Discover more from Thunder Pie
Death of a Rocker
The meaning of life is that it stops.
It was a sunny day. I remember that much. The fuzz of sunshine joists crashing through the blinds. Elasticated seams of light reaching for and swirling into the dumpy cigarette smoke, the heaviness of the fried meat funk, the fog of a sad strange war that teased me and repelled me at the same time. The whole scene was lovely and broken, like so many other rooms I would know in the years to come.
I was 9, maybe 10. I loved fishing and baseball and MTV.
And I had never seen a real pair of lady tits until now.
Merry was in her late 30’s at that point, standing in the dining room with jeans on, and no shirt. Her flowing hair was straight and gray already from the bar rooms and the late nights and whatever rough life she had known up until then. I saw it as silver though, her hair. Silver hair, like a waterfall. Like some disturbing spring runoff mess plunging to it’s untimely end. Her eyes were grey. Or blue. Or both. Maybe one of each since time allows for such minor tweaks in the narrative, I think. One grey eye and one blue eye staring at me, the older one, the older son of the man she had joined forces with, just a young kid standing right inside the front door.
I must have knocked, I tell myself, but I don’t honestly know if I did. Who even cares at this point, you know? Details die if you hardly feed them. I have locked a lot of incidents away for centuries. And still, some stuff I recall. Like her voice. Merry’s voice. It was a crow’s caw. The sound of her was heat vent hiss. It rose up out in bursting puffs of excited New Englander. Her accent was chowder-y. Her lungs pushing unabashed curses up through the cancer-y wood lot infesting her pipes. Everything she said was run through her musket barrel esophagus. Crass and crude street smarts shot up like flushed grouse through her duct work of dagger thorns and pricker bushes.
Merry talked like she’d been knee’d forward to give a little surprise talk at church. Egged on by a molesting uncle, just a little girl preaching her so-called truth.
Merry’s rasp was the passing truck and the rest of the us were the good dishes hiding in the vibrating china closet.
Hey. Come on in.
I know I heard her holler that from inside the house after I’d knocked or rung the bell.
But I don’t know.
Fact is, I was inside after I was outside, past the front door, looking for time with my dad: hoping, I imagine, to firm up some plans with him to meet early on Saturday morning so he could take me bass fishing at the river. Those fishing mornings, seldom and undependable as they were, remained the last bastion of anything shared between me and my dad. Even now, they stand as just that. The last times he took me with him. The last times he seemed remotely interested.
That day though, in my old house, the home where I had been taken to straight from the hospital after I was born, there I was. Serge, The Son of Serge. And there she was, Merry, my dad’s girlfriend, standing right on the spot where my mom had once weeped heavy snot and tears down into my cereal the morning John Lennon’s death had broke the world.
Merry in her big wide-hip jeans, her tennis sneakers, her platinum witch’s hair, standing there looking at me, me standing there looking at her. Her massive sagging pancake tits were on full display. She had been walking around the house like that. Living her life, smoking her menthols, probably having a drink. The first beer of the afternoon maybe. Probably not though.
It was as if I were looking at a killer whale on the floor of the old house, its belly slit open and its heaving, heavy guts shining out through the layers of darkness that floated across the weak illumination trying desperately to penetrate the room.
It was as if she was stood there pointing a shotgun at my head.
It was as if I had walked in on time stopping. Sensitivity dying. The shock of the unexpected twist. The audacity of the R-rated creepiness. I had no idea where my dad was. I don’t remember anything after that. I think I must have pissed my pants. Or walked out.
Or pretended it never happened.
Which is what you do when you can’t think of anything else.
My dad was 78 when he died this past Wednesday morning. His death certificate says he went at 1:20 in the morning. It’s an odd hour to die, I guess, as far as those things go. No birds are outside singing. The world is mostly asleep or drunk or watching late night TV. Everything is yawning. Everyone is over it, hanging on by a thread.
And there you are, alone in a hospital room. Even the nurses probably don’t give much of a shit. Nothing against the nurses, but I suspect many of them are numb to it all now. To them, the death of my father in a dimly lit room on some cold winter night in New England, it lacked all the poetry that someone like me might try to assign to it. It’s understandable, of course. People just want to get home to their own beds. To their own sleeping kid’s heads and their own vape pens and their own microwave meatball pies at the end of a long night in SadSickLand.
He had a heart attack it says, on the certificate. He had pneumonia, my mom told me.
I remember once a doctor telling me that pneumonia is an old man’s best friend.
That’s what my mom told me on the phone when she called to tell me he was gone.
I wonder what his death was like though, you know?
