paul at asilomar

rain blowing through the cypress and pine forest across the peninsula/ but it was sunny the day we went to wendy’s memorial atop jack’s peak, first time i’d been up there/ i told wendy’s sisters i was very moved by their testimonial at the church in salinas/ you were tired, chose to rest in the car when dolores and i walked in the woods/ we looked south along the coast/ carmel valley below/ post-op, no chance for your stomach to heal, you were drinking again/ exhausted, napping in the front seat/

someone said you looked ten years older/ beard gone gray/

monterey bay unfurling to the north/ open to the pacific/ light and shadow on the water/ haze across the north/ i gave your computer to alba and little omar/ alba said big omar, deported to oaxaca because of dui’s, is drinking his life away/ little omar took the laptop to his room with his little buddy/ sabro and i delivered orchids to neighbors who helped you out, brought you food, filled your fridge, carried a new bed to the third floor for you/ gave you rides to doctor’s appointments/ helped you finally secure disability/

you felt better about your situation for the first time in five or more years/ you wouldn’t have to ask me for rent/ you’d be getting your own money (from disability) for rent and food/ taking some loose ends of your life in hand/ finally you had some luck/

a month later, you died/ that was always your luck/ sabro and i walked upstairs to the third floor/ you often sat there at 5 or 6 AM smoking/ no more/

berta brought your drawing of andrea and a photograph of andrea so i could see the fidelity of your work on the drawing/ alba and berta had returned to the apartment repeatedly because john told them we were coming/ alba was in tears/ did i hug her? i don’t remember/ i didn’t know exactly what to do/ what to do first/ people had asked if i needed help/ i said no/ it’s too late for help now/ there’s nothing to be done now/ on the website for hope services, it said they offer “end of life electronic recycling”/

we took your dead electronics (dvd and vhs players, remote controls, boomboxes, a big TV that must’ve weighed a hundred pounds lugged downstairs, dead computers and keyboards, an old round iMac) to the office in seaside/ clothes, dvds, cd’s, boxes of boots, shoes, socks (neatly washed), to the goodwill truck in an alley off broadway in seaside/ a full load of trash bags of clothes from under your bed and the closet to st. vincent de paul in p.g./ the little boutiques and cute shops of downtown p.g./ del monte avenue/ past the parks, where you worked on clean-up crews 4 days every month to qualify for “general assistance” checks of a couple hundred dollars/ homeless people, families, encamped in the underbrush of the ravines/ homeless family sitting on a pile of redwood chips as if for a picnic/

dozens or hundreds of hours of cassettes you recorded with friends (some with zeus from the 70s or 80s) poured into the recycle bin/ sabro and i spent the day cleaning out your place/ denim jacket that you never left the apt. without hanging by the door/

debbie had boxed up most of your things/ she was there while i asked john about your last days/ john burke, who found your body and called 911, didn’t want to be found, he disappeared/ according to john, 911 told john burke, “we don’t deal with that.”/ john burke told them, “there’s a dead body here!”/ john got out of bed after paramedics and police arrived/ john burke had put your body on the floor “to make you more comfortable”/ your last 2 days spent in bed, in pain/

your body is still at salinas coroner’s office/ unlike on TV, they wouldn’t let us see you, not to identify the body or say goodbye/ detective schumaker said, “we’re not set up for viewing the body. that’s an arrangement that will have to be made with the mortuary.”/ she—like the people at the mortuary, said, “we’re sorry for your loss.”/ the transfer of your body might take till next week because of the holidays/ (“I was PUSHED out into this world. I didn’t asked to come. I didn’t choose my name, my body, my time or place.”)/ overcast, fremont avenue seaside ca, business strip/ all changed since you were a teenager, now ford ord closed, the bars, strip joints and heroin dealers have moved on/ there’s one “adult bookstore dvds” across the ave from the quality inn where we checked into #108/ hot motel shower/ steam/

my hair wet after the shower/ at the door of 108, looking out on the parking lot at night/ new houses under construction across the street/ a few rundown old bungalows/ oaks/ teenagers back and forth to the motel vending machine/ teen crosses the parking lot on a bike/

once, we gave rides to the lonely soldiers hitchhiking around town looking for girls and parties, sharing white boys’ marijuana/ by then i’d stopped smoking, you were just getting started/ debbie told me you said, “he turned out all right, why did i turn out like this?”/

paul and alicia kid

in those days we were the same/ the sea lions barking from the breakwater at night/ lights of fisherman’s wharf/ lights on the water/ seagulls in the dusk/ i had a lot of anger/ i told you, “what’s the point of happiness when there’s revenge?”/ uncle bill standing over you when you were 12, he knocked you down—whipping you with your stars & stripes shirt that he ripped off, screaming—fucking kids like you were destroying this country!/ on your own from age 13 on after dad took tina and carmen north, fired for no fault of his you said/ still, when he moved out he left you behind alone/ hitchhiking from carmel inn to carmel high school age 13, living by yourself in basement room/ doing groundskeeping to pay rent/ highway patrolman asked you, “how old are you?”/ “eighteen,” you told him, but when he asked what year you were born, you couldn’t figure it out./ in jail your cellmate said he was in for stabbing his father/ he asked you what you were in for/ you said, “because i couldn’t do the math.”/

psychedelic jimi hendrix mural at marina high school/ that photo still pinned to your wall/ the mural itself long gone, though nobody has checked/ it was something you were proud of/ before the devastation of the last decades/ the shame of it/ shame/ to drink yourself to death/ and fail/ struggle to get your life back together/ and fail/ die/ stomach and organs ruined by alcohol/ heart affected by malnutrition/ two days of pain/ many days of pain/ then another night/ like any other/ then the morning/

seagull cries/ misty halo street lamps/ cypress/

paul's watercolor

i kept boxes of your papers/ i gave john your raincoat, the new green one i gave you, never worn, tags still on/ mom wanted your sketches or drawings/ sabro’s keeping your paint brushes and art supplies—he took up painting after ethan died/ we gave your musical instruments to alicia/ drove north, slowed by traffic accidents in the rain/ pickup truck upside down on highway one by the freedom exit/ we headed back to l.a. in the rain, sabro on his cell phone the whole way playing games as i drove/ rain blowing through the cypress and pine forest/ of course, the clouds unraveled in a chill night wind before we hit the grapevine/ by the time we crossed over at lost hills road, 46/

paul an d john