Tuesday, April 18, 2017

On Acting

I wish I was still acting, I think.
It’s been 11 or so years since I decided I probably would not properly take advantage of the opportunity. A quizzical, if understanding, nod from my theater professor.
I don’t know if it was fear or practicality that decided, probably a mix.
Sometimes I think practicality is just a mask for the fear of what will happen if the unlikely remains so.
Either way.

For a good while, I lied.
Partly as a way to appease my need to pretend, but likely mostly out of fear.
Nothing big.
“Yes, I know that band. I think the only one I’ve heard is the self-titled album” (most bands have a self-titled album)
“Yes, I’ve read/seen that cultural and/or intellectual touchstone” (one can often divine the bullet points of iconic books/movies through references and parodies made in lesser works of pop culture.)
“No, I won’t be able to make it. I have/don’t have fill in the blank.” (sitting on the futon wondering why I didn’t go, wondering how it would be received if I showed up anyway.)
“I’m so sorry. I completely forgot about it.” (watching the minutes tick by, waiting for the call.)
“No, that’s okay.” (weighing principles against loneliness.)

I act calm.
I act indifferent.
I act as though I understand.
I act as though I know.

I loved acting because it allowed me to inhabit a different life, a more perfect version of humanity.
Confidence, anger, fear, love, shaped and buoyed by the ideal words at the ideal time.
Each step and gesture choreographed for maximum effect.

Walking home from school as early as I can remember and still today, on my commute, I play out scenes. What I could have said, what I would say if. How would I stand and what would I be doing with my hands. The tone. The inflection. The sweep of each pause and accent.
They would of course respond according to the script. I know what to say, because I know what they will do. My response is quick, cunning, and reasonable.
And scene.

Maybe I gave up on acting because I knew it wasn’t real. I knew I couldn’t make it what I wanted it to be.

But, of course, I didn’t know at all. I was just afraid there was no me outside the roles to do the work.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Six Years

Hello all,


So, it’s been six years since the crash. Every year, starting maybe two weeks out, but really ramping up in the final week, my brain becomes weighed down with thoughts and images and reflections of and on my experience since that night. I have discovered that writing out my more complex or frenzied thoughts, be it in prose or poetry, tends to help release them. It allows me to reflect on and, in a way, distance myself from them. I am able to hold them and look at them analytically, as opposed to just being overwhelmed by largely illegible noise. That is the reason I write this letter every year. I send it to a community of people whose energy has been helpful in large and small ways over the last six years. If I simply wrote it out and saved it, it would not have the same effect. The thoughts must be seen to be released. Every year I do this I am conflicted. I worry about my true motivations. I worry that it will be seen as as just wanting attention or being unable to let it go. It may seem self-important to assume anyone wants to read this stuff, but it is helpful to me. And I don’t think it is unhelpful to understand the wide-reaching and constantly changing consequences of one’s actions and one’s responses to the actions of others. Grief and trauma are foundationally human experiences and I think by living through and better understanding those experiences we better accept humanity in all its pros and cons. If you would like to not receive these letters in the future, please let me know and I will be happy to take off your name. But, thank you for reading. Sorry it’s long.           


Six years ago I watched my good friend die. He was two feet away from me in the cab of his truck. I didn’t do anything about it. I don’t know that I could have. In the moment, I did not realize I had witnessed his last breath. The wet, gasping cough. He bucking against his seatbelt. I guess I don’t know that it was his last. There was no one to ask for help. I wanted to get out of the truck because I was scared and because I thought maybe I could find someone. I didn’t think about the phone in my pocket. The passenger side door was pinned against the asphalt so I crawled, legs first out the windshield. I left him there alone. I didn’t realize my legs would not work; or that I wouldn’t even be able to sit up because of the fire in my abdomen. I did my friend no favors lying cold on the highway shoulder. He was alone when the off-duty EMT arrived to press two fingers to his neck. I didn’t even think about that until two days after I arrived at the hospital. There was too much noise and pain and nauseous certainty. In the minutes, hours, days after the crash there was no foresight or reflection. Nothing but what was needed to survive to the next moment. A blur of concussive metal sparks and plastic masks and tubes and glass and cold and kindness and practicality and claustrophobic screams echoing across the black spaces never filled in but told about later and guessed at years after that and in the midst of it all the warm, familiar depth of sweatshirt arms patiently making sure I knew I was still alive while, behind me, never seen, they began to handle my friend. Before the sentencing hearing, the court asked that I describe my memories of the crash. In it, I wrote that, before the ambulance arrived, I had heard the second EMT say she needed gloves, but I don’t remember that happening.


