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   p h o t o    u n a v a i l a b l e

--- P A T R I C K   K E L L Y

Two eyes, asymmetrical, nose, mouth, hair, but not forever. Of this much I am certain. I look like someone not quite me, someone who makes more money by looking like himself. That doesn't work for me because I didn't think of it first. This is how I look. When someone sends me a letter and it's not a letter but a half dozen photos of myself, I want to cry. I live here under the very same skin, long enough to know the rarity of my good days and the rabid persistence of the bad ones. Why not a real letter, a story of how they came to understand the darkness that crushes our spirit, or some assurance that whatever is happening now is only temporary?

My thoughts are scattered like crushed corn in the chicken yard, your face in every window. I live in part of the world where the sun sets closer to midnight than it does to dinner. Soon it is dark, sooner it is dawn, now it's been a day since I've slept and the world beckons me, gorse and goldenrod shoot from viridescent fields, beg me to come outside into the lush green world, feel the coolness under the soft skin of my feet. There are cuckoos out of their clocks looking for a nest. They can't build their own. It's not in their repertoire. They leave their eggs in someone else's nest. When the eggs hatch, the young cuckoos kill the other chicks so the mother only feeds them. It seems such an unnecessary way to live, but we all do what we can to get by. In my mind I have placed you here among the cows who lie down before the rain so there is something dry to eat when the storm passes. Did you think I could stay here forever alone?

There is a philosophy for this somewhere if only I could find it. I have not seen rain in three days but I remember what it is. Why can't you remember me? When I left home I wasn't looking for anything. No one understands that. When I got here I was such a dry disappointment, no real reason to be here other than to be elsewhere. I don't sing, I don't dance, the card tricks I know wouldn't fool a blind child. My jokes aren't funny, my stories are banal. I know lots of things, things no one really cares about. I could tell you the history of the pencil but I won't. Not again. I have been to New York. Do you want to know about that? It's big. Stores are open late. What more is there? I am in that awkward phase, the one where your kid loves you without question, the one where a hug comes without begging. Humans should only have to beg before God, a gun, or a beautiful woman. Maybe the answer I'm looking for comes from long ago, the one that says the second greatest gift the gods could give to man was to be born. The greatest gift is that it ends soon.

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