Was he hacking so hard that the nurses were raising their eyebrows? Was he fighting to live or was he just over it? Did he say anything/ or try to?
Did he say my brother’s name?
Did he say mine?
Or was he, like, thinking those things/ our faces/ our voices/ our breath/ one of us in his arms right after we were born/ so small/ so tiny/ like a medium size bluefish from a party boat in the 70’s. Warm kid, bundled up in the cheap blue blanket, hiccuping sobs as he tries to focus on the giant life wrapping him in its grasp/ the dad brushing his Burt Reynolds porn mustache on the baby’s pink cheek.
The gentle stab of the new pop’s bristles.
The country tones of his Parliament breath.
What did he say when he first held me in his arms? Did he whisper in my ear? Did he say he loved me? Did he tell me it was going to be okay? Or did he not say anything at all because he wasn’t sure about any of this? That he wasn’t sure what was to come?
I wonder if I crossed his mind as he was dying.
I looked up the weather for when he died.
At 12:51am, a half hour before he passed, it was 32F and clear in his part of Massachusetts.
At 2:51am, an hour and change after he’d gone, it was 27F with passing clouds.
Then at, 3:51am, more than two hours after my dad had died far away from me, as I slept in my bed, unaware he was even ill or hospitalized or anything, the weather just outside Lowell General Hospital was 27F with ice fog.
They had probably rolled him out of the room by then, I figure. Out in the hall, slow clacking towards the elevator, like an old train huffing into the station. Then into the bright elevator, a couple of Red Sox lifers, two orderlies in their early 30’s, maybe just one/ I don’t know.
Checking his phone on the way down to the morgue. Checking scores or checking Tinder. Living his life, thinking about food.
My old man under the white sheet, maybe his last currents pinging around up in his head.
The orderly likes a TikTok.
My dad says my name down in that fading dark.
And I appear as ice fog, holding the whole fucking hospital in my arms like a baby.
Pepe was what I called my dad’s dad. I only met him a few times when I was a boy. He was a quiet man with rock chunk hands and his face was hard and pink and he wore something European that smelled like flowers dipped in booze.
He enchanted me simply by existing. His ashy hair and full mustache decorated a face that never spoke a single word I understood except my name, which was also his son’s name. My dad. Born in Belarus, Pepe ended up in Poland, and then on to northern France where my dad was eventually born in 1944, in the month of August, two months after D-Day, as the war raged on across the land.
I remember this the most.
Me, at 8 or 9, in my hip boots, standing in the river quite far from the bank. My dad out of sight, off fishing alone. And Pepe, squatting on the bank behind me, like only foreign men can squat. Like Vietnamese farmers resting in the jungle shade or Russian truckers sharing vodka at the snow squall petrol station, Pepe would rest his haunches on the slight cushion of air space between the backside of his shins and the rear of his hams and hover there, perfectly balanced, in no pain at all, as he rolled on the balls of his coal miner feet and stared at me, out in the swift cold river, without ever looking away.
When a smallmouth bass would slash my spinner I would feel my heart rise up on proud thermals and I would be looking down at myself fighting the fish and watching my grandfather from a distant land- who could not communicate with me except to smile or point or use his fingers to mimic eating food- staring at me/ unemotional/ with intense concentration/ as he smoked his hand-rolled Frenchy cig and saw his blood out in the water holding the bass high for him to see.
He would raise one hand slowly then, and perhaps let me have a slight grin, and I would feel the power of the male figure overcome me with a million trillion years of honor and respect and love and masculinity and acceptance and everything.
Although, he probably was just saying to himself that I was a weak twig who would likely die in the first moments of the next war to come. It doesn’t matter. He could not speak to me. I think that is the secret. Never talk to your grandkids. Simply smile at them, roll a smoke, watch them catch short bass in the creeping river mist.
Once at TT the Bears in Cambridge, at a Marah gig, my dad came up on the stage to play the drums with us on a song. It was right when we had reconnected with him at the urging of my mom. We had been on the Conan O’Brien Show performing a song and I think she was proud and wanted, somehow, to show her MIA ex that she had done really well with the two boys he had abandoned. I don’t know. I can’t speak for her, but one call from her one morning while we were out in California touring set the stage for this kind of meeting I had never imagined could happen.
Nor did I ever pine for it or long for the day.
