Saturday, August 09, 2008


In retrospect, you looked so funny
with those streaks of black and brown
shoe polish
on your poverty-burnished cheeks,
clenched teeth and mock anger.

“D’ya want me to shoot ya with yo gun
or cut ya with ma knife?” you growled unconvincingly.

It pained me to let you down.
You were my best friend, but I was thirsty.

“Let’s get a drink first,” I gasped.
“And a piss,” you grunted.

We ran to your place to quench our thirst
and empty our bladders.
Then you dragged me to your room,
opened a desk drawer and pulled out
a small diary.
You gave me a conspiratorial look and flipped
to the page where you had stashed
a ten drachma coin.
It flashed in my eyes like the silver moon
at which I howled in envy.

You had already started to save for your passage
out of misery, out of poverty – to America.
I suppose you gave the same look to your shipmate
before you jumped ship twenty years later.
I knew you always wanted to play with the real Cowboys
and Indians – I wasn’t much of a challenge for you.

Your promised land wasn’t easy on you at first.
It pitted you against dishwasher jobs –
mostly in burger joints.
The American dream was not for you:
too much fat and salt
gradually gnawed on a frail heart.
But you persevered, knowing that Texas wasn’t far
from California, that you could always wear
a Cowboy hat at work.

News of your death at the age of fifty five sailed in
with your son – he looks so much like you!
You were buried with a cowboy hat and boots.
I’ve always thought this part was for me, but
I cut off the Grim Reaper at the pass
and got away with a bypass.
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