FOR WHEN YOU ARE DOWN ABOUT VARIOUS IGNOMINIOUS FATES
O bike thief in Las Vegas run to ground on TV
by a one-legged cop, I will tell nobody
of the shame which racked you.
Made your mugshot a study
of failed ambition aplenty. But,
I should be honest. Whatever you felt,
however you rawly ached,
it won’t be found here. Let us be clear:
I’m making you up. Assigning your heart
grand disappointment. Naming you
Russell, or Leonard, maybe Estus–
not all at once, but as my mood goes
I speak good advice to you with great authority.
In the moment you’re knocked
from the suburban kid’s mountain bike
(and how could you take it)
you’re clobbered by the young veteran,
his lungs about to explode into the clip-on microphone.
I’d like to step in
with my mouth full of the obvious:
you do not want to be this.
When I broke my neck,
fez-capped Shriners came to our house,
looking old and white and sad.
They gave me a TV,
and my brother an orange foam football.
Twenty five years later
that set went dark forever,
and nobody would repair it.
I think of the day I went with my brother
in his horrible Camaro
to buy a new television.
He helped me stand,
bracing my knees against his,
then we turned to the unfolded wheelchair.
Over my brother’s shoulder,
I could see an old man watching,
maybe he was a Shriner, too,
ready to come over, offer his strength–
“Can I help you, son?”
When I said no, his face was grave;
I looked down to see that
my jeans had fallen
and my legs were white in the sun.
Which is a way of saying
that I was half-naked
in a Best Buy parking lot,
once. Don’t forget
the pained old man,
the crappy Camaro,
the Shriners who occasioned it all.
Well, not all: I, too, was knocked
from a bike, from a life,
once upon a time. Russell, foolish thief, I think of you
each time I’m caught.