Across every expanse of my mind, he was dead. Gone. Evicted from my spaces and buried under the ruins of a thousand cities I had never known/ rubble I had mined myself just to get the job done/ stones and gravel and dust I had hauled up out of the hole in my Earth to dump upon his eyes and his voice and his charming beer-buzzed smile and his endearing outlaw’s laugh and his sinister drunken machine-gun chuckle and his vicious parts and his anti-American booze-addled rants and his putting a shotgun to my mom’s head and his slapping my ass hard with his wedding ring hand as I fled from him in horror and his buying me brownies and hoagies and cans of Pepsi at 7-11 on fishing mornings and his not answering the door on other fishing mornings and his leaving me hanging, leaving me hanging, leaving me hanging and hurting and hanging and dying and his sense of cocky superiority to other people and his propping me up on the bottoms of his feet as he laid belly-down on the shag rug in the home we had once all shared before things turned for the worse, and letting me sit there as if his legs were the strongest chair in the world/ a chair that moved slowly under my little young ass/ chair letting me wobble and weave up in the air like a tall loose monument bound to come down/ up there in the sky as we watched Porky Pig or Foghorn Leghorn and he laughed so hard and drank beer after beer and I could smell the scalloped potatoes my mom was cooking in the kitchen of the house that was our home.
It was surreal, of course, looking at my Dad, now an older guy in his 60s, frailer than he’d been when I knew him. My brother Dave (our singer) and I: we had not seen him for a long, long time by anyone’s standards. By the time I was 11 and Dave was 9, our Dad was gone. He had simply disappeared and no one seemed to know where to. Or why.
It was assumed he had gone with his girlfriend, Merry, but nothing was ever looked into as far as I could tell. Yet, here we were now, decades having passed, and I felt wildly uneven about everything. For the slim crowd in this squat dark club, this might have been a pretty memorable moment, I guess. Band’s long lost dad joins them onstage to jam. But it all felt heavier than that to me. And the stage was MY place. It was OUR place, me and my brother’s. Filthy loud nightclub stages had become, unintentionally, or at least unknowingly, the few slight sections of the planet that we had been able to claim as our own.
For us, the band was everything. And to stand up on any stage, anywhere, in any club, in any city, on any given night, that was all we had ever wanted. And we had worked so hard to get that. Even if others thought that our level of success was low and we had so far to go to ‘make it’, our thoughts were always: Fuck You. Because this was our realm. This was our galaxy. This was our safe place where we could reveal ourselves honestly and without fear and now here he was, the man who had walked out of our world entirely for over 20 years, coming back to feast, easily, on the fruits of our labor.
It was cool, don’t get me wrong, playing music with my dad for the first time that night. But it was also heartbreaking. Because I found myself crushed by his presence.
I had killed the man.
Now the killed man was back.
And that’s always an awkward situation.
So much of my life I have spent on the run. Not from certain places or the law hunting me down or bad vices all up in my skin. For me, the running has been from the people, a select but powerful few, who have hurt me in the ways that can undo a human spirit to the point of straight-up dying if you let it.
My dad was one of those people. It is with a heavy, heavy heart now that I write about his death. Like many people, I wonder what might have been had circumstances been different with us. But unlike many others, I also continue to feel a profound sense of persistent injury coming from the man. He remains, as he always has, in life or death, a source of colossal pain for me. Which is somewhat embarrassing to me as someone who has been chewed up and spit out by others as well.
The questions circle my head, mountain crows screaming in the morning. The forest shakes. The dew rains down. The world is anything but peaceful now.
Was it me? I ask myself.
The same old question every divorce kid asks themselves, I ask it too.
Was this because of me?
And almost right away I can talk myself out from beneath that weight. I can assure myself, as the memes assure us, that it was not me. That it was not the boy. The child. The innocent chunk of a kid who couldn’t have messed up a father/son thing if he had even wanted to at the ripe old age of fucking 8. Or 10. Or whatever.
But that kind of self-help reassuring comes with a caveat, man, and that caveat is this.
Later, did I drop the ball?
Did I never try hard enough to pull this person back up out of the rubble I had buried him under? I had killed him off in the name of my own battered heart, but then what?
Back on that stage, back under those lights that had become my home, there he was, walking out of the past, smiling, drinking near beer, telling me he loved me after so many nights/ YEARS!/ of letting me know/ clear as day/ that he most certainly did not. In absentia, I had created my own story of my dad and his worth and his cold, cold heart.
Now, looking at him sweating his old man ass off back behind the kit, I felt more confused and lost than I ever had. And I still do. And now I always will. And I feel like punching a hole in the wall right here by my laptop. It isn’t fucking fair. I did not deserve any of this.