Before the ambulance arrived, I asked the off-duty EMT who held me in her sweatshirt arms to call my wife, but she said not to worry about that now. I wanted my wife to know where I was, what had happened. I wanted to tell her I was alive at that moment. I did not think about her birthday eight days before. I did not picture her waiting for three hellish hours alone before the hospital called her. Her birthday cards were still on the refrigerator and the counter. In the month I was away from home after that night, she saw those cards. I did not know that every year after she would dread the approach of her birthday, knowing how it will feel eight days later.


Over the last six years, my experience with and responses to the trauma of that night and the months that followed have shifted and mutated many times. In previous years I have talked about becoming bogged down in a sort of existential mud as the anniversary approaches. At other times I have written of the futility of anger and the disatisfaction of acceptance. A consuming heaviness. The insistent, battering roar of the highway. The fullness and warmth of the deep void left by the loss of Alex.


This year brought another shift, one away from the creeping dread of recollection and toward the bare understanding of flat inevitability. I think about the crash at least once a day. Usually, these thoughts are sparked by a sudden, burning twinge in my knee. Planting my foot incorrectly as I stand up from the car; lifting my son, Jack, from the floor; carrying a duffel bag full of drum hardware up some irregular steps; dancing in the living room with Jack; sometimes just walking the dog. One careless footfall and the pain races the length of my body like lightning. Regular exercise seems to make these strikes more frequent, but also recede more quickly. However, the effect is never benign. Sometimes my response is little more than a heavy sigh or quick  grimace, a flutter of eyelid spasms to register, absorb, and move on from the shock. Sometimes a clenching of teeth and a biting of the lower lip. Sometimes a solitary, even-toned, “Fuck.” (Sometimes the tone used is less even.) Sometimes a flash of Chevy side panel and sparks. Sometimes a flash of Joshua Blackburn and the meeting I was denied. Sometimes a few minutes of “god damn it. I did absolutely nothing to deserve this and it’s incredibly unfair and there’s nothing I can do but keep fucking walking.” Sometimes I have to sit down, or at least stop moving, and wait in silence for whatever it is to ebb. Sometimes I want to punch Joshua or the wall or something. Sometimes I just see Alex and Nissa in our living room together, laughing and eating and drinking before the whole thing rips apart like film slipping off the projector sprockets, melting into white and tickticktickticktick. Sometimes I see myself in the future explaining to Jack why I have to stop. Sometimes I see Jeannine and Sean, huddled together on the couch. The initial stab of pain soon fades to an ache and lasts an hour or the rest of the day, but the images generally last only a few minutes. This is a welcome change from the more crippling episodes of past years, but it also reveals the cold reality that this is not going away. It will never not be a possibility. I do not spend as much time as I used to anticipating its arrival, but the insistent disruption of its presence has not diminished. The needling thing is it’s entirely possible that anyone of my age and fitness might feel a similar pain without having been in a crash, but it doesn’t matter. I associate any pain below my waist with the crash. Every time my feet or ankles are sore, every time my knee aches. And it isn’t always limited to my legs. Every time I have difficulty swallowing a piece of pasta I wonder if it's because of undiagnosed neck trauma. Every time I have a pain in my chest I wonder if it’s untreated bruising of my ribs. It is a constant thought, an inescapable presence; and each new year brings with it the further understanding that it is now an inextricable part of our lives. Nissa’s birthday has been corrupted. She hates its coming, because of what comes with it. Each time one of us passes the scene of a crash we are thrown into reflection and anger and sadness. And, again, that is likely the case for many people, but we have no option but to associate it with what has happened and what can never be changed. Be it a simple, “ugh, and this too.” or a drawn out and draining mediation on sleepless nights and unknown darknesses and tender understandings and surreal moments and gasping frustrations and just plain, stupid truths. There are still the odd days at work or the evenings at home where very little gets done because my mind has become so distracted or consumed with melancholy and/or frantic dwellings on crashes and pain and loss that productivity cannot penetrate, but those are fewer and further between. The hallmark of this year has been the bare, unflinching knowing that some things will not leave. Money will not return. Knees will not regenerate. Calendar days will not cease to have relevance. Alex will not come back. We continue to live with tragedy and gratitude.


