The scratch of every bramble in your laugh wears off thick like a lobster mold that’d hold slim your shape so well. So well, so long. So much for routine. The soft ripple of loss has gone to the power lines’ sizzle. Go on, then, and make a mistake with an unruly bouquet of cranky never-caught tulips. Haven’t you not seen me somewhere before? I know the name but not the zygomatic arch. A rusty colloquy pronounced under other less celebratory banners, banal phrases of eyes that’ll do, for good. Anyway, I own the place where the sidewalk goes. As my father was fond of saying, “I was brought into this world on a tide of whisky, and, damn it, I’m going out of it on one too.” I recall that things wore from a grainy sheen to a Simonized-finish calm back then. And you with your passport-plum overcoat and your derringer heels, your Kremlin lipstick and your basilica eyes, always pleading the fifth with a fifth of rye in a pinch’s bind: hands down the most beautiful thing God had ever put on two feet. I was having thinking-man’s orgasms. I bathed with a shower cap on. Stressed joists were cowering beneath the load of my makeshift personality’s heave. Milkmaids pranced with buckling knees in the most sincere weather. Nobody was pacing themselves. It was all, “Traipse with me. Misbehaving’s in the tap. Drink up. Be alright. Drink long. Be well while you are still not dead yet.” The circuitry of care and cheer got all mangled into piece-by-whole magnetism, refracted yet still carved in and out of sight. Tea-length wedding-dress days that lingered and fell into back-of-the-pickup-truck nights. Telephone poles racing against the subtle ash of a cobalt backdrop, some blushing hint of sky there pricked by ragged mountain peaks and bleeding silvery streaks from a pulsating infestation of stars. Alpine heights just below the snowline. Tufa, obsidian, granite, pumice — all bunched up from sleek to obstreperous. Lenticular clouds like seahorses on a smoke break. We jaw-dropped when we had the chance. Turned down the volume. Sped up the visuals. Lay down in the hardware-store light. We had a lot of time to recover. Just like Chap Stick only leads to more Chap Stick. No need to resort to peace. No need of jumping through French doors into the baffling amusements of night’s copasetic turns without twists. Tufts of Googie architecture in the drafty essence, sloped roofs popped with scintillating rivets, mossy highlights of Edison bulbs dangling from ropes, a tawny ceiling of lumps like sand dunes, a spaceship in the parking lot. And a robotic phone call to cheer you up: “Ginny died in the Mulberry bush. Born too late with a Hollywood face. Passed ready for near. Fear of the dark is no longer an instinct of great value when all is well-lit. No more costume changes. Next.” So, take that gun off and stay a while. A spare haircut, just in case. Tripped from bar stool to table to booth to floor. Same as it never won’t be with the dew still clinging to the braids in your hair. I curried favor with miscreants by ladling out gobs of, “Like hell I will-or-won’t. These instincts are lousy. Cut the ribbon and show me whatever prizes you’ve got behind door #1 already. Moose steps, here, sons. Don’t start believing. Anyone but me first. Get out the butcher knives; we’re headed for sliced life.” It was a decent time to be alive. People made sandwiches and broke a few laws here and there. Olives went out of season with the death of all flies. We kept a cockatiel named Bert in a small cage by the fireplace who had a Patsy Cline song for all comers. I do remember one fellow named Tadaroosh who’d intermittently shout, “Lie to me!” while he cauterized wounded doves and read the Hippocratic Corpus to his kids. I never did; the truth’s holdout was too endearing to pass up. Looks get lost as rings as we slowly bob and weave like untrained astronauts through the spent-gunpowder scent of last night’s fireworks. Scuffed and pond-drenched wingtips filled with pebbles and dirt and the scrappy remnants of some brave pigweed. Hands held. Grass-stained. Bottle empty. The sharp cussing of birds like breves written hard in barely legible trees. We spilled the last wine of our youth all over our best clothes and stood there like happy idiots, which, of course, we were.