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: Wednesday, November 27, 2002 :

it's never just naivete
that gets you caught
never just plain ignorance

it's the attraction for danger:
hittin' the accelerator
and prayin' you don't crash

so reflection tells me
my mother wanted it
must've understood
must've known
to some extent
that my father's edge
cut deeper
couldn't just be tamed
by a quiet voice
that
said
STOP

it's the classic case--
the raped virgin
the attraction for
danger
violence
anger
that warps into panic
when the danger turns inwards

the stupidity gets me
the lack of radar
that senses a reason
for the violence

the stupidity
that assumes
it'll get better

cure itself

stupidity
to avoid the questions--
why the drugs
the alcohol
the excesses

stupidity
to think love conquers all

it doesn't

the questions start
when you've stepped back
and allowed yourself
some kind of objectivity

when psychological survival's
no longer the issue

when you see similar sketches
of personalities you know
and understand how society's
analyzed them
judged them
categorized them

You finally have a reference

so it starts reluctantly
the blame

first
by way of defense:
naivete
inexperience
how could she have known?

then you learn to analyze
go over the gray areas
realize that for a biased
simplistic analysis
the explanation works

'cuz you love her
the explanation works

but you see the truth
even if it's years before
the acceptance

and the picture broadens
too many pointed fingers
too many gaps
leave you with the inevitable...

that my mother
shares the blame

and you come to terms
with the statement
repeatin' it over and over
feelin' the words

she watched
and did nothing

ignored the excesses
and said nothing

swept my father's addiction
into some corner
of her mind
where things collected
unattended

my brother is right

she had a choice

we didn't



That's what has made all the difference.

__________




8:24 PM [+]
: Tuesday, November 26, 2002 :
my father never said anything
about my black-out

never said anything
about the police station
or
the circumstances
leadin’
up to it

never asked about
the party I was headed for
somewhere in Long Island
or how I got sidetracked
to a car
where
coke and valium
were
mixed into
my drink

never mentioned
the phone-call
from the police
nor what they said--

that I was found
on the subway
and brought in

see I don't remember

'cuz the the night comes in flashes
scattered parts of a fragmented whole:
the car
the drugs
the motel
sex

the LIRR
the escalator leadin’ up to it
the vomit on the stairs
the train
a voice:
“Are you alright?”

nothin’ for a while

then--
different lights
the police station
two cops in front of me

“What are you on?”
“Alcohol.”
“Alcohol doesn’t do that. That’s drugs.”
“Coke. Valium. It was mixed in my drink.”


I've got left-over images
muddled memories:

my stuff--scattered on a desk
the questions
the call to my parents
the favor
(I'm underage but they let me go)

the cab
the cold
the vomit... again
this time, my father holdin' me up


I've always wondered
about my father's silence
whether it came from
trust
or
fear

trust--
that I'd go at it
alone
find my way
experience drugs
then drop it

hope--
that
the proclivity
for drugs and alcohol
wasn't the same

fear--
that certain statistics:
behavioral tendencies
passed on
could be accurate

either way
the silence
must've masked
worry
concern
hesitation for me
...for his own drug-use

must have got him
throwin' second looks
scrutinizin' my choices
my friends
the voices
on the other end of
received phone-calls

instinct tells me
it was trust
like he knew
just knew
that I was like him
but different

different
in the way
that mattered

instinct tells me
he didn't buy into statistics
'cuz his kids
seemed to have
a natural
distaste for heavy drugs

even so
that night goes unmentioned
like some shared secret
some flaw
covered up

I've always expected him
to say something
refer to it
ask out of pure curiosity

But he never did
never brought it up
never said a word


I wonder why.

__________



6:35 PM [+]
: Monday, November 18, 2002 :
They always said I was lucky

years after livin' here
they wrote
to say that in the past ten years
they'd have traded places with me
they'd have given
just about anything
to have tasted
some of those years

to have tasted
like it was some kind of
chef's tastin' menu
up for grabs

but they wouldn't
I know they wouldn't

over years
I wrote back
with a sort of arrogance
pride--

I was in the land of opportunity
I lived the life of sitcoms
Disney movies
the famed American life

so of course I was lucky

why wouldn't I be?

see
but I never told them
about the conditions
the one-bedroom apartment
the alcoholic's signature
the roaches--
so goddamned many
crawlin' in every available
space in our New York apartment

