Tuesday, March 2, 2010




Johnny was shot under another name

robbing a drugstore in Vancouver.

You blew your head off at Christmas

and sent your wheelchair flying across the room.

They must have liked you

they must have trusted you

if they only broke your back

for leaving the company too soon.

Even when we were kids

Johnny was always looking for someone to kill him.

Hope he’s out of his misery now.

I think your parents did that to him.

As I watched them do so much to you.

Anyway. You were two brothers.

Now you’re dead.

And you were my best friend

growing up in a garbage can

that reeked of home.

Johnny was crazy with rage at fourteen.

Remember the day we hung him by his neck

from the limb of that tortured tree

that grew out of the side of the cliff

in the prison-yard they turned into a highschool?

He never carried a gun around us after that.

He was cyanotically blue

by the time we hauled him down.

And he knew that we knew

how to keep our word.

Hey, and that day when we made a pact

to stand up to Nick Paris and Grant Basanta

and I broke Nick’s nose

and you took a baseball bat to Basanta

and we took off like antelope through the backfields

exhilarated with joy

in the heart of the dark error

that had called down hell upon us?

I still haven’t stopped laughing.

You couldn’t do much for yourself

so you always fell in love with women

you tried to save from the things you knew.

What didn’t we know by nine

you still couldn’t tell

the average thirty-year old?

Prostitutes, junkies, battered wives

and the occasional rich bitch

who’d slum down with you

to avenge herself on a life

she couldn’t give up.

You wanted to be the hero

but they wanted to fuck a dragon

and I knew you’d never get

that thorn out of your heart

by trying to turn their scales to feathers.

You couldn’t love anyone

unless they were a lost cause.

But I heard the last one to leave you

came clean out of rehab

as you de-cultified yourself

from Vatican business

to make a new start.

I remember you

cutting your little finger off

when we were teen-agers

and giving it to Alice

in a little white jewelry box

with cloudy cotton stained by blood

the day she came to say good-bye forever.

I wanted you to know

in a way you’ll never forget

what you meant to me you said.

That was your poor boy’s notion

of being noble.

She thought you were out of your head.

I knew you were romantically intense

and made a wry remark in a footnote to myself

about how hilariously helpless you were

whenever another princess beat you senseless.

I guess things didn’t change much over the years.

A finger? A life?

A difference of degree not kind.

And remember when we played

at being Romans

when we were kids in cardboard armour

with six inch nails at the tips of our spears?

You’re a suicide, my friend.

The Romans are going to cut off

your left hand

and bury you without it. 

But there’s an unprofaned glory

in the way you fell upon your sword

in obedience to your dark code of love

as she was leaving

to show her how much she had meant to you.

Born into a life of lies

you would have lost your mind

if you hadn’t kept one thing true.