My heart is open
my eyes are wide
there are no illusions
We were a small circle of friends. Sometimes there were three of us, sometimes two. Sometimes and too often it was just me. My sacred text was Star Trek, and in that I was alone. We had our religion, though, and our hymns were Stairway to Heaven and Starship Trooper. We had our black light posters and our incense. We had our Bible studies and told our dirty jokes after. We halfway believed there were demons in our rock albums but that Jesus would save us from them anyway. Anything bad for us we could sleep off. We nodded at the sermons and dipped our toes in nihilism, but we were just posing for effect. We asked all the wrong questions. We never once wondered how quickly those days would pass.
Sometimes I’m only spinning plates
and sometimes I realize the audience has left
Sometimes I realize I’m only dreaming
and just twirling air, all past lives
just broken bodies in a mass grave
next to the supermarket parking lot.
When endless nights drag by
leaving your brain puffed with poison
no sleep no sleep no sleep
and your home suddenly has
unknown smells and your
pets don’t know you anymore
and the lamps all move and replaced
things shock and stop
working and everyone you thought
loved you you can see in their
eyes they don’t anymore they
whisper into their phones and
you overhear your name but then
it’s not your name anymore
they smile and tell you everything’s
okay just calm down just relax
just close your eyes no one’s
going to hurt you but then you hear
the knives come out no sleep
no sleep no sleep you find yourself
actually wanting the knives to open
you up so all the poison can
finally leak out
They wheeled her in,
skin as thin as onion skin,
wasted away to squinting bones,
to view her daughter’s body.
“Just throw a rag over her,” she said,
a lifetime of grievance exhaled.
So sorry, grandmother, to exhume you so,
but you are a lump of coal
and my furnace is cold.
Then she grabbed my hand and said this:
I leaned in close. Her grip tightened with a strength that hadn’t been there in years.
“Listen,” she said. “Death’s door is small. It is so small that when we go through it shears away everything we think of as real: our bodies, our minds, even our memories. What’s left is nothing but an echo. And then I’ll only exist in your mind, and only in the memories of everyone who knew me. I’ll be clothed in a thousand robes, disguised in a thousand masks of how each one of you saw me. Some will be beautiful, and some will be terrible. Please see me with a smile on my face, because I’ll be there for the rest of your life, and God knows you’ll need a friend.”
Then she let go of my hand, but I was the one who closed my eyes.
The road is full of dangerous curves, and the darker the night the more treacherous they are. It also has endless swoops and dips, and taken at high speed you alternate between weightless and heavy in the space of a second, but they lie: the road goes ever downhill. And I’ve buried way too many friends along the way.