'cuz if I did
if I let slip the situation
then I wouldn't have lived
up to their perception

I wouldn't be lucky

it always crossed my mind
to say somethin'
mention it in passin'
maybe

a word or two
in the letters

and ocassionally I did
wrote
that is

told them
the reality behind the facade
told them
about the worst
years I'd ever lived

but the truth is
I never sent the letters
never got past the
closed envelope

'cuz
in my own way
I wanted
and needed
to be lucky

I'm past that
should be, anyway
and I think about tellin' them
email
letters
phone-calls

it'd be so easy

I figure
we're older
mature
we must have been through
similar experiences

we must have
lived

it's just a matter
of how much
and who's comparing?
so maybe
they'd understand

I envision the scenario
my friends
me
around a table
beer
cigarettes
laughter
as we trade the stories
share the experiences

our worst

figure out
how to laugh about it
dismiss it
categorize it
into
that
thing
called
life

sure
on quiet days
when I've reached a certain peace
I think about it

still--

there's that part of me
that can't talk
about the struggles
the grueling years

doesn't wanna seem
disadvantaged

so in the end
I keep the history brief
I managed... had some good times, bad times, who doesn't?
keep the memories
away
from
judgment

It's pride

I still wanna be considered lucky

__________



11:13 PM [+]
: Thursday, November 14, 2002 :
We never talked
about the beatings
the drugs
the occasional tyranny

eye contact
seemed enough
back then
a tacit understanding
of what all four kids were
going through

it’s a mistake to think
that an abusive parent
brings kids closer

it seems to me
the opposite ensues
bonds break
or never manage
to really form
since the only thing
on your mind is
how and when
it'll end
and how soon
--if ever--
you'll get out of
whatever bad hand
you've been dealt

it’s not that you blame each other
it’s that you find comfort
in people
other than family
in people
who don’t know
who’ve never experienced
your past

the past is easier to talk about
as we’ve aged and found direction
found some kind of psychological stability

as we’ve learned
to move on

but it’s taken time

and we’ve endured
years
of awkward attempts
tryin’ to describe
the pain
and hurt
of livin' with my father
of seein' the scars

my brother and I
talk the least

my brother
‘cuz he’s managed to shut off
key parts of himself
displayin'
the aftermaths
in random decisions
and poor judgments

me--
‘cuz it seems
so… personal

and it’s not that anyone
could fail to understand

it’s that
there's always the possiblity
your problems
could be judged
trivial

and what’s worse
than your own pain
seeming insignificant--
a dot on the landscape
of human suffering?

how do you explain
what the vomiting does to you?
the sounds
the smell
the nightmares that left you
incapacitated for years?

how do you relate the pain
of livin' with an alcoholic?

yeah
it can seem trivial

and it did
back in college
when I flew out to see the eldest:
my brother
a spontaneous decision
between the two of us
to talk

about anything
everything
my father

“Do you remember the beatings?"
"Of course.”
“What do you remember?”
“I remember… the fear… the sounds… I remember you screaming”

it’s the first time
I see my brother cry
his eyes gaping wounds
rubbed raw

it hurts to look at him
‘cuz all you see is

Pain

In a park in San Francisco
we talk for hours
hours
about his anger
his helplessness
his inability to understand
how
a father could beat
how
a mother
could ignore

I confess
that at twenty-one
I don’t have the courage
to speak
to offer profound insight
to say, "I don't get it either"

I can only listen
silenced by two deep gashes
on my brother’s face
wonderin’
how those gashes got so deep
and when the shift happened?

when they moved from defiance
to two open sores?

what eruption
caused it?

when did he break?

there are a number of incidents:
four times
he’s been strait-jacketed
and dragged
into a mental institution
his ability to function
in society
reduced to near zero levels

but on the plane back to New York
I don’t analyze
when it broke

I accept what he is
and know that he will
find his center

He has

but his eyes stabbed me
like some kind of window
that said more
than any word he’d uttered

his eyes were his story

and it left me concerned
about my story
my eyes

‘cuz at the height of my depression
sixteen
a remark was made in passing
that my eyes seemed
…dead

the term
hurt

it felt so inaccurate
incredible years of pain
written off
as something …dead

but the dead years are over
angry years--
gone
and now it's different

Eyes… shift

my brother’s eyes
are normal
I can look into them
and see the proclivity for humor
the curiosity for people
for things
see the life
comin’ together

