Ethan, (I speak to you who are not here, obviously);
you went out with kitchen lights on, rice cooking on the stove.
Sliding glass door to the backyard open, 9 or 10 PM,
how terrible those final hours: no equivalent is possible.
The weeping woman who cannot shield her children or her baby
from the soldiers machinegunning families in the ditch is not like
the fictive combatants coded in computer games on your console.
The thousands who were drugged and thrown out of helicopters
into the sea (their eyes torn out, some soldiers said) are not like
trash bags we tossed out after cleaning your room and your Jeep.
Room ankle deep in socks and clothes, Nerf gun, drumsticks and stuff.
The five hundred women and girls of Juarez and the thousands of women
and girls their bodies (‘showing signs of torture’) scattered across Mexico and
Central America, their terrors aren’t equivalent to the terrors of Fresno’s malls,
minimalls and avenues, suburbs of neat lawns, ranch-style houses, SUVs and
indifference of everybody in the face of loneliness and horror at the absurdity
of the loneliness and terror of daily life, absurdity, loneliness and despair of
populations going about daily lives as if it’s all a business and nothing more,
absurdity and terror of everyone going about these lives as if this is a boring job
and nothing more, absurdity of going through days killing time with movies,
PS2, drinking, marijuana, vehicles, school activities and expectation, the terror
of nothing more, horror and loneliness of nothing more. No equivalents
for those final feelings, Ethan; this world goes on. In front of the house
where you lived a little boy bouncing a basketball ignored Dave’s hello.
Empty parking lot surrounding a Black Angus restaurant. People walking by.
Fields of orchards east of town to the Sierra foothills. Jet fighter planes of the
144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard shriek over.
Ravaged face of a woman standing at a crosswalks. No equivalence;
now the final hours and their violence is over—Dave and I in the garage
took down the heavy bag and untied the rope and coiled it.
Photos classmates posted to Facebook, with dozens or hundreds of tributes and
goodbyes, show what a friend called ‘beauty’; she said you were beautiful.
Images and words, the videos, pulse in electrons through the servers
and screens. The fury and violence of feeling is gone. Pictures and
words in electron fuzz outlast us. This afternoon I was thinking of this,
and you, Ethan, as I rode my bike toward the ridge in the last eastern folds
of the Santa Monica Mountains that are the spine of Griffith Park, and speeding
downhill, I didn’t see the baby rattlesnake till too late, less than ten inches long,
a Southern Pacific rattlesnake with beautiful brown diamonds; I was thinking
of you, braking, afraid I crushed its tail. I end this with a figure for you.
What kind of life for a rattlesnake with rattles crushed by a bicyclist?
We poked at it with a stick till it went up in the dry leaves of the embankment.