VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Bruce McDermott

Amazing People

I saw this gentleman 

on a TV documentary

It was not a PBS documentary 

He was a porno actor in his 60’s

the oldest in the business it said

And he could pull off the inevitable plot 

on command

You have it or not I suppose

I need time and reason these days

But I would wager

even Thomas Jefferson

or Albert Einstein 

or any man

would consider trading 

a bit of their politics or science 

for a bit of that particular talent

In A Blaze of Glory

It was someone’s elected son

I cradled in my arms

on a trenched no man’s land

with rubble and stink all ‘round 

Must life always be lived in terror

with the fear of a limbless existence 

or no existence a constant?

He crawled towards me 

as though he saw my life 

in a blaze of glory

Silently, he took my hand and died

We were so close to being saved

the battle nearly won that day

I puzzled at his features

I did not recognize him

though I knew everyone

And as I read his name 

from the tag around his slack neck

it slowly faded away

Where They Have to Buzz You In

My friend can’t get out

but I can get in

He couldn’t take the rejections

and the Great Recession didn’t help

He never was much with girls

Like a priest in civilian clothes dispensing truth

he could advise you about your problems

and he was pretty good too

But he never did anything about his own

As we watch Two and a Half men on TV

the only other person in the common room

scurries hurriedly away 

when I get up to change the channel

to something more neutral

There is no remote to do it

They don’t trust anyone with a remote here

Someone would be sure

to try and use it 

to put a collect call in for Jesus 

I keep looking at the clock

waiting for visiting hours to end

I wished they served booze here

that would make a visit more tolerable

I do recall my locked up friend tells a good joke

But his face is flat and impassive now

Like he’s in a high stakes poker game

but is confused by the bet

He has forgotten how to laugh

It’s probably the drugs

I’m not sure he’s even that aware of my presence

And why is it that I feel helpless in this place 

when I can just walk out the door?

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