Friday, October 14, 2022

“Untitled (Unexceptional and Unforgettable)”

—Charles Tooker, 2021


“i’m going abroad now. please feed the fishes.”;

    his last and lonely wishes.

Scrawled red on the wall, but in no way violent;

    in forced solitude and deftly silent.


Well-nigh a decade then, he’d lived next door;

    plagued and poor, El Bay the Moor.

Though we’d never met, we never let the other alone;

    brotherhood as weightless as a bird bone.


As lighthouses and windmills trade signals at dawn;

    reflections for revolutions daily shared with a yawn.

He’d say, “Don’t ever cave, rule your cave; the trick

    is to be brave, but not too brave.”


No, we weren’t proud of our address, but we still had a name;

    be it a Moor’s, mine, or yours, we’re all one and the same.

The forgotten, the disgraced, the one-night stands;

    figure 8’s on broken skates in subterranean lands.


I can’t fight back the tears that I’ll never cry;

    he was meant and made by them to die.

They threw at once the rock, the paper, and the scissors;

    to bludgeon, to conceal, to carve mental fissures.


They found a martyr on cold concrete that night;

    for them, it wasn’t too firm, rather just and right.

He chose to sleep, and it was hardly a choice;

    rendered lifeless since they first entombed his voice.


*Ode to my first 3 years in solitary confinement; commissioned by founder of L.A.’s “Compassion Prison Project.”