Merry-Go-Round

Remember that post from last week where I talked about connecting with your loved ones because who knows if they’ll be around tomorrow?  Sometimes the universe sends you a comment back so fast that it makes your head spin.

We lost two loved ones this week.

First a darling aunt of my husband, whom I met only once but entranced me with her humble home and magical garden decorated with found objects.  She was so happy to have visitors that she refused to be dissuaded from inviting us in for a visit.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a smile that bright.  She ground the beans by hand and made us some of the nastiest coffee I’ve ever tasted, and her love sweetened that pot so much that you found yourself asking for seconds if only to stay a little longer.  I always meant for us to go back and visit her again.  I mean how can you not, when one visit can make an old lady so happy?  We never managed to get our act together and now she’s gone.  She’ll be missed.

Also an old activist colleague died on Thursday.  When sober he was an amazing activist and artist.  When drunk his whip-smart brain turned him into one of the most frustrating con artists I’ve ever met (and amusing, actually, if you could manage to take a deep breath and step back).  The world is poorer that he’s not in it.  We’re pretty sure he didn’t mean to die, just alcoholism managed to finally throw him a knock-out punch.  He died in his recliner.  She died in her bed.   I like to think that both went peacefully in their sleep.  I wish that both had been given more time on this earth.

Normally Saturdays are for a crônica, and I save my poetry for mid-week.   This week, Steve, this one’s for you.

MERRY-GO-ROUND

He always came back around.
Ankle-deep in the snow,
Green parka stained with booze,
Face six shades redder
than his worn flannel,
Snowflakes crusting at the fringes
of his mustache.
We kicked him out,
Shut the doors,
and he was back.
At the curb like clockwork,
Fifteen minutes to closing.
More reliable
than the city bus schedule.
He was back around,
as usual with a crisis of
epic proportions.
There she was,
A full head shorter than him,
Jacket pulled up
around her neck
to keep out
homelessness’s icy fingers.
Explaining the options:
Option A.
Option B.
And sometimes if he was lucky
if no bridges had burned lately
even an Option C.
He wanted Option D.
He always wanted Option D.
The one item that wasn’t on the menu.
So round and round
they’d go on the 5:45
social work merry-go-round.
She explaining the options.
He demanding the impossible.

Because, you see,
you can’t have a head
that full of brains
and not get bored.
There wasn’t enough
alcohol in the world
to deaden that
razor-sharp mind.
So he’d come with his crisis
and sometimes a twinkle
in his blue eye
and say the right words
to get us to jump on.
Round and round
on the social work merry-go-round.
Each time until someone
somewhere
found him a warm place to stay.

That’s how it was.
Until one day he got clean
And he found a new way
to sharpen those wits.
Still demanding the
Unobtainable, impossible Option D:
An end to hate
and to violence.
A full meal for everyone.
Respect for the drunks.
Housing for all.
Round and round
On the Legislature merry-go-round.

And the music was gorgeous,
The lights brighter than ever,
Until something would
wrench up the gears,
and he’d slide off
his white horse
and back into the gutter.
Then he’d climb up again,
Each time more weathered,
more fragile than before.
Round and round
On the alcoholic merry-go-round.

Until finally the gears broke.
Today there’s no merry
any more in the social work.
The music has stopped.
He has moved onto something
bigger and brighter
Because pick your religion
Your explanation
However you count it
There’s no doubt
that this man
earned himself
a heavenly upgrade.

And here we are.
Left behind.
Ankle-deep in the snow,
Demanding the one thing
not on the  menu.
We’d like him back, please.
His wry wit
That goddamn handle-bar moustache
The tie-dye t-shirts
and slouchy backpack.
We want his insight
and strategy,
Smart-ass jokes
Artistic hands,
and big heart.
Just fifty-fuckin’-three.
Like too many geniuses
We lost him too soon.
We want him back
But that’s not one of our options.
So pick your religion:
A, B, or C.
Or maybe like he would
D–none of the above.
And know deep in your heart
that just like clockwork
More reliable
than the city bus schedule
Someday
He’ll be back around.

R.I.P. Steve Huston
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