by Steve Gaines

A new beginning to an old idea

what if I were gone for good
over that last far away hill into never never land
flown into the great bygone
into the that eternal world in the sky

what if I were dead?

who would wonder where I had gone
beyond my family in their great numbers
who would mourn such a curious passing into the mist of history
who would write my epitaph?
who would find the glad descriptions in my long sojourn through time and
who could do justice to the monument that defined my life?

how about me!

since I’m still here and in possession of most of my faculties
and since I know must of what went on during those years
who better to put it all down
who better to interpret the facts
who better to act on the fantasy

and besides it’ll save someone else the embarrassing job
someone reluctant to paint the picture in the proper colors
to highlight the wonder
to put the right spin on the failures
to add up all the days and years
and come out with the real me!

so anyway here goes:

(I can not promise an understandable treatise here
my poor poet’s mind is bound to spin off center occasionally
bound to run amok in such fertile fields as my already overheated
imagination so forgive me)

what might it be like to invent your own life?
to paint in retrospect and poetic license a picture of your existence
something of your own choice and dimension
to add up all the great wishes and let them be the truth
what might it be like to play God on a word processor
and write the most unlikely moments down in the colors of your
unlimited palate
would it be possible to begin such a pretense
to measure out the best of times in over filled tea spoons
to cover over the worst in pretty lies and distortions
would it indeed be possible to stop once committed to such a task?

why not?

I begin with the dark side hopefully so the light can show up by
or something like that

Mr. (Blank)_ Passes
anywhere USA some day some month some year

Mr. (blank) died suddenly yesterday. he
had not intend to. Mr. (blank) ,with the look
of a vacant and unexpected expression
in his eyes. a barely smiling twenty year old
likeness. and in the bold type set a shout of
“not yet!” playing in the headline.

he had been the son of hopeful parents.
the “best he could do” husband of Mrs. (blank) .
the well meaning father of several new
additions to the gene pool plus many
grandchildren left extravagantly in the
wake of those original promises.

yesterday, on an unexpected moment’s end
he passed into the great unknown. he was
known for nothing. he had accomplished
nothing but his untimely death. he had done
nothing memorable. he had intended to!

Mr. _ (blank) is now merely a smiling dated
picture at the head of an empty column unfilled
with the many things he never did. significant
dates and awards and other lists implied but
silent in their accumulated significance.
and between the lines all the dreams falling
through like cracks in the boardwalk. the world
will continue in his absence. the time just got
away from him. funeral arrangements pending.
no flowers please!

is this what I’ve managed on the great eternal merry go round?
no gold ring no free rides
the litany of a life gone south
self pity run amok and swallowing up the future
the wages of a long journey spent profligately and without return
an investment in time and space deflated and drawing no interest
no lovely yesterday’s of halcyon recall

I suppose it might be
a final definition that might belong to any of us
instead of the bedecked grand tour one might expect
when turned loose in history
but my first thought was more of an apology
a sorry post script to a life left in the wings
of a game waiting too timidly to begin
a case of putting off too much for too long
of looking for just the right spot to jump off
the significant things to do battle with
the empty promises to finally learn to fly
all gone up in the pyre’s smoke
leaving us mired in the everyday everyday!
an entire life come down to rumor, hearsay, and the best chance
an epitaph too fragile and moth ridden with failures
to mold achievement or hold success in the classic forms

what the most casual surrender can do to a perfectly good momentum
the sticking place fragmented in a thousand false directions

has this indeed been my story?

it could all turn out that way!
it very well may have for all I know since the past is prologue
and life is all a relative experience and almost impossible to perceive
from the “inside”

yet somewhere, given the time to retrieve it,
another existence lives in our otherwise inadequate and insulated
a larger than life saga cast in concrete
in the bold letters of conquest writ large and aglow
not in the funerary granite of a small memorial
not the stuff of the pathetic treatise printed above
but like a great cosmic footprint left on the infinite road
a vista wide and alive where the whole thing exists
a story worth the telling

no matter that no one remains to tell it
in the objective sense of my own elaborate ideas

a story all in gold glitter and the blinking lights of truth
wrapped in the exaggerations and impossible dreams
of a life lived not quite long enough to hold it all
but an ending arrived at, wonderfully, in spite of all the hyperbole
dredged up
and all the wishful examinations
and the curious penchant to record each little sentence for posterity
though each separate word played over is a reduction
like losing pieces of the grand puzzle
like coats of dust and grime dimming the portrait
but enough left to light up any darkness still showing through
like a sky full of life in the fast lane
a finely tuned interpretation of universal fictions
a carefully hewn story of someone suddenly come to the brink
of someone like me!
all written in the finest Aristotelian tradition
beginning, middle, and end,
not necessarily in that order however

