Friday, December 9, 2022

Elegy for Jesse

What many would consider to be the greatest tragedy, to lose a son, is equally the greatest treasure, to know in my life the true meaning of his life.

The streets are too soft.
Forgiveness comes too easily.
The people of the sun are unredeemed in this world.
We cannot hear their screaming,
As they move past us like shadows,
Who think their pain isn't real.

That's where Jesse chose to be,
Enjoying his stay
In the trestles and the drains, in plain sight
Hiding places, the overpasses,
Squat homes owned by kudzu, 
Alleys colder than the truth 
Spanging coin from the wits of his guitar
And spent his spare, never-wasted time in 
Loaded club rooms where his monk-robed friends 
Gathered as men to watch football and other slow suicides, 
Or in his well-tuned blue Suzuki with his beloved country bride
And adopted feline Weenie of the streets.
He was living his dream
Of complete self-sufficiency,
People were too easy to hurt otherwise
If reliant on their kindness in any way.

He made heroin cool again in Lynn,
Slept on its beach in fisherman's ice,
Carved up his arms for the unbelievable kick of it,
The kick of jumping off the roof
Got him locked inside a fine rubber room and orangeade
Institution of Higher Crazy, where he shared
His joy at Pops the Sailor
And the usual cast of characters he spent his time
Befriending, learning from, but mostly being amused,
Like a moth to the light, forever flying,
Forever learning how to find love, or, rather, apply it
To the unbelievable darkness at hand, inevitably a broken soul,
Someone lonely.

With, just as inevitably, a guitar, 
As in Witch City Salem, where he made his living 
From humility. Or in the City of the Queen, 
In whose service he always wound up, 
Fighting a well-intentioned army 
For the right to be free, to make his living from the street, 
The closest thing to natural we can find. 

And in many rooms he was alone, actually scared,
Tho' you'd never see that behind his Negro-level cool
That always relayed everything was 'ight
No matter how much you'd fret, he made it feel better,
Laughed at it before anyone else got a chance,
Jesse, old goat, wise philosopher,
Master of the bad-ass Geronimo Effect,
Who would rather share himself
Than win another war, the old general who 
Saw, finally saw, the most hardened of souls
And made them all better, for being true,
His impossible glee 
In bleakness unimaginable
For weeks, months, years on end.
He'd shrug and laugh, and, to comfort, say
"Anything is better than that damn shelter, son 
Almost as bad as the Gideons. They're the worst."

He was born high, in fact, at some faster vibration,
Some immediate knowledge of what God wants
His Children to do, full of cartoons, complete designs,
More life than a roomful of people, a Saturn of aliens
With lives like our own, in ice cream frequency detail,
Everything, in fact, included, all plastic toys were filled
With stories and tunes and sound effects, a soundtrack 
Constant as bird song.
And Jesse was a bird, just a little higher from us, 
Looking downward in love and wonder
With his ever-present cry: "Light!"
Which was joy,
Which was life

He would only consent to work for the birds.
As a boy, with a vision of his dream home
In McAlpine Creek Park, an old tree house 
In the woods, he saw as his key to freedom,
To grow green beans and peas
You can eat off the vines, to turn wood
Left for dead into doghouses for the poor,
And in time he became a scrap metal entrepreneur 
Who took only what was thrown away
In subdivision dumpsters 
And made it his own,
With the freedom from 
That he insisted upon,
To be an orderly with the blessed elderly, EMT, team leader
In the free people's union, and then be mechanic,
Roof mover, tattoo surgeon, 
Flying to and fro so effortlessly, as his heart not the man said
And you know who the man is,
The same one you once were and will be again
But this time, thanks to Jesse,
You will know how it feels 
To give love 
Without condition to his friends,

He rose to his station to wash the dustiest feet,
Menial to the mendicants as always,
Shaman of the streets, who did not believe
He was any less than anyone, or more ...

                               But his sunny orange turned blue
When he discovered he felt much more than the others,
Expected them to act more like the Children of God, 
Disappointed at himself to be disappointed by them, by us, 
For the humanity he chose
To experience, in the guise of a bird, a spirit of rising
From the mud where he played long after others had found
A warm bed and clean sheets to live their lives asleep.

And as the world prepared their Sunday night faces
For another round of dreams
He went out to demonstrate his love.
As if he knew when he was gone, we'd finally feel it.
His Passion was on Brookshire, a Roman chariot
For a distinctly non-Roman messiah
With a Jesus guitar for a cross
On a roadside Golgotha 
In a chord of God
Our song, not even knowing. 
He insists we must be joyous
At this time, even inside this ribcage prison, 
With a love only violence can show,
Where all I didn't know
Or couldn't understand
Came radiating through 
The angels and their wings
On the darkest of nights,
Like so many he remembers,
So pitch black he could see the birth of light.