by Jeffrey Murrell


Finally back home.
With mother.
With my mom and sister,
in this quiet pastoral place
with its rolling dells
and its stockade fences all around
pretty ranch houses clean and new,
filled with warm kitchen air.
My little cat certainly likes it!
My mom lets her out of the house to roam.
I told her not to
'cause she has no front claws,
but mom said not to worry,
she lets hers out all the time.
But there have got to be some bully cats out there!
There are always bullies around here.
In grade school, I got beat up so much,
and mom would just say hit them back.
Hit them back!
Hit them!
But I couldn't.
Until I supposedly met you here the first time, or so you insist.
I don't remember at all.
But you remember we used to get into fights.
Are you sure we spent our first year of school together?
How can you remember back to then?
How can you remember we did that?
How could you have done it?
I fought hard, but could never win.
That I remember!
But at least I fought, if I did.
I fought.
I fight.
I will fight.
Rather, I should fight.
Boy, my cat sure scratches that furry little face of hers!
And she licks her crotch
and bites her back claws
just like I bite my fingernails now.
But remember I used to CLIP them?
Oh! You hated that!
Clip! Clip! Clip!

You'd grimace and wince!
It's how I could get rid of you
when I wanted to.
It's how I can still
exorcise your ghost
(if you still hang around me at all)!
Clip! Clip! Clip!

I think you're around?
Clip! Clip! Clip!
Shoo, ghost! Shoo!
Leave me alone!
But I do enjoy our visits
in my dreams
when you visit me.
Thank you.
But it never looks like you enjoy them much.
You always seem so edgy,
looking left to right,
watching the time
like it's all the time you've got
or like it's all the time you'll ever have again,
as if it's some chore
for you, or rather a pleasure to do it,
as if you can't get out much now.
But at least you get out some.
And don't worry--you look just fine!
Just like you always did;
no scars, no lines, no missing appendages,
despite what the accident did.
Oh, I sure wished I could have said goodbye to your face,
instead of that flag-draped box
so, so long ago
when we were all still "young,"
and you--you in your uniform
dashed off to the military call
only to get cut down on the way,
only to leave us all with big holes
in our chests.
And your mama,
your mom
just sat there as I eulogized you,
no expression showing,
as vacant as your body,
just sitting
and not even able to shed a tear then.
Did you really have to do that to her?
Couldn't you have been just a little more careful?

I mean, what got into you, man?
What was always getting into you?
Why did you have to go like that?
"What a waste . . ."
One down, so many more to go!
What waste!
(But so many more to go!)

And my mom was really shook up, too.
So was Crazy.
So was your country,
all shook up by it
and all the other bumps in life
that make it rough.
But I guess those bumps
are there for a reason.
(Only God knows why or what for.)
And I guess we somehow need them,
all of us, in the big cities and small,
in this country and others,
alive or dead or whatever.
We need them.
We need to be tripped once in a while.
We need to get bruised up!
We need our sense of worth blanched,
and our human dignity stifled,
or we just get to be too much!
And it's okay--not everyone can be a hero.
We're not all winners--someone has to lose,
and some of us can only be in the middle,
not great,
not perfect,
not worthy
so others can be.
And some of us just have to suck it up
and hope things will change one day.
But most of us know that that's a joke;
one day, everything will fade away.
And I know it's not right to push it.
I know I have no right to rush,
but sometimes things just get to you,
and what you have is not enough
to calm the tides of despair,
to just deal with it all!
But it's not right.
No one has that right
but God.
Everything's set for a reason.
(That's what my mother says,
and she's right.)
Why spoil the lovely work that you are?
Why throw yourself away?
Why throw it all out?
How can you pitch beautiful, smoky sunsets like these?
But, you know, I understand.
All the commotion that my bowels make,
all the wheezing, whining and churning
of gas getting slammed around by chyme
is what life feels like.
That's what it's like to be mortal.
That's what it's like to have a
"psyche profile" issued by the government,
that little paper that declares you're not well and earns you a nice
little disability check.
Yeah, I suppose I shouldn't have mailed these letters,
but I didn't think it'd matter to post them to you "in care of God,"
but now I suppose I know better.
I didn't know they'd find them!
I didn't know they'd peek!
This was all supposed to be private
just between you and me!
(And the angels who were supposed to deliver them,
you can't even count on them--
see what I mean?)
So now I'm "resting" indefinitely
down there on mom's back patio,
looking up at this domed, golden glass tower
they built downtown a few years ago.
So now they've got them a real skyscraper
reaching up to heaven
and feeling around for folks like you
Too bad you weren't around to see
that now they've got them a skyline--
one lone building standing up
and surveying the expanses of its territory,
to include my mother's back yard!
And she just hates the sight of the thing,
says it invades her privacy
because at night, through the windows she sees
all the civil-service people
working in their offices,
and she thinks they can all see
what's happening in her yard.
And I tell her that's what she gets
for living so close to town,
just over the ridge west of it
on her acreage so close to it.
And now they reach up over that ridge
in their tall government building,
little figures moving around in it
during the evening behind big smoke-glass windows
illuminated by office lights,
all of them shuffling paper files
totally oblivious to the woman drinking iced tea
with her family out on their back forty.
And my dad--he couldn't give a shit
how many of them they build!
He's usually so out of it,
drunk or popping pills,
so disappointed with his small
such a gloomy, ugly pessimist.
(I try to just ignore him these days.)
Ah, it's a pretty pathetic little place.
But it's really filled with peace.
I just wish there were more trees!
I just wish you could be here with me.
I wish we were all still together
to see this tall, tapering building
of dark golden glass
affording such a nice view of the land.
Yes, though one really can't get
all the way up on top,
one can get pretty high up
and dance out on the maintenance walk
that skirts around the dome's circumference.
(How stupid they don't have any guards!)
But I'm not dancing; I'm writing
this last letter to you which I plan to hand deliver
after I see what it's like to fly
(even though it'll be just for a moment).
No wonder my mom hates this building;
maybe she knew it would lead to this.
But let's be clear, this ain't a suicide note;
it's another sky line I'm beaming to you.
That way, no one should care.
Zina won't care (bitch);
my parents won't care (head trip);
my cat won't care (too dumb);
and you won't care (dead).