Chest Passes

December 31, 2016

Across the years and distances
words spent and irrevocable
appear behind the iPhone glass
that hums softly in my pocket.
And what am I to say to them?
But that things have turned out all right.
We both survived our twenties —
many didn’t, I could make a list
to seize your heart and hold it taut
and fluttering. That’s just a trick
I can play on myself sometimes.
What is nobler than survival?
Plenty, maybe, but it’s what we have
and it ain’t trash, my darling.
The truth is I did what I could
with what I had and what I knew
(or what I thought I had to do).
I pretended and denied
a lot of what I never tried.
I could have been so much better.
Much of what they admired in me
was simply caution, the weak fear
of screwing up the big boys’ game.
But I saw the lines and angles
and the channels swing opening
for a fraction of a second
and I could have been a hero
but I just held the fucking ball.
I was afraid to be an artist
so I stood offstage and watched them
play my songs and reap the whirlwind
and shoot heroin between their toes.
Instead I wore a coat and tie
and drank a little alcohol
and worried about my future
(which turned out all right after all).
And yes, we knew each other then,
maybe I saw or should have seen
the things to which you now allude
in the note throbbing on my screen.
Do I ever think about you?
Every damn day, not unkindly,
a great armful of golden girl.
Sparkling, alert — and not for me.
I’m not the boy I used to be
and I think that’s for the better.
You’ll always be a friend to me.
I will cherish hard your letter.

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