I stared at the concrete trestles
where Tom took a pistol, and turned
his hole of a mouth into a tunnel. A twenty-cent
bullet rifled through his throat and brainstem,
mushroomed into ground meat,
gray matter, and skull fragments.
He talked to his only sister for three hours,
before hanging up. Checked his voicemail,
and did the deed.
His father and some blue-uniforms found him.
His blood was still warm, dripping down cement
toward the creek banks, clay mixed with
discarded condom wrappers, beer cans, dusted baggies,
busted brown bottles, and used needles.
I wondered if the fact that this used to be his favorite place
as a kid - where his friends and close relatives fought,
fucked, drank, toked, and blew off
fireworks and steam – and it was now a cesspool,
if that final sight, of his past rotting in mud and trash,
was the last reason, the straw, the nail.
The memorial was as close to the scene as possible,
covered in cheap crosses and short sincere messages,
threaded through chain-link. It barely prettied
up the place, made it seem more empty,
like he probably felt as the darkness dove into his
swollen heart, and burst out the back of his head.
Tom went down a hero.
They scrapped his body, donated
the salvage and saved over seventy lives. Seventy,
coalesced by a cadaver, a giant corpse, tar colored
hair and eyes, cold hard steel cable muscles, sliced
into pieces to replace others' faulty equipment.
The post-funeral procession gawked and gasped
and sobbed and stood still and silent with deep fury,
upturned coat collars stained with salt water,
and work-tempered skin quaking in despair. Two hundred
mourners moving under some makeshift connection
of blood or memory.
Those that couldn't handle it sober flocked
to the dead man's favorite dive bar,
The Tick Tock Tavern, washed in dim light,
clogged with a cavalcade of the hungry,
the drunk, the lost, and the grieving.
The counter congested with drink desperate,
men sucking down smoke
and alcohol, clutching crystal cups like
gypsy balls, asking questions with no answers.
"For Tom" chanted out, recurring like clockwork,
An attempt at celebrating a death
that no one ever thought could happen, a show
of stiff-upper-lip etiquette. I downed Irish shot
after shot, siphoned cigarette after cigarette
in almost four-four rhythm, matching the false cheers,
burning my throat with dragon breath and smog,
anesthetizing my chest.
Outside a spotlight moon snuffed out
all the planets and sharp stars near it,
salt-light dripped down from street-lamps, forming
in an alien-abduction-beam cone against the dark,
ending in dirty Heaven-glow puddles. The void-sky,
and the weak holy gutter light, the debate between
Heaven and Hell, the answer to an unspoken thought -
all we can ask is that we end up where we're needed.