Forty

(for Jim Carroll)


when my foot hits pavement

roaring with skate sounds

everything stops.

doesn’t matter if that foot

is in red Converse sneaker

like theirs-

this is only appearances now.

the body attached is now seen first

as predator

not as peer.

someone with intense eyes

and white streaks in his hair

that has no place in this new world.

i cannot tell them ‘no,

i am here because it hurts,

because i am like you.

i am not like them.’

because that’s crazy talk.

this is forty.

i wonder what they’d make of these tears:

the kid in the leather jacket

dehydrated from the press

of a hundred bodies

or

the one who breathed in the city night

like his body was made

of nothing but this;

wandering silent drugstore aisles with a notebook

in his pocket;

the one painting murals by torchlight,

pulling himself out of oil and horsehair

with the grinning shadows as critics.

roaming the streets full of songs and hallucinogens, silver diners sketched in dirty pages

and shopping carts

that seemed profound.

the kid with the loud guitar

screaming into a microphone,

dissecting his own insides

pulling them out by blacklight

washing them in sound

and then rearranging them again;

those were our prayers.

(all art is cannibalism;

we offer our flesh in sacrament

hoping others will recognize the taste.

in this way

we are all made up of each other.)

time passes,

and i wonder if the kid

on the surfboard

or the one flushed with sweat and sin and sonnets

leaving the club and thinking

(the stars are so close)

I wonder if he ever thought that someday

(if he even dreamed of ‘someday’,

when the faces at his altar had none)

he’d weep at words of his idols

not because he felt voiceless

but because there was too much noise

to raise his voice anymore.

like the outside rotting

while the core endures

like singing at a funeral

where nobody heard.

i am here, he says,

the lights call me home

every moment contains eternity

the city breathes and i

i feel its pulse.

but it sounds like

‘get off my lawn’

and

‘doctor, i am losing weight’

and

‘i am afraid to die’.

the cage of illness,

of age,

of opportunity,

i want to believe the lock

can still be picked

but

tick-tock.

i reach through the bars

touch the fingers of

that punk-rock child

and grieve.

this is forty.

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