Counting Coins in a Jar

As it appears in the 2013 edition of The American River Review.

Darryl Strawberry was my hero.
I remember watching, as he became human
on the nightly news programs.
I never replaced him as my idol,
heroes had no meaning after that,
hearts break from more than love.
Of all the loves I have had in life,
I realize now that they were no more mine to keep
then I was theirs to hold.
I don’t like baseball anymore,
yet I still cling to the idea of love,
that human idea, because that is what I am.
Giraffes aren’t human,
I think the giraffes know this,
but I wonder if they ever wish for a moment
that they could be one of us.
What would I do if I could be a giraffe for a day
would I love? have heroes? fear death?
I think I’d rather be a car tire,
no offense to giraffes.
I would want to be a tire,
on a car,
travelling far away
on a road all to myself,
leaving little bits of me,
memories of my passage,
embedded in the asphalt
with every rotation of my being.
Would a giraffe ever want to be a tire?
I remember that fear I had as a child,
of ceiling fans with their fast spinning blades,
I was sure they could take my head off my shoulders.
Then this morning
as I made my bed,
my hand hit one of those spinning blades
and blood fell to the floor,
carpet fibers taking in what had recently been mine.
Sometimes a drag of a cigarette
reminds me of the half smoked butts
I used to take from ashtrays
outside of office buildings
when I was too young to smoke.
At other times, a single drag
tastes like the meth I did
when I was running away from my life,
escaping the love of family
and the thought of needing people.
Being in love feels to me like
the smell of fresh baked bread,
as if no single ingredient in the recipe
does justice to the final result
but when all the pieces are there,
when everything is balanced just right,
then baked to the perfect temperature,
there is nothing that pleases the senses more.
Grams lost her sense of sight,
before the cancer took her life,
and I never got to spend another holiday
with the grandmother that showed me
what a woman was supposed to be.
I once spent a Christmas dinner
with a friend and her family.
As we sat there eating,
the cremated remains of the family cat
were passed around the table.
Holding those ashes, in their ornate metal box,
I listened to an uncle talk about clown school
and counselling war vets,
about he almost lost his life in a double-wide
that was buried in the sand and stocked with guns.
Later, I would see two Witnesses
going door to door to talk about faith,
a nicely dressed man and woman.
I watched as the man yelled at the woman,
both of them unaware I was there,
I watched as he threw his Bible to the ground
and walked away
leaving her in the desert sun,
alone.
I watched as she picked the book up,
saw me
and walked the other direction.
“So it goes…” is engraved on my lighter,
I love the man that gave it to me,
this boy that loves me so,
even though it pains us both at times.
This lighter,
this little metal box of fire
reminds me that I am human,
I am not a tire
or a giraffe,
and even though my hero failed me
and I cannot bake bread
anymore then I can create love,
I remember a time when I was young,
when “longing” was just a word
and “sorrow” was abstract.
Before life became simply living,
when pain was covered with a bandage,
my parents were the only gods
and holiday dinners were not a place for the dead.

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