I credit much of my ability to bounce back from episodes of heaviness to Jack. He forces me to remain present and, sometimes merely as a practical matter, to dwell on nothing but what he needs or how far I think he can climb up that table before intervention is necessary. The simple contentedness of being with him is a gift, but it is also a prism through which to view my experience. It is the exception which proves the rule. The (more often than not) clarity of focus when I’m with him throws into sharp relief the cluttered state of my mind the rest of the time. His carefree nature sometimes reminds me that there will come a time when he needs to know things he would rather not. His transformative presence reminds me how cruelly world-altering would be his absence; and how I know Jeannine must feel.


A revealing episode occurred a few weeks ago. I was struck with a medium case of food poisoning a day after a particularly demanding gig with the band. We went on at after midnight and didn’t get back home until 3 am and my joints were feeling it the next day. So there I was on the couch, nauseous and disoriented from sickness and sore from performing, feeling for all the world like I was back in the hospital. That night, in a brief moment of more intense fever, I told Nissa how it made me feel, like I was back in the bed, unable to move my legs, constantly just a little queasy, unsure of how long it would last. I told her I didn’t want to go back to the hospital. I told her I didn’t want Jack to ever be in the hospital. Two days ago, after the most recent shooting in San Bernardino, Nissa told me she worries about Jack going to a big city school, but also realizes that being in a big city has nothing to do with it, that there’s nothing we can do to stop it. I replied, “nothing we can do about anything. We have to show him that fear is irrelevant while attempting to create a world in which fear is unjustified” That’s the way I genuinely feel, but it is not always easy to convince my brain of that. Greater than my discomfort at re-living the crash is my fear that Jack will someday know how I feel.


Anyway, I fully realize there are more immediate and more widespread tragedies than this occurring every day to humans that do not deserve it. I understand our problems are relatively mild in the larger scheme of the world. And, I’d like to add, my thoughts are not this heavy every day. There are just sometimes that are worse. The poem included at the end of this describes a very specific feeling I experience sometimes. Sometimes I still feel like this; and sometimes I likely always will. Like my leg pain, it doesn’t come as often or stay as long as it once did; but when it does come, it stings.



I like to use this day to track my experience though this mess, much as some might use a birthday or wedding anniversary to reflect on the past year. I appreciate your listening and your patience.

SIX YEARS SAME AND DIFFERENT


The upturned carpet corner smoothed.
The mosquito needle swatted.
The molding drywall chlorine wiped
The road-etched kneecap kissed.


Insanity is repetition
borne with different expectations.
Futility is understanding
what’s repeating cannot change.


The missing tissue.
The moments stolen.
The date approaching.
The fucking choice.


I wondered loudly
why his face
is like an anvil
out at sea.


The silent hands.
The certain eyes.


I want to
go to
sleep.




Take care, have fun, drive safe.

Love,

David

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Stages of Feeling

I write poems to commemorate special occasions or at times of deep emotion. For whatever reason, it's just how I process things. I am sometimes unable to let go of certain emotions until I write a poem about them. Often, not always, it is required that I show someone else the poem before the thoughts and emotions can be fully released. Since the recent death of my grandmother, I have tried in vain to write a poem that would honor her unique character and her place in my life. I lack the art to sufficiently encapsulate how I feel about her without just listing thirty-some years of memories and examples. Thus far, what I've managed is this. Three poems less specifically about her and more about my processing of her illness and death.

