Let me tell you about my pal Jay.
His birthday a week before mine
five years before we moved in
three doors down.† Died seven days
after my fortieth, doing what he loved.
Jay was never still; Iíd escape
to his house, hoping to see an
entire Stooges movie, only to be
dragged into the yard, under
the Texas sun, high-stepping over
the piles left by his enormous, scary dog.
The summer Hey Jude came out heíd
stop mid-stride, hand out for silence,
each and every time it came on the
treehouse transistor radio.
Other than that, a blur of motion
with a silly crooked grin.
Jayís father was a fireman,
my dad a cop.† We played GI Joe
and Tonka trucks in the sun-baked
dirt behind the air conditioner,
the only place that Rex didnít ďgoĒ.
I went through the litany
of future careers.† Jay just grinned
his silly grin and made the hi/lo siren
noise, scrunching shut first one eye
and then the other.† A fireman
was all he ever wanted to be.
The world was a different place back then.
For one thing, it was always summer. †Nixon
was a funny name, Vietnam the word for
GI Joes on TV.† Cops and firemen died,
but only one at a time and not too often.
Still, no paradise for billygoat boys
would be complete without a Mortal Enemy.
High overhead ours lurked, one generation
of yellowjackets laboring to raise the next
under the eaves, above the battlefield
behind the air† conditioner.
No pretend combat, no miniature
modern earthmoving marvel could
contain Jay for long.† Heíd look up
from the toys, a manic gleam in his
eyes and that preposterous grin
splitting his face.† Donít do it, Jay!
Leave them alone and they
wonít bother us!† Itís hard to imagine
a more complete waste of breath.
No peace process, no truce talks,
no detente between these ancient foes.
Armed with football or water hose,
he attacked without warning.† Shit!
Goddamn!† Crap crap crap crap
we fled the inevitable counterstrike,
a grinning Achilles and his cursing disciple,
high-stepping arm-waving billygoat boys
in the backyard of Eden.
One truck, three men
a Saturday morning highrise appartment fire
thirty-two days after the towers fell.
We should wait for another truck, Captain.
Itís the rules.† I could have told them:
donít waste your breath.
Jayís death was public property,
a media circus, an ink blot.
A local one-month echo
of a flag-waving unthinking hero worship orgy.
Some see in it an object lesson on safety rules.
Mark Anthony of the firemanís union
came not to praise him.
Those for and against various budget lines
all saw Jay as a martyr for their various causes.
Iím sure there is some truth
in all of that, but it's not what I see.
I see my pal Jay, fire in his eyes and
a lopsided grin under his moustache,
running into battle against his ancient foe.
Donít do it, Jay!† Oh hell.
Crap crap crap crap crap.