i. For Richer Or Poorer, Dude.
You’d once said (out of the blue, as God knows
Neither of us had reason to bring up the subject) you’d like
To be married on Hookipa Beach—well, not on the beach per se,
But surfing the pipeline, in full bridal regalia, all brocade and beads,
Groom in tails and trunks. I’d laughed, but you swore
With an unsettling quantity of solemnity and profanity
That you were quite serious, damnit even though I pointed out
How you could probably dispense with planning the reception
And photographer, as you’d be taken away
By inexperience—indeed, you’d never seen a body of water
Any larger than the Kinzua Reservoir—and the undertow,
No one around to catch the bouquet save the divers,
But you said, If you get to the point where you say “I do”,
You’re pretty much left for dead, anyway.
ii. Movie Day Is Paddle To The Sea.
We’d known each other forever, or anyways
All the time that counted; together from kindergarten on,
Riding the same bus until you and your mom moved
Over to Fifth Street, so we’d sat together (and to hell
With the prospect of contracting girl cooties) at lunch,
On the swings at rec, and always but always
For movie day—which, this particular day,
Was Paddle To The Sea, and as I sat
And watched the small, hand painted wooden craft
Navigate the great blue ribbon which bisects
The land of apple pie and Chevrolet
All the way to the Gulf of Mexico and into the great, blue ocean
It was as nothing else—that gym, the regular, comforting clack
Of the ancient eight-millimeter projector, the other kids,
And, for that forty-odd minutes, even you—did not, could not exist.
As the lights came up, I looked over in your direction
And noticed there were the remnants of tears on your cheeks.
Hey, it’s OK to cry, I said (girls were allowed such luxuries,
After all), but you looked at me—even at that early age,
Simply stunned at the depth and breadth of my misunderstanding,
My utter stupidity—and said, in a tone that neither sought
Nor brooked any argument, That just can’t happen.
No toy boat ever makes it to the ocean, and for several days afterward
You would, apropos of nothing, angrily blurt out
How stupid, stupid, stupid that movie was,
And how you hoped they would cancel movie day from now on.
iii.Love In The Back Of The Balcony Of The Old Rialto, Or At Least A Few Blowjobs.
I suppose, in retrospect, it would have been a bit too creepy
If we had just remained friends all those years—like I used
To say to you at the time, it’s not my fault you ended up with tits.
There wasn’t much chance for us to spend any “quality time” together,
And when I say quality time, I mean that there was no good place
For us to fuck like rabbits (and if I had the Magic 8-Ball
Of retrospect back then, I would have quit the basketball team
So my afternoons would have been free to get into your
Hanes for Her, so we could have made babies
And I could have got a job at the mill, affording us the resources
To live happily hand-to-mouth ever after), but at least
The old Rialto Theatre was able to carry on in its death throes
Until the summer after our junior year, which allowed us the opportunity
To slide into the back row of the balcony
(Although, given the old movie house’s attendance on most nights,
I could have screwed you in the middle of the front row
Without anyone noticing), where you would, unbidden,
Slip below the seat, undo my pants and take me in your mouth
Smoothly, silently, with a precision and nonchalance
That I found borderline disturbing, and one Friday evening
I happened to venture the opinion that I probably loved you.
You paused in labors long enough to bob up to the surface.
Please. You have no fucking clue what you’re saying,
With that you returned below the row of torn, unevenly padded seating
And got back to the business at hand.
iv. And Thence To The St. Lawrence, And Beyond.
It could not, of course, have lasted; you were heading off
To Cornell in the fall, and I was headed for
A state school to be determined, as no Ivy League school
Would have me even if I took the entire Board of Trustees hostage.
We sort of stayed in touch for a couple of months,
But come second semester I only had one, cryptic note from you.
Hey, schmuck. If you happen to catch wind as to the answer
To Pilate’s question, you clue me in, OK? Two weeks later,
You were dead, having leapt off a bridge
Into one of the scenic gorges that were the pride and joy
Of the town’s Chamber of Commerce. Prolly drunk,
I heard the sheriff’s boys up there had said
(Being a clear case of a jumper, there was no reason for a post-mortem),
Though I knew you’d never so much as sipped an Iron City
In your entire life, and, understandably, there’d been
No calling hours, no graveside services.
A couple of years later—I’d successfully avoided her
Until then—I ran into your mom. After some of
The requisite pleasantries, the conversation wandered off
Into the dark corners where young dead girls lived.
They’d found a note, but it hadn’t offered much
In the way of explanation—just the request
That she be cremated, and the remains taken to Cape Vincent
(Way the hell Upstate in New York, as far as her mom knew
She’d never even seen the place), and scattered
On Lake Ontario (the note insisted it be done by boat),
She said to make sure to get out in the lake a good mile
Or so, so there wouldn’t be a chance of her ashes
Floating back to shore.