Trapped in a theater of misery
The voices in my head
Talking over the frown lines
All over my face.
Loneliness, pity, and loss of me was
Nothing but a way of life
Back in the mid-2000s.

Friends picked me up
Taking me to Tennessee
To stand in the dust
Before rains turned it all to mud
Just so I could listen
To the plaque-clearing sounds
Of protest songs about the war in Iraq.

The rain fell with great effect on my mood,
I jumped with all the others,
Most twenty or so years younger than me,
But I didn’t care,
I was free, away from the chatter, sold on the idea
That I could move on.
I owe Franti that one.

High school ended
The boredom of an amusement park job
Stalling the excitement
For college’s promise
When the thought of an adventure
Brought an end
To the shift work

With the old truck packed
We set out down I-95
Leaving Colonial Williamsburg
For a round about Tampa Bay way

1985 was all Dire Straits
And Money for Nothing
Played above the rush of wind
Whistling through the triangular window
Of the old Dodge

The last stretch…
Maybe enough gas to get home
Just enough KFC to fill up
And not a dime
For anything else

That humid early morning
When the gas light came on
Proved to be the moment
When we learned
Our parents are smarter than us
For hidden in the glove compartment
Was a credit card
With a note taped to it
“For an emergency, Mom”

Rutherford accepted his octane
And we went easy on the card
Only paying for the gas
And a soda
To wash down the chicken

The cruelest blows
Often play out
To be the blessings
That are meant to be
Given a fresh start
To listen to the songs
That I wanted
Led me to Ben Harper
And a vibe that cleansed my soul
Pushing us together
That first night when
The conversation was awkward
The questions flew feverishly
And all I could think about
Was the luck
Of us finally coming together

We can’t decide
When I gave that CD to you
As an excuse to see you again
But I know each time I hear that song
I must stop what I am doing
To think of that night
With the humidity
And certainty
That we would be together

I’m living in those colors
Taken by your beauty
A palette of wonder
Of strength
So vivid in each of its hues
Thank goodness for fate
Thank goodness for Ben

Thank God for us

After baseball

When the Tidewater heat was reuniting with the humidity

I used to catch the bus

To shoot hoops at Blow Gym

After awhile this kid named John

Challenged me to some 1 on 1

At his house

And my inept cockiness accepted

The next day

With my generic headphones kicking out some Hooligans

I made the ride

Sure I would have no problem

With the soccer playing cross country runner

Since after all

I was a basketball player

I should have been listening

“Teenage wasteland/They’re all wasted”

Because little did I know

That my friend and opponent

Made up for in hustle

What he lacked in hoops ability

The games were typical suburban, driveway events

Each using the bushes on the right to advantage

And the sidewalk to the left

For the fade away

In the end we traded wins and loses

Called it a day

Both too tired….

Wasted teenagers.

A thirsty quartet
Fell rapidly under the face wrenching
Hyped up misery
Of one Pepe Lopez
His red sombrero shared time and again.
His inspiration disabling.

The Taking Heads
Entered the fray
With huge jackets
And intoxicating synth
To prod normally subdued wallflowers
Into a Rich Little attempt
At bringing the video to life

The vocals, exact as slurry can be
But the iconic “same as it ever was arm chop”
From the other video brought the precision of Bruce Lee
Hacking along in rhythm until
The end of the song
Brought Pepe’s last gesture
Which we all understood
To mean good night

We woke to a blazing sun
Sometime close to the noon hour
Finding Pepe finished
And one of us gone
A foggy search
That was more hopeful
Of something embarrassing
Than being urgently carried out
Led to
A worn and reliable white pick up truck
And our missing friend honoring
The spirit’s wishes
Still sacked out in the bed

The night was dark

Cold pushed against

The closed bedroom door

As the baseboard heat

Labored to keep the chill at bay

Like most nights

I crawled into bed

Living the life as a

Newcomer to independence and loneliness where

Flipping statistics flashcards

Became a not so sweet lullaby

Maxed out

I grabbed the Paste magazine my friend

Dropped off

The sampler cd was full of unknowns

And I prepared to be asleep before the first song ended

On the plastic bins that doubled as my dresser

Sat an old cd player

Begging for a job

In went the disc

I hit play and killed the light

The whir of the player

Brought the most amazing sound

A haunting and tragic song

That grabbed at my sadness and drew from my soul

The exact pain that Neko expressed

On that night, through that song,

I realized loss beckons for founds

And what I gained by playing that song

Over and over again

Was perspective that life doesn’t end

But it keeps going

With new opportunities and potentials

Eight years later

Star Witness now on my iPod

The cd passed on to a friend

I still get that eerie feeling

That warms my soul

Letting me feel the beauty that is my life

With no statistics

No baseboard heat

No loneliness.

O’ Pachelbel
Your song of serenity
Brought calm to English class
When the only cool student teacher
From William and Mary
Gave us a book report
Based on a famous American
To be written from said person’s
Point of view
I got lost in your sounds
Thinking of being over seven feet tall
The words ducking under low ceilings
Phrases of feet sticking well beyond traditional beds
Verbs begging for privacy
From the celebrity famous basketball players endure

You grew my junior year, Pachelbel
But really, who are you, maestro

O’ Pachelbel
Your negative influence
Tapped at my wrist
As I pained every second
Of my adolescent servitude to selfishness and snottiness
Attending a wake instead of the wedding before me
And I thought your long drawn out arrangements
Would never end
And I would miss a party with my friends

I’m still paying for that, Pachelbel
Known more as the surly teen
Than the kid inspired to stand on the desk
While reading about Sampson’s travails
Long before Dead Poets hit the screen

O’ well, Pachelbel
So the earning of a reputation

During second semester
Senior year 1985
After all the college commitments
Were secured
There was still that little
Bit of annoyance
Known as study hall
That had to be survived

Finishing Chemistry homework was out
The points and grade already secured
The Richmond Times Dispatch was
Unable to capture my pre-Internet attention span
So my friend and I concocted a plan,
To pass the time istyle

The westward expansion offered many filmstrips
Complete with cassettes
To prompt the turning of the frame
We checked out the works
Under the guise of edification
But once under the silence
Of the big blue institutional headphones
We popped in a little Easy Lover

She wasn’t…

The librarian
Noticing that the wagon train
Was still on slide one
Suspected something amiss
She was not really the kind of girl we dreamed of
And when the door opened
And she stood staring
I knew there was no changing her

I believed it

So I hustled back
To the paper
Hoping the rest of my senior sentence
Would end