The first was written as she was deciding whether to undergo a surgery that may or may not have made her any more comfortable and may have made it worse. The second was written after my mother called to inform me of her passing. The third was written several days after the funeral.

After having written the first two, I assumed I would write the third. I assumed it would be, and set out to write it as, more celebratory than it turned out. I guess there's more that needs to be felt and thought about. Perhaps I will write a fourth in a week or two.


IN TRANSITION


“She’s just wearing out, breaking down” they say,
and I remember the subtle bite of salt hidden
in each ideal chocolate chip cookie pulled down
greedily from the freezer.

I remember a time when she carried me home
from the Fourth of July parade. The time the heat
forced newly-patched asphalt to ooze tar. I walked
barefoot, because it was a small town and I was a child.

Her navy slacks set off the red accents in her mostly white
top and matched her navy orthopedic shoes. Before
the walker, I think, but after the bag of pills. She may
never have been able to carry me at all, but that’s how
I remember her. My other Grandma may have worn that top.

She would reel with laughter in her chair when Kirby
Puckett ran the bases. His relatively stubby legs pumping
like a cartoon, propelling his belly and endearing, goateed
cheeks in a surprisingly efficient arc, his talent and will
taming gravity on the field.

And after he left, the accusations came, tarnish added
to his bronzed fist pumping as he rounded third in Game 6.
Sense memory interrogated upon receipt, but only ever after.
The spontaneous trigger to elation cannot be disarmed.

And I remember her voice when I called about Grandpa.
She was steady. She understood that pain and liberation
and connection and loneliness are inextricably entwined.
She had seen enough of time to know its blank persistence.
I remember realizing we were both adults.

I remember the cards for every conceivable holiday. I remember
the increasing slant of her cursive, the humps squishing so low only
a practiced eye could translate. I remember my responses.
Short, pleasant, shy. Rarely diving much past, “It’s a busy time.”
and always returning with “...but things are good.”

Except one. She was in rehab after a fractured back
And I wrote claiming expertise, encouraging participation,
suggesting motivations and techniques, as though my month
in the hospital made us peers in disability.

But I recognized my own tubes and devices as some I had seen
connected to her on short visits to various antiseptic rooms.
Smiling and trying not to notice the smells and the veins
and the translucent plastic vessels marked in millimeters.

Her skin so soft and thin, stretched taut where the tape
secured the IV to her hand. As I first felt the blurry warmth
of opiates shiver through my system, I lived again the linoleum
and the sheets, the gown and the unfamiliar angles of flesh
and neckline.  All the small embarrassments of convalescence.

I remember standing at my mother’s side, speaking when prompted,
shying away from the discomfort. I was too young at the time
to recognize myself in that bed. I remember the evening
I understood we are all just bodies and brains.
We fall apart and heal and sometimes don’t.

I remember her on Christmas, surrounded by her family and piles
of brightly-wrapped packages, so excited to see how excited we were,
slightly wary of our disappointment.  I remember more 
than is necessary to mention.
I remember she asked for a copy of my wedding poem, 
because she thinks I am amazing.
I can offer nothing but to return the favor.



--------------------------------------------------------------

IT'S SUNNY HERE


It's sunny here in California.
There's no reason it wouldn't be.
The meteorology calls for it and it is.
I've only once seen it rain at a funeral.
It came down briefly. Shimmering gray sheets
cutting across the cars caravaning to the grave site.
There was some talk of holding the ceremony indoors,
but the sun returned once everyone had parked.
The freshly turned soil wasn't even muddy.
The grass sweat as though it was early morning.
The green carpet surrounding the grave glistened
like the edge of a miniature golf hole water feature.
Our shoes were a bit damp as we walked
in twos and threes and fours back to the cars,
some craning skyward to check the clouds,
wondering if there was room in the garage
for all the folding tables if it came to that.

But this is not a funeral.
It's a Wednesday. The phone call has ended
and the intermittent static of a weak connection
has been replaced again by the oscillating wash
of the highway. The front door is open.
Sunlight sections the rug into rectangles and trapezoids.
My son has been napping and is now wake.
It's time for a snack and a conversation.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------


AFTERWARD

She lies there in slightly exaggerated makeup,
like an actress feigning death on stage.

