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[BKARTS] A Poem for Mike Sutherland

A Tasteless Burrito,
A Kite In The Wind
And Death On The Machine
      4 April 2005

Squeeze life hard in your fist today —
it runs away fast,
it runs away with your heart,
it steals everything you love,
it plays peekaboo with your dreams.

Therese wrote me from Colorado today that time is flying by.

I email back —
we need to throw an anchor on time.
We need to chain our kites to bedrock.
We need to nail the wind to earth.
It is hauling us away.

It is windy today, almost cold, tearing at the trees,
ripping at the leaves, toying with the clouds.
I take Mom to the orthopedist to put a cast on her arm.
They take X-Rays all over again and the wind worries her hair.
I photograph the shadow of leaves on the wall, dancing in the wind.
Something stabs me in the back when I lean back against the wall,
something shoots nails and darts into my shoulder blade.
I am in a hurry to get home to call Mike Sutherland.
I told him I would call him about our meeting tomorrow.
He is going to try to save my life, to help me to get into other libraries,
to see that my work outlives my death.
Mike actually understands my work and does all he can to support me.
And we both passionate about Robinson Jeffers.
It’s what makes us kindred spirits.
We are both outraged and cynical about the romance with neo fascism
and the collapse of the American culture.
Our despair unites us.
Instead, we pay close attention to art and books and poems.
Humans do not seem to have any control over things bigger than our art.
We make art in order to conquer truth.
The truth is, we cannot find a way to stop the wind.
I am talking to Mike about having Occidental College take my archives.
Mike will be around after I am gone
and will take good care of my ghost.

In Mom’s bathroom mirror I pull up my shirt
only to find a boil, one of life’s little carbuncles
winking at me from my shoulder,
telling me — don’t get too cocky with life,
pathogens are the meek that will inherit the earth.
I do not tell Rick because I am too tired and too hungry to have him lance

I get a Grande Burrito at La Salsa instead and drive home.
An angry red eye is winking at me from the corner
and I punch the button on the answering machine.
It is Jim Lorson, another kindred spirit.

The voice on the machine says that Mike Sutherland died today.

It is the only message I get all day long.
It is the only news the world has for me today.
I squeeze the receiver in my hand hoping to crush the reality of it.
There is no explanation.
There is no reason why.
Death just reached out and jerked Mike Sutherland out of the sky.
Perhaps the winds just blew him off the earth.

To hell with death.
To hell with all the idiocy
that dribbles from the lips of infantile gods.

The short life of a single man has more grandeur than all the thoughts of
all the gods that ever were.
The life of a single man has more beauty than any god can ever imagine.

Michael Sutherland died today and I am putting the gods on notice:
stay the hell out of my way,
keep the hell out of my sight.
Killing gods is on the menu today
and I am not in the mood for the idiocy of the gods.

Aristotle knew about the wind.
Heraclitus tried to tell us.
Lao Tzu wrote words on the wind with his pinky finger.
Buddha knew that our only answer to the wind
is to fly a kite.
All that matters is what tethers us to the earth
and short string or long,
weak string or strong,
the wind never gave a damn.

I reach around, slash open the boil with a scalpel,
drain away the blood and the pus and the empty promises of life,
drain away the stupid threats of immortal morons,
wash it with alcohol, pack it with Neosporin
and slap on an extra large bandage.

I eat my Grande Burrito with as much salt as I can pack into it
hoping to taste a little something, hoping for a taste of anything
and I watch the faithful salt their Pope away on the six o’clock news —
no doubt he has some message of hope for the gods —
but I am just hoping my stomach does not pick today to go revolutionary.

I cannot finish my tasteless burrito so I watch a cloud instead.
It blows by my window in a blast of onshore wind
and I say — Rest easy Mike,
we will all try to fight the good fight to the end.

And I know that Mike would agree —
the passing cloud dances in the sky and says —
squeeze life hard in your fist today,
death is hunting in the wind.

I wash my dishes and wait for night.
There just is no way to stop the wind.
There is no good reason to try.
The best we can do is to face the wind and howl.
Do not expect to hear good sense in return.
>From the beginning there has never been a reason.

We must eat our salty burritos.
We must fly our kites with the string we have at hand.
To hell with the wind and all its bluster.
The truth is that Michael Sutherland died today
and there just is no sense to it —
there is no sense
at all.

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