A band I love released
another album. I watch them
on YouTube while walking my dog.
My neighbor Bob appears ashen
in a second-floor window
framed in waning yellow light.
Just home from work, I walk
our golden doodle in darkness.
Streetlights make long shadows of us.
In the video the band looks haggard,
older, strung out maybe. They
mock the earlier version of them.
Bob and I had a competition
for best shovel and best mow, except
he had no idea we were competing.
Earbuds in, volume up, senses diminished.
The streets here are safe, but I can’t see
much or hear outside of the song.
The boys in the band are
half my age; they live and describe
a zeitgeist different from mine.
Months ago, Bob, already frail, at least
an octogenarian, suddenly stopped
mowing or shoveling. He vanished.
Puppy and I reach a dark house where
a shy woman lives with a chatty man.
They have a Pomeranian barkless and old.
The band has an esoteric name,
unrelated to anything really, three words:
one syllable one syllable two.
Barb took over. She’s tiny, lovely, married
to Bob. Now she shovels and mows
and plucks up creeping charlie by hand.
My puppy is eight months and chaos.
The Pomeranian sits in an unlit yard – doesn’t
know we’re coming ‘til we’re already there.
The band sings about sex and alcohol
and mortality. Their song includes one
of those direct-address meta moments.
I hadn’t seen Bob in many months
when he appeared, small in his window,
staring at nothing – petrified.
In my ear then, the band asked
…dooon’t you re-a-lize our bo-dies
could fall a-part at a-ny se-cond?
Here’s the deal: structural fatigue
eventually causes breakdowns. I am 50
and chaos. My whole body groans.
Never have I ever shoveled or mowed
better than Bob or Barb, which doesn’t matter
anyway – very little does. Seeing Bob
in his window, I notice for the first time
the complex time signatures – all
the instruments play a different meter.
I see myself decades hence which is
selfish, I know, but I am somewhere
inside the middle of my life, and still
preoccupied with sex and alcohol and
mortality – only the ratios have changed.
I write to you 500 days into a desperate reign
Alchemy is over-subscribed.
People line up for more. I’m wide-eyed
and tired, but last night I had a dream
and in the dream I was asleep. I needed
more rest. I tried to wake in the dream
without waking myself up in real life.
It can’t be done. We arrive
to a lightless place; our shadows
disappear but remain.
The song is about the song,
and I can’t deny I am enervated.
Our king is mad. Our king is grim,
dim, dimming. Our king is mean.
The boys in the band convert fragility
to urgency – they want to get laid.
Bob waits to stop waiting, whitened
down to gray, to blue – quiet
as an empty house, a sleepy reverie
and I know he has forgotten me.
At last, I answer them and him, no one,
everyone – I do I say it out loud – I do. I do.