THE DISTANT DRUM

 

Walking down the passageway below decks

Tom had his door hooked open

Tom was always happy

Not now

Sitting at his desk, head in his hands

 

I had walked past the door, and now backed up a couple steps

In relative terms he was old, and I was young

 

“Tom…what is the matter?”

“Oh, I don’t know…

Growing up up north, it was so fucking boring

I thought I would join the Navy thinking that would not be boring

It was…and after a bunch of years I thought I would join the Merchant Marine

Thinking

That would not be boring

It is…

If I had the balls I would get a .45 and a fast Chevy

But, I know jail has got to be boring!”

 

A few years later we were coming in and I looked down from the deck

There was Tom on the tug

“Tom!

What are you doing down there?”

I did not wait for the response

We both knew the sad answer

 

For me it all runs together

It does not seem like a road

It seems more like a collage

And although I try to deal with what is in front of me

There is always something in the distance

The switch has taken place

I am not the thing moving

Everything around me is moving

And I like to think I influence…just a little bit

What moves my way

 

The constant beating

I lie in bed at night

Listening

I can really hear it then

All the daytime noise

Gone

It is louder and more distinct

It sounds right over the hill

But, it isn’t

 

I have another poem I just took off the fire

I do not know if I can post it

I wait for her you know

See her and say

“Where have you been!?

Laughing

Gosh darn don’t I love you!”

I suppose I will have to post it sometime

 

Tom missed something

He was chasing

That does not work

Never has

If I went over the hill to see that drum

It would be gone

 

But it may not be that way at all

It might just be me

But, I trust me

And, I have to say

No offence intended

But I have become suspect of you all

The lack of consistency just…

Fucks me up

 

Armando and I were sitting in the mess hall about midnight

Speaking about ships and people

He looked at me and said, “I know Rodney!”

This was some kid I knew from a few ships back

He was always talking about racing around the back roads of Nebraska

On a Café Racer

“Do I have a story to tell you about Rodney

 

We were on a ship together about a year ago

Like here…we were always fishing

We were at the dock in Africa

I am on the fantail with a line out

Rodney comes out of the house behind and above me

Walks to the latter

And throws something out on the dock

And goes back in the house

 

As I sit there holding my line

I am watching these two old black dudes looking at something on the dock

Kicking and nudging at it with their feet

I am thinking

What the fuck could they be looking at?

They have seen almost everything

 

I wrap up my line and walk around the house to go inside

I see the Captain, the Chief Mate and the Agent huddled in – what seems like – and urgent conference

“Cap….what’s going on.”

He ignored me at first

Then after a second turned around

Rodney cut his dick off”

 

Armando continues

“After the story was all out we learned he went to the Chief Cook about an hour earlier

We had a really sweet young female Chief Cook

He asked to borrow one of her knives

She thought he wanted it for fishing and answered

Get the fuck out of here Rodney

I am not giving you one of my knives

So he took out the old Buck

Cut

And clamped a folded towel over the stub

Walked out the back door of the house and threw it out on the dock

 

A few days later

It is a few days before Christmas

I am in town loaded down with bags and gifts

Looking for the hospital

I finally find it

Sweat pouring down my face

Asking for Rodney

There is a language barrier and they do not understand

Finally, out of frustration I make a motion of cutting my dick off

They all light up and motion for me to follow them

 

There is Rodney in bed like he has the flu

We are making small talk about nothing

I ask how he is

He nonchalantly says he is fine

They tried to reattach it, but it did not take

Following a silence I finally ask

Rodney, why did you do this to yourself?

 

The answer was unemotional and matter of fact

To cleanse myself.”