Friday, May 23, 2014

New Poem--The Last Time I Saw You

The Last Time I Saw You
—For Tony, 1966-1987

You just turned 21, bought us the Beck’s Beer
we sipped while we waited for the drop-off
at my apartment, listened to the Stones.

You had silky feathered hair like Mick Jagger,
wore a brown leather jacket from Dad’s shoe repair shop,
dingy white Pumas. We talked about our childhood,
how you played tricks on me, like saying you
were adopted, or that the egg shell was more
nutritious than the egg. We planned to run
Dad’s business together until we were old.

You left to get one more six-pack, and I walked you
to the door, Ruby Tuesday playing on the stereo,
hallway stinking of weed smoke. You patted my
shoulder, said, I’ll be back, three words that would
become a broken promise—because three hours later,

after I figured you caught up with a buddy, got drunk,
forgot to call, our uncle phoned to say they found you
one block from the store, motorcycle crushed, helmet
cracked, your brainstem snapped, you never felt a thing.

But I felt plenty. 18 years old, phone still in my hand,
grief dropped over me like a veil. I packed an overnight
bag, took a cab to our grandparents: recalled when
we were kids, how you made a noose out of plastic, tied
it around your neck, pretended to hang yourself from
the top bunk. I waltzed into the bedroom and found you
there, head slumped, eyes bugged, tongue hanging out.
I screamed through the house, Daddy, Daddy, Tony hanged
himself. He popped you on the head with his knuckle.

I sit at our grandparents, waiting for Dad. Waiting
for you to walk through the door and say this is all a joke,
like before. I sit there. Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.

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