This friend who never dies
leaves his place at Hollywood Cemetery,
catches the four a.m. bus to your bedside
and urges you to come with him
to the creek where you caught sixteen bass
on July third.
You promise him
you will if you
can sleep a little longer.
to live just so he could see the shimmering fish fly from
the shallow water like silver footballs. He pulls at the
covers until you feel the cool spring morning
slither up your legs to your troubled middle. Admit it,
you deny him,
but you don’t have the heart to explain how you saw him
all those years back
stuffed in a white coffin and a suit that had not fit him
since high school, how you and his other buddies went every
day to court in Charlotte to see what happened to the biker
scum who shot him
in the back of the head because of what was on the jukebox.
You tell him what happened. He says
that’s just revenge. He wants to know about your car and how
much beer costs. Know any girls
who might go with you
and how hard is it now to
find good, strong, cheap reefer. It’s hard to
tell him that
you have not smoked in over ten years.
You’re cautious now about women. You don’t just
have sex with them. The loneliness sometimes feels
waking up with someone
you cannot look at.
And life. And tell him you remember now
the sixteen bass,
how they shot from the water that was clear and cooler than
the air in any beer joint, but go on,
there’s a bridge there now
for the bypass.
is like that.
You drank your last beer,
smoked your last joint,
screwed your last hole,
played your last jukebox.
You sit up and ask him what’s the difference
but he’s gone.