When I was born, Nineveh was no longer the capital of an evil Assyrian empire.
It was a small town in the Midwest, straight out of Hoosiers
With a mother seeking comfort, finding passing victory in valium
And a father consumed by work and entangled by emotions unexpressed.
Their friends put beer in my bottle and laughed
At the toddler toddling tipsy to the turf.
A picture in my uncle’s yearbook shows me at 3.
In the crowd at a basketball game,
Eyes riveted on the action; not reacting like the others.
Serious, searching for substance in the orange globe of a ball.
As if God had put it there.
Sports gave structure to my days.
Something to do to escape.
Countless hours at the school playground,
I was Pistol Pete Maravich.
Each shot a last-second buzzer beater,
A ticket to immortality.
When my parents divorced,
I was made to choose where to live.
I chose to live with Dad where I could be free
To eat Braunsweiger and Nacho Cheese Doritoes
Until I made myself sick.
Dad’s buddies came over to drink Budweiser,
One asked, “Do you like to play with yourself?”
I said, “Sure.”
He burst out laughing: spewed beer through his nose.
I moved in with Mom and Dan, my step-father.
He was an EMT and liked to carry guns.
We watched “Emergency” during dinner.
Dan would yell at the TV, shouting instructions.
They argued a lot – Mom and Dan.
One day Dan pulled out his gun and started waving it ar0und.
I felt a sharp stab in my gut and yelled out.
Mom got Dan to look at me.
He decided my appendix had burst, so he called the ambulance,
They called it gastritous.
I think it was the finger of God.
I was driven to succeed in high school
In sports and studies.
My senior year I discovered girls
Pam Murray, in particular –
Her dad was a missionary.
To date her, I had to go to church,
Which I gladly did.
She was looking for more than kisses and cuddles.
I wanted more than her body had to offer.
At 18, I was on top of the world
But it was not such a steady place to stand.
I had mono when I gave the graduation speech.
I talked about the need for faith,
With a runny nose.
I recited the poem “Richard Cory” – which begins,
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
the story continues…