If you are thinking to yourself right now that I need to:
- just hand this over to God
- forgive and move on
- try to understand that my dad loved me ‘in his own way’
- realize that so many others have had it much worse than me
- understand that, to you, I seem caught in a loop of sadness/loss/grief/anger/blame/reboot
- or anything like that
…then I don’t know what to tell you, really. These things aren’t something I wrestle with for branding purposes or whatever. I’m not looking to be crowned the #abandonedson Hashtag King or anything like that. I am just really, really struggling with knowing that my own dad never had time for me or for my kids. And that he didn’t fight to win me back. And that he never even felt like there was any REASON for him to even have to try and win me back. He never apologized. He never looked me in the eye and said I fucked up, son. He never showed up at my door crying and begging me to let him try, even in these final years, to redeem himself in the eyes of love. He never did any of that.
Instead, he came around a little, spoke often of what others had done to him to impede his progress in life, and blamed my mom (who even went so far as to try to reconnect him with his sons) for everything that had ever happened in a marriage in which his alcoholism had achieved legendary status even in a town full of hard drinkers and failed dads.
I can’t understand any of it. I cannot understand why some people kept believing in him or wanting to forgive him even when he seemed entirely unwilling to accept even a tiny sliver of the responsibility for leaving two good, lovable sons in the middle of the night. To drive away from them, without a goodbye or anything, as if they were a dead cat he ditched down on some river road.
My guts hanging out my mouth.
My tongue sticking out like an arm.
Don’t leave me, the kid says.
His eyes bulging out of his skull where the tires sent him spinning off into forever.
We all live these alternative lives in our heads that don’t come true simply because that’s how life goes. In the first vibrating shakedowns of our own toddler minds shifting currents back into the brain and the heart, we begin to paint ourselves into the very masterpieces that hang proudly upon the walls of our own museum.
No one else ever sees that shit. No one else can fathom the epic scenes you have dreamed up for yourself, the immense love you would know, or the gaggle of riches and the never-ending joy you would experience would the narrative of the coming days simply understand that all it need do is refer to the art you have conjured in your mind/ the grand fantasy you have summoned into existence for yourself with the simple power of a daydream/ and re-create all of that to a T.
Then: everything will be perfect. Then: everything would have been just fine.
Ahh, but we are such fools for the lives we award ourselves. Long before we have even begun to weather the storms and crash up on the rocks of what truly lies ahead, each of us inconceivably writes our own history with a pen dipped in our own sour blood.
I am dizzy now/ left wandering around my own bedroom in a pair of black fat pants, nauseous from the dentist’s antibiotic, and wishing that I had never ever thought for even a fleeting instant in my youth that my days would be calm and my nights would be tranquil. Or that familial blood would see me through. I wish I’d never counted on some made-up notion that the music and the words and the kids and the love would all eventually lay me down in a pool of good clean water where I could wash off the burning embers of so many lingering fires that other people had lit in my hair so long ago.
I’m looking at you, Dad.
I’m talking to you, Governor.
When Meme and Pepe would come from France, it was the time when my parents were still together. Their arrival was a big event for us and for our neighbors. They spoke no English whatsoever. My dad, of course, was a native but my mom had learned to speak it as well. First, as a French foreign exchange student for the local community college outside Philly where she grew up, and later, as the beautiful bright young woman who had fallen in love with the handsome French drummer from the rock-n-roll band on the cruise ship they’d both found themselves on one summer long ago.
So the French flew hard and fast once my grandparents came in through the front door dragging flowery suitcases with baggage tags from Paris and Philadelphia. The tags were creased and flapping and reminded me of the vastness of a world I had not even begun to see yet. I would look at their old skin on their arms and imagine it up over the ocean just a few hours before. Up in the stars, your speckled French skin, your silver French tooth, your ability to just let go of fear in order to soar like a bird through the harshest long night.
In the kitchen, they would kiss me and give me small cheeses that emerged from their luggage. Tiny crackers that tasted much better than the stale-ish sick day Saltines I had long known. In a kind of trance, I would become a simple witness, resigned to merely watch my parents speak the foreign tongue to these people who might have been dropped off from outer space as far as I was concerned. France. The Moon. What was so different?
The understanding they shared in the depths of the language was magical. Each adult instantly deciphering the others’ scrambled broken sounds as if they were dialing into the innermost thoughts of the speaker, their consciousness, if you will.
Invisible, listening to the addictive cadence of the words/ the way they used rhythm for effect, the uncertain chimes and peals of their song rolling down off of their faces as they fried smelts at the stove and poured red wine into juice glasses, I was stunned into a sense of rare belonging in which everyone belonged. The four of them laughed when I least expected them to, their simultaneous roars coming at once, up out of each of them, tickled by something someone said that I could never understand.