I stand and watch, unwilling to indulge the illusion,
watching for the tell-tale rise of her chest.

The stillness of her lips belies the blush of her cheek.
Her perfectly folded hands. Her sweater,
fitted neatly at the shoulders, half-closed just so
over the black top underneath.

I remember pretending to sleep when I was younger.
I would arrange my limbs and clothes for maximum effect.
The perfect blend of realistic and precious. I would turn
my face to the car door or back of the couch
(to hide any irrepressible smirk) and imagine
my parents’ tilted head in the rearview mirror smile
or turn to say and then stop and shoulders drop and half smile aww
he must be tired like a tv show
where the conversation can wait for another time.

Leg half off the couch. One arm draped behind hip,
one tucked under the back cushion. Mouth hung slightly open.
Face slack. Overpowered by exhaustion, not curled to sleep by choice.
(I would often fall asleep in the car for real in odd poses, neck limp
and head bobbing forward or mouth wide to the roof,
which only lent my ruse believability.)

More often than not they or my sister would just repeat my name,
increasing in volume each time until they stopped with a sigh.
I held my eyes tight, breathing steady,
slightly more still than was authentic.

Her jewelry sparks beneath the church lights as I shift
to watch her hands. I remember their fragile softness,
but hesitate to touch them.

I turn away and join a group of aunts and cousins.
Laughter, sniffs, and conversations fade in and out
across the waiting room.

A red-faced cousin watches through swollen eyes
as my son tests his newfound ability to run.

I remember a photo of Grandma at my sister’s wedding.
She is sitting in a church pew in purple, turning to watch
something out of frame. I assume it is either children or grandchildren.
She wears the barest hint of a smile. Her eyes are soft, but not fawning.
She is comfortable in her pride and contentment.
She is humble in her well-earned confidence.

I remember leaning down to hug her. I remember potato salad
and her struggling to rise from the back seat to her walker.
I remember summer evenings and that giant maple 
scratching skeleton fingers at the window as I lay without covers 
in my Aunt’s former bedroom, a tender layer of Aloe Vera 
coating the sunburn on my over-zealous back and chest.
I remember her squinting, transformative laugh.
I remember her nasal, barking attempts
to be picked up by Grandpa’s hearing aid.
I remember the piercing, genuine concern
in her voice at every Christmas or wedding
when I mentioned my leg or how busy we have been.

I return to the casket, watching her hands and her blushed cheeks.
Too still to be sleeping. I lift my hand to hers.
I feel the softness and cold.

I remember the weight of her body, the strain of my wrist on the handle
as we maneuvered her onto the remarkably specific mechanism
in the back of the hearse.

I am so happy to have known her. I am so happy
so many did. I understand the practicalities of death.
I don’t know why I am still sad.

I don’t know why I pretended to be asleep.
I could have been with my family.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Five Years

Hello all,


Last year at this time, I was preoccupied with large, hypothetical questions. About Jack’s arrival. About the unspoken agreement into which one enters when welcoming a child into the world. About loss and acceptance. Over the last year I have found a parent has little time for such existential pondering. Concerns are more immediate. One thinks only a few days ahead. Is he fed? Is he tired? Are his clothes washed? Is he in any impending danger? How long will it take him to reach that cord and do I have time to get there first? Does he need a hat or does he need sunscreen? How cold out is it to a baby? Even at 3 am, squinting into the darkness, quietly singing and trying to discern whether he’s sitting up or lying down, I’m much more concerned with remembering all the words to “Hey Jude” than I am about what it might mean if he was taken from us.


On this, the fifth anniversary of the reason I write these emails, I find this trend applies to my thinking on the matter in general. More often than not, more immediate concerns take the place of getting caught up in memories of the crash. My sleep is rarely bothered by flashbacks to that night. I’m a great deal calmer when riding in the passenger seat. I’m less worried when Nissa is late that she is likely dead on the side of the road somewhere. Even vehicle crashes on tv and in movies are less apt to send me spiraling than they once were.


