The streets are named for German poets in my huge provincial Midwestern city. Dust whirls up from the tires of passing cars, lifting a veil over me, like Romantic longing. On Goethe, I want nothing more than to reach down and feel a lover’s big skull in my hands. On Schiller, lust subsides, among the wrought iron doors and grand steps, lined with hundreds of dollars of candles. Inside, patricians mingle in the high-minded friendships I desire for myself. About this, as so much else, the flowers in the window-boxes on Schiller are philosophical. Their arguments are convoluted, but concern the beauty of simplicity, freedom from need, and, even more often, the depredations of time. One fat peony speaks as if she were the Sybil: “Live with your century but do not be its creature.”
In this story, the gun
doesn’t go off. The sun
melts the pistol into a vase,
the intact barrel becoming a lip
to hold flowers. The un-murdered
kiss, their clothes sliding
to the floor, their orgasms proof
of a feminine ending.
There can be nothing humble about a modern supplicant
if circumstance leaves him begging for a five-pound block
of cheese. Someone makes sandwiches of broken glass
and light mayo for the children of the divorced, who are us.
My father plods around our small apartment, the rooms arranged in a square, the center of which is the staircase up from the garage below. He’s 72 and has taken to wearing only boxer briefs anytime he is at home, stripping his other clothes off moments after he gets through the door. He still works 40 hours a week on graveyard shifts. Seven years have passed since he started fighting cancer. He’s singing the words Life’s a bitch, and then you die at a high volume because he’s going deaf and he wants to hear his own reaffirmations. He told me and my brother he’s done living once we move out. He wasn’t threatening us. He wants us to flourish and move out, stepping into our own lives. He wants us to love him enough to let him shoot himself.
Whitney BrunoAfter Watching the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery