The following piece is in response to Read Write Poem’s prompt #90 – an image of a street performer balancing a flaming star. Rather than accessing the scene, making my way down that street or even turning into the performer, I waited for the picture to lead me to a title, via the first words it prompted. Those words were “laser light show”.
Smith decided we should drive to DC for the weekend light show.
It had been ten-years since he, Patrick and I
were there together. A reunion of sorts.
Patrick lived in Arlington. We called on the way.
He told us to leave him alone. He had Reserves next weekend.
He wanted to take it easy. By the time
we showed at his door he couldn’t do anything
but offer up his couch and spare cot.
Smith brought acid. He didn’t tell us about the acid until
we were already half-drunk from a few hours
at a Tiki bar along the Potomac drinking Mexican beer.
None of us needed acid at this point in our lives. Patrick
had done two tours in Iraq. Smith spent three-years
in prison. I was an absent father of two children
with different last names.
But we were all feeling good with limes in our beer, fireworks
going off for some nondenominational reason,
together in the nation’s capital remembering the world of 1999
when ours lives went by in a fury of jokes about the president
and thoughts about the end of the world.
Now we were three old lumps surrounded by a table of empties.
Patrick with his razorblade haircut, Smith who smoked
like he was trying to burn himself inside out, me
with the spare tire around my waste that wore like a retread.
We decided to walk through the Capital on our way to the show.
Smith wanted to go see Lincoln. Patrick said we couldn’t.
Jefferson then, the Washington Monument. Patrick said
none of that mattered now, it wasn’t on the way.
We passed all the lights and strange glows in the periphery,
statues kept awake under security and patriotic flares.
Two-hours with the acid in our system, Smith said lasers
were already teeming in his head. Patrick crouched behind things,
regretted the whole night, regretted whole other nights
that didn’t include us. Whole mornings and days too. A whole year
and one whole long episode that was so classified
the hallucinations had a hard time reaching it.
I hadn’t planned on being the smart one, rarely was,
but got us to the field and our seats. We blended in
like we were anyone else, just normal people who’d never
killed anyone or beaten someone to near death
with a bar of soap, had never knocked up
an old friend’s girlfriend then another, never
had to decide which one to send checks to.
Just normal guys riding out a strong trip waiting for the lights
to take our minds off the fact our minds were gone.
People nodded at us like they knew. Tapped their noses
because they saw our eyes and identified.
They couldn’t understand. Our ghosts were our own.
It didn’t matter if one of theirs chased them up a tree.
We were stuck with ours, so far from our skulls
that the only words any of us could mouth
where things like never again and can’t come down.
But there’s that point, like when the Space Shuttle goes up,
where you’re not sure if it’ll break earth’s glass face
and get out toward the moon. Right as the boosters
jump off and the ship’s all alone, just its crew
with rations and the one bathroom they share,
the bird edges a straight line against the sky
and is gone –
That’s where we were when the music fired on. All the world
except for cigarette tips got dark. Then lights zoomed to life
in a panoramic grid, made water out of thin air.
Behind the sudden brightness and noise,
the faintest cry of crickets set the universe soft.