However, this distance from troubling thoughts makes those thoughts all the more affecting when they do come to the surface. Those moments reveal the deep, insidious nature of trauma and the wide-ranging consequences of one bad decision.. Now the already familiar pain is coupled with a feeling of, “Is this still happening?” and “How long does this last?” It leaves one feeling marked forever, that one will never be free of this knowledge or its influence.
feel the weight of my purpose there. I wish I had no expertise to offer. Each morning I open the door to leave for work, the blaring rush of the highway strikes me full in the chest, washing over me and filling my brain with its cold and tragic potential. And sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I just cringe at how loud it is outside our house. I can never know until I step outside how large or small the blow will be. Each time a car comes up behind me too quickly, each time a car cuts me off suddenly without a signal. Each time an ambulance passes me with lights flashing, I feel a twinge of recognition. Each time I pass an accident, I remember it could happen again. Each time I pass a serious accident, a body on the pavement or a stretcher, I am lost for a day or two. I dwell on how it felt, how it would feel again, if it were me, if it were Nissa. What would happen to the other of us? What would happen to Jack? What will happen to the family of the victim? How long will they think about it every day until it becomes a thing that has happened?



Some effects are less expected. When I apply for a new credit card and am rejected because my credit score was ruined when my hospital bills went to collection while I was waiting for the financial assistance program to kick in. When I look at our savings account. When I jog around the room while holding Jack to make him giggle and my knee hurts for hours afterward. When I step over the couch and tweak my joint so badly that it aches for days. When I’m on the floor doing stretching and strength-building exercises and my knee still can’t bend more than 80 or so degrees. When I watch Jack learning to crawl and stand and I realize that it was only five years ago that my movements mirrored his. When Jeannine casually mentions Alex in conversation and her voice suddenly catches, a tear glistening at the corner of her eye. When I watch Nissa cringe as she opens her birthday cards, because it reminds her of a time five years ago when birthday cards hung on the fridge and she was at home by herself.


It is in these moments that I come closest to anger, to bitterness, towards Joshua Blackburn, the man responsible. I hate feeling both of these things. It makes me upset at myself to be angry, which of course makes me all the more angry at Joshua. In last years email I wrote,


“I am in the relatively unique position of having one simple and identifiable cause for my immediate troubles, a cause with a face and name. The reason I am privy to these thoughts is not a mystery. It is not divine and it is not complex. However, the necessary response is complex. Joshua Blackburn made a horrific mistake, one that I know he will spend the rest of his life haunted by. He is not inhuman. He is not evil. He made a decision to drive, knowing he was likely too drunk to do so responsibly.”


While I am grateful for my ability to view the situation with a certain amount of balance and empathy, I can say definitively that such a measured response is not often satisfying. I sometimes long to act on my immediate reactions without filter, to lash out, to throw something across the room, to give into bitterness and spew my momentary pessimism and vitriol on Facebook. I come as close to wanting to punch someone as I can ever remember. But I know it is not productive. I do not want to be an example of bitterness, of fatalistic “Why me?” thinking. I want to respond with empathy and logic, to encourage others to do the same.


This is why I continue to give the MADD speech, despite its heaviness. To reveal the true consequences of one stupid decision and to inspire empathy in others. Not just empathy to the victims or to themselves and their immediate family, but to all of humankind. I hope with all my heart that they understand how much damage they are capable of doing another’s life, and how closely all our lives resemble each other’s, how easily it could be them. I want to make clear the idea that pain is universal. If one could knowingly prevent another from potentially experiencing pain, the effects of which one knows to be terrible, then why wouldn’t one do so? It is the understanding of our shared human frailties which can most meaningfully bring people from disparate backgrounds together. Our collective refusal to acknowledge the universality of tragedy as a human constant tends to preclude the idea of compromise, or decisions, for the greater good.



