a world, let me be in it:
I repeat that oath in the leaky grotto,
sworn seven days ago to the one whose ashes
I carry now in a box aboard the ferryboat.

Turmoil extends across our passage
like my seasick stomach churning.
I clutch the frigid rail, afraid to tip
into the sea foam’s moon’s reflection.

Pitching and yawing we arrive mid-channel,
so I fit my brass key into the purposeless lock,
for what do you steal from a grieving man
with a box of ashes and a ghoulish promise?

A spray of gelid brine paralyzes me,
reminding me of when I last kissed your lips,
when I wished my blood could resurrect you:
one useless memory just postponing your delivery.

My hand thrusts into the cedar box to toss
fistfuls of your dust into the rolling tide,
wondering if a leap into icy water would forever
render us apart or bring us back together.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Nice Guy™ Meets Supergirl

Upon a bridge she stood, skin kissed by sweat,
a white romper, naked shoulders, lace spaghetti straps.
Her tiara necklace jingles, and I like, Pavlov’s dog,
starving, my mouth a lake, swallow in response.

She I can assemble, from my vast pornographic collage:
Amazons; mannequins; and chopstick-prodded nyotaimori models,
nipples hidden by scallop shells as businessmen snatch fish
from refrigerated flesh, so her daughter’s voice

startled my gaze to her sunbathed cheeks. Inked upon her T-shirt,
bold words fading: “I am a girl. So, what’s your superpower?”
“One day,” she said, “I will be President. Like Hillary,
I am no robot. I am human. My too-happy laughter is fine.”

Her mother’s smile testifies a recipe of certainty and pride,
and ashamed I realize the hands holding Supergirl down are mine.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Looking Forward Through a Rear View Mirror

Michael, when you toss a handful of sand 
to fall upon the tepid sea foam,
do you ever imagine each grain a day?
Or when turning pages of a favorite novel
you crave to finish but never end,
does that unturned prose you cradle
remind you your own is more feather than stone?

Every morning you blow away thunderheads
to let sunshine bathe your grateful skin. 
Before you enter life’s untidy theater,
beneath garish spotlights unforgiving,
twirling for bills from hands of lechers, 
just remember why you groove:
You dance because you can.

Remember those faces left behind:
addicts of self-abuse, junkies of icepick cones
victims of machine-gun attrition
self-medicating with flasks of mercury, 
bulldozing their lives into empty lots
while you plant useless lilies
and scrape away the blood-caked soil.

The impostors too, like the one who paid his loans 
by asking to be murdered to collect insurance—
Oh, I may be dead but I pay my debts— 
or the other whose stage exit required 
pyrotechnics of the first order: a gas tank, 
towels beneath a door, time, and spent phosphorus. 
He lay smiling, half-submerged,
his last act a resignation letter from life.

And your father, the giant you understood too late—
hearing his laughter like granite and thunder
or catching his chiseled grin,
wouldn’t you listen better now?
And, wiser, later your father-like friend. 
Beneath coconut palms beside the bay azure;
you traded jungle city survival tales
like two explorers stewing in cast iron pots, 
never knowing his secret, the certainty of young death,
because he never let you read ahead.

Michael, I remember you seeing iron filings 
a blind cavalry charge towards a horseshoe magnet;
you envied the certainty of their kamikaze path.
But, man, if you already know, why even turn the pages?
If you want to love and be loved, slow down and forget.
Yes, forget about the story, and enjoy the storytelling.