FOR C.C. AND MR. SHAMAN
in memoriam, Mikhail "Mickey" Bykov (1924-2000)
From the pigeon's split stomach, the rat's snout
As if owned by Ruby, the fortuneteller
on 4th St., the rodent, nose quivering,
dangles entrails in the dusk air, so we
can read the future as written in the love-dove's innards.
The rat, euphoric, holds part
of the Holy Ghost in its mouth.
Seeing this, Mickey laughed, "We're blessed." 1986.
"What kinds of fucking names are those, and why
should I give a shit, even if you have an answer?"
is what Mickey would've asked you, if he hadn't died
a few years back. A Queens bolt cutter
from out west, he hooked up one night with Eleanor.
"C'mon, stud," she told him, after which they fucked
on a Brooklyn dock. She died six years later. Pancreatic cancer.
He never held a steady job after that.
In the silo, I lifted feed in my palms,
then tossed it back again, closed my eyes
and listened to my handfuls slide down the feed mound
until there was
no noise. Except the blue jay
squawking in the elm. Then it stopped. Out
of this nothing, Mickey emerged from a blur and woke me up
on a Brooklyn wharf while still talking
about Nebraska. "What?" I asked. "Shut up!" he barked, then dragged me
to a craps game on Fulton St, around the corner
from a syringe in which the four horsemen galloped
through blood puddles beneath Coney Island's Ferris wheel. This
is all that matters. In loser's triumph,
I came here to celebrate the idiotic master.
When he slid the boxcar door closed, my mind shut down.
In that dark, years ago, America counted, at least
for a moment. Waking up as we approached
Omaha, I slid open the door
and a few snowflakes blew in. A strand of trees
along a road. No bird
rose from any branch.
In a field, a frozen pond. Nothing else.
When I stopped drinking, only Mickey liked me.
Sometimes he wrote, banging an old Remington's keys
in a hotel overlooking absence's fruition,
but mostly he just showed up, unannounced,
at a Nebraska wheatfield's edge and stood there, assimilating
He could do this even when he wasn't there.
"I'll tell you what the fuck all this means," he said once.
"It means that even meaning doesn't know what meaning means."
He liked to talk like that.
I don't know who you are,
but Mickey, him I knew.
He would've liked your names.
Besides, I'm in love with things
that are closer to you than you think.
When outsiders pass through town,
The squirrels they feed transcend the imagination.
At the Buggy Tavern, everyone's transfixed
by the guitar note quaking on heaven's other side.
The chain hanging from the motorcycle jacket's shoulder
swings back and forth, the universe's pendulum.
It's a bad-ass night tonight, and when, later
on TV, a water canon's spray
blows like everything ungraspable down a Quebec boulevard
and men and women brave enough to stand up fall down,
even the disinterested peer at the screen.
Another rebellion's blood in the street, although this time
Mickey, the Korean War vet, isn't there, unlike 1989
when he showed up in D. C. and got busted for pissing
on the Pentagon. His buddies
from American Legion Post No. 606 in Brooklyn
bailed him out, although they weren't certain why.
A cheese steak's taste by the river.
At Gander Hill, a visit with Leon.
In the air, the seagull's belly.
This is all I need to live.
When necessary, I drive southwest to the canyon, then return
seeking shoulders that descend into melody.
A woman listens for my footsteps in the woods at night.
Sitting Bull relaxes on grasslands and falls asleep.
From among wheatfields, Mickey came,
dreaming of me, who schemes of ways to talk with you.
On a night when no mind can follow the keyboard's metaphors,
Mr. Africa, cornering me in a Philly alley, proclaimed,
"Taking our water, familiar and clean,
they turn it into a potion that's poison."
Now he's dead, killed by the police.
Here I am.
In my right palm lies a wren's egg discovered in tall grass,
in my left a Preeble mouse found shivering on a rock --
take them, friends, they are Allah's body, weeping to be loved.
Once again, the cities will grow quiet.
This morning, after waking,
I remembered Varanasi, the wild
cremation fires there.
Here, years later,
Mickey's still in flames.
Current | Previous
Submit | Editors
Join | Donate
Links | Contact