Alex was highly empathetic. He was not always the most tolerant or the most understanding person, but he had a way of locking in and being completely present in a conversation. If he decided you were worth it, he was dedicated to honoring your existence. He was warm and funny and honest and clever. I don’t know that I ever met a man more capable than he, certainly not any at his age. I only knew him for a year and a half, but I think of him as one of my closest friends. I know that my deep connection to his death gives him a special and permanent place in my being, but in life he was as close to me as any friend I’d ever had. I don’t know if I always responded as well as I could have. I have never found it easy to make friends and I have always struggled to be open. Once when I was visiting my parents in Minnesota, Alex texted me “Listening to William Elliott Whitmore and reading your blog. I like you.” William Elliott Whitmore was a musician I had recently recommended. He sang dark folk ballads about farming and prairie life. I had told him about it a few days before about my blog, which at the time, featured a story I was writing in short, serialized chunks. I’ve always been upset at myself for my response to his text. I wrote simply, “Awesome!” I wish I had said, at least, “me too.” I have often beat myself up for this. But I realized something, Alex had always liked me for the person he knew me to be. He liked me. I don’t know that he was expecting anything when he wrote that. He just wanted me to know. This year I find myself thinking, when listening to music or watching movies, “Oh, Alex would like this.” I don’t even know if it’s true. Alex and I often disagreed on music. I think just want to be able to share things with him again. I liked Alex.

I don’t particularly want to write any of this. I do not write it to ask for pity or for help.. Each year in the days leading up to April 14th, the ever-present whirlpool of crash-related thoughts grows wider and more rapid. It pulls me in and weighs me down, until I have to expel the thoughts into these rambling emails and poems. I appreciate very much that you are all out there to read it if you like. (Let me know and I can take you off the list if you prefer.) Sometimes one just needs a wall to splash with whatever’s inside. Seeing it up there allows some reflection and distance. Having others see it allows the burden to be shared. I appreciate the opportunity to share my burden. I know I am a very lucky man to be able to ramble like this I’m doing well. I’m stronger than I’ve been in years and grateful to say so. I thank you for being there to listen.



This poem is kind of mess, but it is what it is and it's written as it came out:





LIVING NEAR THE HIGHWAY AFTER WHAT HAPPENED
It's just too loud outside sometimes.
The highway washes over us
like shattered glass, like crooked
limbs, like Tequila and Star Wars laid out
on the coffee table next to his
dusty motorcycle boots. Gluten free
and piled high and served like family,
slouched deep in the sofa, feet up and
talking open -- nonsense and some not
and how could he find a woman like
my wife. A real woman, he and my
wife agreed.
My wife who sat alone waiting,
Who stood alone in the kitchen
surrounded by birthday cards.
Who will open her cards each year
remembering what it will feel like
eight days later. Who remembers
what if felt like five years ago.
He laughed from the sofa, nodding.
He was twenty six. He had spent
his whole life learning how to make,
how to forge and create and self-sustain.
He built his own tools to build his
own guitar. He cobbled together his
motorcycle, which leaned on its kickstand
outside our front window. He left
it there that night. Walked home just
across the highway, over the bridge. He
was always completely responsible about
things like that. If he could help it
he would never jeopardize another.
Why couldn’t he find a woman like
my wife?
My wife who held bedpans under me.
Who lotioned my chapped and useless
feet. Who looks at our son each day
knowing full well how Alex’s mother
feels. Our son who never met
and will not meet our friend.
A different night, months later, Alex
left his motorcycle leaning in his
parents’ backyard and drove to
Oakland for band practice. The
motorcycle stayed there gathering weeds
and cobwebs for years until it was
removed. Until it was removed
leaving a matted depression of
tall grass like a scar across the
yard, along my left titanium knee,
across the asphalt of the highway,
scraping metal on metal on road and
sparking dead and fading grasses each
year at this time. It’s too loud outside.
we sit and listen to the road. My wife
and I.
My wife who built her own business.
Who shopped with Alex for wood to
mount her visions in a coffee shop.
Who stopped her life to make sure my
life did not stop. Who sat there waiting
To hear if I was alive.
We sit and listen and remember we
all still need to drive sometimes.
Sometimes we forget what happened and
remember Alex.