On August 10, 1990, drifting past apocolyptic oil refineries in South St. Paul, a boy sat on plush red cushions, listening to his father talk. He looked at the old man against that blackened horizon, images melding forever with the truths of new mysteries like “Kuwait” and “Saddam Hussein” and “your brother’s deployment.” In activating this connection, fusing Baathists and nuclear bombs, the father thus fulfilled his charge, baptising the lad in the brimstone and slag of the post-Cold War within the confines of a rust silver steed from broken Detroit, balancing the lives of his sons as he tacked between lanes in a Minnesota summer. So when he died two weeks later, the brunt of the work had already been done.
Helmsman! your blessings were rendered not of cloth, but of aspirated air merged through a stained and oft-indecent tongue, broken chords of sound, of wheels grinding into snow. Heroism? Hardly. But you brought us into workplaces imprinted for decades:
gas stations, stanchion pits, yellow buckets, builder of foundations, tutor to criminals, friend to the brilliant disorder of mathematics, teller of stories, and although rarely stoic, you were a man with time, of time –
but that when death snapped out its lashes/the charred lungs and blasted arteries/out of your own body it contorted and destroyed you/
but the myths of the man lay quietly in wait/a well-trained army of anecdotes disproving this or that/and we laid them upon your brow like heavy carbon roses/and in farewell, our crushed papers scattered