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for Brett

Far off in Missouri
at Malcolm Bliss home
you learn to keep your mind
behind a trenchcoat.
You choose your asylum
and forget Quixote in the rain.
You let the bastards lock you up again.

I write to say these things
we both refuse to know -
that your eyes have faded –
that you don’t care about the codes now.
Your easy Beethoven lights their dreams tonight
but you can’t grow angry enough
and they castrate you with your own damn razor,
make your poetry mute -
end your timid love of beautiful women.

In our college days
you gave me music and lyric
exchanged for mindless courage.
Did you forget the purpose of graveyard ice cream
or the logic of barefoot skating,
and do your fingers no longer fondle typeset
like your paintbrush?
Now does your structured mind
ferret Tillich & Crumb?
Or has your mother finally given us
that mental bath?

In your new world
chicanos still screw on a dirty beach,
but the world isn’t so kind now.
Citizens stare uneasily at your laser eyes
and spook at your abstract precocity.
They fear your eccentricities
like the plague of their discomfort
in the presence of a cripple.

With the enforcement of certain electricity
they burned your map
stole your memory of buried harmonica boxes
and a forced goosestep march down the mountain.
Gone is life in a Billings duplex
where dark baroque melodies
echo from the garage.

You claim that boot camp changed me –
made me furtive in my poetry,
but St. Louis has your balls
and the west wind moans -
mourning over packed snow in Montana.
I can’t write again if they’ve beaten you.
If they’ve beaten you again.


Ken McElroy

Helena, United States

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