I drove past the old apartment the other day.
I looked up at the window, and half expected
to see you, looking down —
But of course, you were long gone from that old place,
and furthermore, were in the passenger seat
right next to me.
All those nights,
ah! Those long smoke-filled nights that felt like years
like decades and errata…
Even though they were just the regular sort of nights,
about eight hours with three verses, chorus and bridge.
And Catherine with her clove cigarettes
and James with his parakeet.
And Alice, who got up very quietly one day and went to California and never came back.
And Bob said, and Phyllis and Mary Ann and Thaddeus and Benjamin –
…We knew a lot of different people in those days,
is what I’m saying,
although, I was never sure if they really liked me
all that much.
They were mostly your friends.
Everything belonged to you then, and
you knew it, you colossus of a man!
You used to prance through the rooms of that house,
touching everything and naming it, as if you were God,
as if you were Stalin,
saying, ‘This is mine, and this, and this, and this.’
And you only five years old.
Remember that time Bobby put the hat on the dog?
And the dog looked at us, as if to say,
You are all so blessed, and you don’t even know it.
We would go on to do great things,
according to our mothers.
Remember when Sanjay said…or was it Catherine?
Did we know a Sanjay?
Yes! He always brought that little redhead who came with both hands out,
a box of grocery store frosted cookies before her.
She never really got our whole deal.
There was blood on the chessboard then.
There was wine in my shoes.
There were squirrels in the engine of Deirdre’s old Plymouth.
There was a letter in the mailbox.
There were tears in Victor’s eyes.
We all looked at each other and thought,
“I have to do something.
And then the fellows from across the hall came in and
And Marla kicked the wall.
She and Doug…they loved each other, but
it was never enough and I think when they killed each other,
we all died a little that day.
I remember at that time, Ransom, I was so in love with you.
Or maybe not in love, but I felt love,
or maybe I was just to the side of it, somehow,
or just missed it, had to loop around in traffic
and come back —
or maybe there was a bucket full of old love in the laundry room,
and that was what I kept smelling.
I used to beat you and beat you and wail,
‘Can’t you smell that?! How can you not smell it?’
I wish I could gather to me all of us then and now, young and aging
beautiful and stoned and getting fatter,
yodeling like Jesus into the night,
and tuck each and every soul into its own little bed under my roof
and set fire to them.
We were the children of Full House and Blossom and Game Boys and Walkmen and Simon and MC Hammer and slap bracelets and pongs and toothpaste and soap and Lisa Frank erasers and Hello Kitty and Lois Lowry novels and Super Mario Brothers and computers and answering machines and microwaves and Crystal Pepsi and Channel One news and CDs and the Gap and Limited Too and Express and 5.7.9. and Target and Wal-Mart and farts and Ninja Turtles and sheets and towels and hamburgers and Christmas and math class and Bon Jovi and Kosovo and Teddy Ruxpin and roads and bridges and furniture and suburbs and skyscrapers and grass and rabbits and birds and clouds and skin and bone and blood and ham and bacon and sausage and beef.
There had never been such a world.
A nivering doombat farcidant mirial world!
We thought no harm could ever come to us,
and so far it hasn’t,
we were very aware of 9/11 when it happened.
Ah, all of us star-struck bright-eyed glitter-bombed wanderers!
All of us psychotic shit-smeared beagle-eyed sailors!
All of us are dead, or will be, or should be!
Married or working, or color-blind or not.
And maybe we ate lunch, or maybe we skipped it.
We sure were people, weren’t we?
We were people as children.
…We are people, my darling, my dear, my lover, my jailer, my dry-cleaner, my partner, my fool –
we are people even now.