My eyes--

I still don’t know

there’s the occasional comment
that they’re microscopes
starin’ into people’s souls

Maybe

Either way
snapshots over years
tell our stories
catch the one
overwhelming emotion
we need to share

and over a lifetime of pictures
watchin' your eyes shift with experience
seein' the history
caught in hairstyles, clothes, settings...
you hope
you'll find something


maybe some sort of peace

__________




11:15 PM [+]
: Sunday, November 10, 2002 :
Easy to say you’d never change a thing
about your life
your past

to say you’d live without regrets

to say that any of us
is capable of
really
living with such abandon

but
if handed a tape
of your life
recorded over years

how much would make you cringe?
turn away in shame?
cry
with longing
and regret?

how many mistakes would you count?
how much would you consider unfinished?
how much would you realize
didn’t go
as planned?

and in the end
if allowed to rewind
and edit out sections

wouldn't you succumb
to the temptation

for another chance
at perfection?

wouldn’t the editors
capable of altering life
become esteemed
plastic surgeons

makin’ millions
off people
who need snips
tucks and alterations
to perfect
human nature?

I wonder if life
becomes a series of images
memories
a movie biography
that you watch
and categorize into genres:
drama
comedy
tragedy
horror...

what would my father think
of his
unrehearsed biography

hand on the remote
flickin’ past scenes from his life?

would the vomiting have bothered him?

maybe the video would
play backwards
accidentally :

start on the man--
tired
defeated

and finish at the
New Jersey public library
on the boy
small for his age
dumbo ears
zippin' through
three books a week

or it could start in the middle
as if someone else had watched it
and paused
for some reason or other

letting my father
see the teenage years:
watch himself
deliverin’ newspapers for money
savin’ weekly paychecks
for vanilla ice-cream

the image would make him smile
or cry
dependin' on what he saw
in those eyes

knowin'
the eyes would darken

knowin'
what the eyes would see
ten, twenty, thirty years
down the road

knowin'
as he saw himself on the stoop
of his mother's front door
with a tub of ice-cream
that his life
would harbor
pain
struggle
intense darkness

my guess is
he'd skip the war scenes
replay the lab work
smile at births

I hope
he’d rewind
the drugs
and the drinkin’

and give it a second of thought

with time
maybe the editors would improve
go hi-tech
offer an array of services
show different scenarios

the what if's...

what would've happened if--
the choices were different
the answers had changed
the roads had ended?

how many of the decisions
would be the same?
would change?

statistically?

how much would any of us
regret?


What

How much

would my father regret?
__________



5:17 PM [+]
: Friday, November 08, 2002 :
My father died in June.

On November 1st, day of the dead
a scientist in Mexico received an email
from my dead father.

After the initial shock/fear subsided
my father's old friend hit the reply key
and typed a letter to the man
...if you can call him that

He got a "could not deliver message."

Rational explanations aside...
we're all
still trying
to figure that one out
__________


7:38 PM [+]
: Tuesday, November 05, 2002 :
Religious neighbors in house 33
said I had the devil in me
‘cuz I came from a home
that didn’t read the bible
or even own one

could I figure out how to get to Matthew 5:1?
did I know what the five meant?

how ‘bout the one?

back then I cared
a little concerned
why
my father’s repulsion
for religion
was so strong

wondered
at some point
if the neighbors were right

even searching
for any bodily markings:
666

...in case

my father was never a religious man
never took to the church
the way his God-fearin’ mother did

never understood
how it got her into states
of near insanity

he always believed
what she needed
was a man

and God was just
some intangible
replacement
for fear
and solitude

my brother’s
religious
inclination
is no coincidence

no coincidence either
that he took on the mission
to convert my father

chokin’ my father
through
conversations
and Biblical terms:
Jesus
Sins
God

even while
my father
inhaled a joint

"Jesus Christ”

my father
always said after heavy
monotonous phone-calls
hours long

“Jesus fuckin’ Christ”

not a big deal
atheism

except it got my father
callous
to things like
fortune
and
luck

got him
scared
of
death

I’ve always believed
that in the end
he could have used
...something

not religion
per say

but something
big enough
spiritual enough
philosophical enough

to keep his mind staid

It would have done him some good.


10:17 PM [+]

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