like an unused obituary

a make believe ending for an underachiever
things that might never have happened
dreams that might never have come true
endings impossible for any but the most unrealistic
failures in the manner that anyone’s death finds him wanting
an incompleteness that cuts us down
no matter the heights we have scaled
eternity put in perspective in the pathetic overreaching of
those of us who were merely human

a story out of whole cloth made to cover all the expected shortcomings
as though success were only a flipped coin
as though I weren’t perfectly satisfied with all that’s gone under the
as if I were just curious about what things would look like from the
other side
in search of some surreptitious glance at the future
and how it might turn out in my conspicuous absence

in the casual years and sordid experiences of a giver away of life
the plastic beast of survival I have become
will live on forever on these sorts of echoes
long theatrical explorations of the possibilities
just to keep me busy on all the long dark walks between fantasy and fact

on the eternal battle ground of life and death
happy with the pretense and blind to the odd truth however rigorously
put forward
detractors notwithstanding
spending more of life simply refusing to go away than in making a
significant mark
almost satisfied to remain in the shadows
hidden by the major expressions of life
measured out by those moving through it on giant steps
comparisons never a question
results only a book keeping problem
no reason for handing out little gold stars

I flew with the wind and fell with it’s cessation, wherever,
never looking back at failure never regretting the game well played
simply taking the lumps and looking for more
the reality of my long and convoluted journey
the one that I didn’t invent
the truth that is
always illusive at best anyway
is somewhere languishing and unheeded
unremarkable in its weight and influence
gathering only the arid and crumbling scrapbook questions
left to the guesses of my ancestors and biographers
dusty in all the minds and attics of the past
without the substance of a definitive best selling biography
without the long and specific deeds and doings I had set out to
published, printed, and serialized for the world at large to wonder at

just another sorry expectation unrealized
another disappointment to all my long suffering supporters
the many still curious and thirsty for that reality
I so rarely shared with any single one of them

but what of the actual events?

here in brief, I mention one or two in passing
and define them characteristically again
in my constant attempts at some sort of interpretation

I emerged out of the dark clouds of the thirties
the great depression
the facts of which I picked up second hand from my parents
entertaining and consistent recitations
like the heat and the deprivation
observed and experience only from my crib
like the subsequent war and its victories
I actually remember celebrating
etc. etc. etc

and making a long story brief at best
I sailed from those early experiences swiftly and quietly
down the long diminishing roads into the empty zeroes of today
and arrived where? with my best intentions yet to become fact
now over the edge of the new millennium
stumbling alone toward the great soft center of the aging process
that is, in so far as anyone is ever truly alone
spreading out like an embellished waistline
an increasing slave to gravity and its proportionate affects

in the game for almost two thirds of a century
coming out of childhood and the depression and the New Deal promises
into the curious entanglements of the cyber space age
and a world reduced to e-mail and the internet
I have become a twenty first century anachronism
at once involved and disinterested
aware of things in the shallow end
totally ignorant of the depths of the abyss
left on the threshold of all the real discoveries about to inundate us
and left with too many wishes and questions gathering moss in the
left with simple memories more than useful tools for the future

a great lump on the distant horizon
an enigma of no great size or crying out for answers
an easy solution once open up the slightest bit
mostly alone most of the time but not lonely
able to meet each day undiminished for the most part
but nothing like what’s to come next
as I begin to play the old age game for real
with its disproportionate returns and careless disintegration
with the long distorted memories singing in my diminishing perception
having gathered the false substance of truth

and then, of course, the infinite vacuum on the other side!
quickly approaching since when? some anonymous yesterday?
the eternal dimension in death, in whatever heaven or hell is about to
invite me in
I wait without expectation or preference for that eventuality

but all of that is still out there
“somewhere over the rainbow”
somewhere past my concern
all the past still attached and progressing day by slow day
and death is only a moment in the dimmest tomorrow

here, today, I still am grunting upward toward the peak
struggling up the last few years, dreaming fondly about the next how
many ever
years months days time in the sizes of infinity
accepting of the many or the few days remaining
thinking back and looking forward to nothing in particular

like a quiet death wish too ill-defined to come true

death is no easy journey to plan for
and sets in motion all the disappointment of things untried
puts you up against trying to make it “all worth while”
trying to come up with something like a reason
the age old question “what does it all mean?”
suddenly become “what did it all mean?” translated into the past tense
measuring the hope against the results

a last word on the subject!
something like what I really think without all the smoke and mirrors
something like a barrier which I can not guess beyond
to bring this unending essay to an end at last!

quite fanfares and horn calls!

we all forget the best results is in having simply survived
for having come, more or less intact, across such a wide and
ill-prepared for
adventure in the first place
for waking up at the end of every sleep
for landing safely after every take off!
for believing in the moment and it’s constant changes
for taking the road less traveled simply because it is there

and that’s all!
ask me later
after the big event
if I really believe any of it.