VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Mark James Andrews

Happy Birthday Mother Fucker

I’ll tell you I never liked ice fishing

and forget about going on sunny days

especially as late as the Ides of March

when JC was assassinated, the other JC

the one whacked 

by the Brutus and Cassius gang

Julius F. Caesar knife, knife, knife

bad juju and damning hubris

but I committed to the ice fish trip

and Z arrives at my crib at High Noon

with a James Brown scream

and commences to chanting

his best MC5 Grande Ballroom

White Panther pantomime

Brothers and Sisters, and, and

right now, right now

It’s time to catch us some 

righteous yellow perch

Mother Fucker.

Z is booming at the wheel of his Volks

reverting to his best coalbilly patois

Z always a bit tongue tied to his past life 

in Pennsylvania anthracite hill country.

He only hit the eastside of Detroit

a hot minute after his First Holy Communion

a generation removed from the dreaded mines.

Z was a punk poet, roustabout and raconteur

a Wayne State University Mass Comm dropout

now working the afternoon shift reefer fueled 

in a tool and die job shop called Wolverine

operating the various jigs, molds and machines

now playing hooky with me

talking his talk with his mind on vacation

and we’re off rolling on poetry and poses

Cribari Zinfandel, Tall Boys of Schlitz

thin rolled pin joints of Rat Boo

and a mess of gear of tip-up poles

spools of monofilament, short canvas stools

and his Dad’s four foot mining bar 

one end of it set up to pry, the other a sharp

digging point prized now as an ice spud

a family heirloom transformed 

stashed in VW Bug front trunk on route

to Moe’s Bait Shop for wax worms

to be impaled on tiny #16 barbed hooks.

Fast forward four plus decades to a meet-up

a surprise birthday party for Brother Z  

all arranged by his estranged wife

on an April Sunday at the Blue Goose Inn

an Old School watering hole off Lake St. Clair

Big Band jazz playing by Planet D Nonet

Z bespectacled per usual

now more handsome with receding hair line

graying combed back and a billy goat beard

Z telling me he’s down state for a hoped for

conjugal visit in wifey’s condo also off lake 

he stationed now in the unlikely confines

of a midcentury modern decked out house

in the boonies of the Michigan thumb

in a small town with a Walmart Supercenter

a town with the redeeming name of Bad Axe

and now we spoke quietly of future plans

new tales of Beatnik Glory and future poesy

Z hoping to reunite with wife in the ‘burbs

and him and me to be running buddies again

new explorations of lost urban neighborhoods

with a trio of scout/tracker pit bulls 

all in matching radiation suits

Z clothed in a Super Fly suit with a gas mask

me stark naked save for a varsity jacket

last worn at a 1969 Stooges show.

About then his wife rolled up with the cake

a lone candle lit and decorated in a squiggly font

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOTHER FUCKER

with a Duke Ellington playing and we didn’t know

that within the week Z would Take the “A” Train

straight to the boneyard.

I’m not saying the ice was thin but it was warm out

enough to get springtime frisky in shirt sleeves

incongruous to my brain and balance

no ice cracking, if anything spots were slushy

but I was scared shitless despite the beer drank

and Rat Boo smoked speeding on I-75 

and we hauled our shit out on the lake

the gear balanced on a red flying saucer sled

with a pull rope dragged by me while Z 

stalked for the deep spot where the perch would be

with the family cherished coal bar in hand 

searching for the drop off in the lake 

where we fished from a rowboat in summer

Z scanning the tree line on shore for his bearings

and huzzah the spudding began

down, up, down up, knife,knife, knife 

forever in the afternoon

mother fuck, this ice must be a foot thick

and then I spied not 100 feet away a grouping

of ready-made fishing holes just waiting

among human evidence of a Colt 45 bottle 

and abandoned undersize perch frozen stiff

but damn if these holes weren’t frozen over

so what? just a skim of fucking ice

and Z on the task like a bird dog

coal bar clenched firmly in fist

the sheer force and momentum of his thrust

on the very first downstroke

he lost his grip

on a surprise first shot breakthrough

and the repurposed family treasure

transported from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

to Detroit Factoryland

was thrown through the ice pretending to be ice

in the small inland Lake Minnewanna

in the Metamora-Hadley State Recreation Area

to rest at lake bottom maybe forever.

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