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Mean Streak

                1.
He swore—
No more tantrums, curses,
vicious rages, cantankerousness
He’ll keep himself in rein
He’ll keep himself on a leash, his inner
mean streak, his normal animal meanness

He grants nothing in argument,
not even his time
She says, hey I’m a party girl
Don’t expect anything but party from me
There’s no power without fear of reprisals, he knows
She takes the size of him, while he takes everything

Their home life gloomy, volatile
Their nightly cocktail hour escalates to violence,
ends in broken glass
Their one young daughter will clean it all up
Later, her mother gets cancer
Her 11-year old daughter accompanies her

on the three hour drive to radiation
and chemotherapy
She cries her tears over someone so dear
and that’s how she becomes
just another bull-shitter,
just another social climber

He treats his subordinates like shit
They’re all scared of him
He yells at his staff,
treats them terribly
He’s a mean, vicious, odious figure
He’s an animal

Our world models may let us down
For those who need revenge, revenge is what they see—
one sordid revenge scene after another,
in manic repetition, conflict
Their dry logistics against their juiciest anxieties
Their crass, sardonic crashes

 

                2.
He was gentle, tender and ruthless at once
No one could predict him, place him, know him very well
Expressionless, inscrutable, somber, withdrawn, remote
On stage he scowls, stares us all down, then smiles
What a relief we feel as he picks up the horn,
that golden sound, so golden and mysterious

Remember the tube radios
the kind where the tubes would light up
and come to life only when the radio was on?
Well, he was kind of like that too
“Hey guy, you have a good day”
“No thank you friend, I’ve made other plans”

In the middle of a meeting his expression might go blank
He’d stare out the window
numb with some unstated sorrow
I knew his wife had left him, and that was his trouble
I knew him well and saw beneath his smiles
I saw the sorrow in his eyes

He could play, he was great at it
But he was also one of the slimiest, greediest,
motherfuckers who ever lived
And he didn’t live long
Dead at 34 of pneumonia in some dirty hotel room
(or was it the constant doping that killed him, the heroin?)

Do you really need to stand in front of all those people
who are singing your songs and think
how many must love me
so I can feel okay about myself,
how many must show that I’m good enough for them
before I’m good enough for me?

He thinks he conducts but he can’t hear
The players revere him but ignore his false gesticulations
They watch, instead, the surreptitious conductor at the foot of the orchestra
After the music ends he’s still waiving his arms
The conductor taps his shoulder and turns him around
He shows him the audience, their enthusiastic mad screams for him

 

                3.
We compare ourselves to others
We size them up
They speak and we pretend to understand
But we don’t get comfortable with them
We can’t get our footing with them
We can’t find our footing

“Hey you, you don’t own stocks
What ya reading that for?”
As he idly turns the pages
of his favorite, dumb tabloid
One day I may own stocks but I don’t tell him that
I just read what I want

Captain, lonely captain—
Typhoons, shoals, breakdowns,
sicknesses and a disloyal crew,
congested waterways, alien cultures, alien talk,
language barriers, surly thieves, vicious pirates
He’s always the hardest, loneliest man aboard

He hadn’t forgotten—
Some things you let slide and some things you don’t
You must wait for the right moment to get retribution
Count on it, he’ll find out the reason
Then he’ll hunt that bastard down
and make him pay

If you die relatively young,
say in your 40s or early 50s
we say what a loss, what a shame, what a waste
But if you die old, 82, 83 or in your 90s, lonely,
decrepit, demented, deranged for a decade (the old alcohol slosh)
we say, what a terrible decline, what an awful end to his life

My brother was a gentleman and a human being
This man is not
He’s an animal, a decimated, frightened animal
Let’s count: 58,000 of our own dead, 300,000 wounded
and that doesn’t include the 2,000,000 dead
enemy soldiers and civilians

 

 

-November 9, 2013-