In the smoke of the men’s cigarettes, I would grow tired after a while, and that first night of their arrival would fade from me.
The memories go fractured then.
Me being carried up to my bed by my father.
Me laying on my bed, on my Superman blanket, up above the grown-ups drinking and smoking.
Me soaring high above the world, my dad waving at me from the kitchen window.
Me sleeping the sleep of the exhausted boy, floating out across the oceans and the fields and the woods and the towns.
Me going quiet over the darkened lanes and streams.
Me slipping in and out of all the moonlight shadows.
There is nothing like wounded affection for giving poignancy to anger.
- Elizabeth Gaskell
To let him go now seems uncool. To me. For me. There had to be more to this story. There has to be more to what I’m holding here now. Heap of ash. Mildewy photos from the 70’s. Depression in our blood. A drinker’s DNA. A road map to a forest where all you do is search around and never find shit.
I know I have to let him go, I guess, and I feel as if I should be alright with that, but I don’t think I want to. It trips me up, the spaces between what I know and what I don’t know at all. It’s like, I want to stand tall in the eyes of each who knew him, pay my respects/ be the polite son/ the dutiful namesake/ but also fuck all that. And fuck his friends. And fuck anyone who tries to tell me that he meant well, that he always cared about me and all that bullshit people say just so they don’t have to deal with anything that makes them uncomfortable. What an army of weaklings you all turned out to be.
I’m going to do things my way now. I’m going to bury this motherfucker in my kitchen floor. Like a box of stolen money. Or a hot pistol.
But first, I need to reconcile all of the oceans with every star in the sky.
I need to make peace with the crumbled bridges down in this blue valley and that will be rough and sad and stupid for me. Truth is, I knew this day would come and I didn’t do much to change it. If I would have went searching for him again after a few years of not speaking, of never hearing from him, him never hearing from me, I believe he would have received me warmly; we would have laughed and joked; he would have asked me, gratuitously, about the kids, his own grandkids that he never saw or even acted like he wanted to.
Don’t give me your lame-ass reasonings. Don’t hit me with your Christlike forgiveness talk. Do not pretend that you can say things to me that will open my eyes or calm me down or help me out because you cannot and you should know that by now. Stop being the condescending Christian. I don’t believe in God. Not even a tiny bit. And I don’t need that kind of cultish jive talk coming at me right now either.
Let me be.
Let me rage.
Let me talk to the wind instead of your lords.
Every man should have his choice.
This afternoon, I think I understand why I never circled back to my biological dad after he left in the night, for the second time, a few years ago. Drinking again and fighting with my brother, he departed central Pennsylvania in blitzed huff in the middle of the night/ without any goodbyes/ without any gravity or stoic heft or father-ness at all. He just left like a petulant child, like a punk ass kid who could never ever own up to anything on his end. He drove home to Massachusetts. Alone. Bleary. Aging. Stubborn. Cruel. Idiotic. Entombed down in the confines of a story he had been telling himself for so many years that it had become indisputable truth to him. It was a tale of courage and survival, and he was the hero. It was the story of an alcoholic deadbeat who was misunderstood by the world.
It was the same pack of lies a lot of people I know tell themselves.
Blaming other people.
Never saying: It was me. I am sorry. I am so fucking sorry for what I’ve done.
After he disappeared that second time, I know what happened. I stopped answering his calls because I was shaking like a child when I saw his name on my cellphone. Because I was really, really afraid. Afraid of him leaving me again. Of his tendency to fail me according to the code I try to live by. My code/ my simple dumbass code:
Try to do something honorably once/
then, if need be, honorably once more/
after that don’t ever try to do it again.
I wanted to feel, down in my heart, that my dad wanted to know me. To talk to me. To tell me that he could understand how heartbroken I must have been when, as a boy, I was left behind. To live or to die. Whatever happens, happens. It has been difficult for me to love a man that went in that direction. But I try and I think that I do. I do love him. Very much, even if he thought that he deserved my love unequivocally like some selfish unmindful terrorist of the soul. In death, we are free to meet up in life, I suppose, but this time by my rules. With my boundaries and my narrative.
I can write all the dialogue. I can script the apology, from one man to the other. And then from the other man to the first.
I’m sorry I left you, son.
Crickets. Hawk squeals. Babbling brook in the background.
I’m sorry I left you too, Dad.
Songbirds singing. Spring breeze rattling the leaves.
Open a bottle of wine together. Work on building some new steps for my front porch. Cook some steaks on the charcoal grill, rubbed down in garlic. Because we are French. Because we know exactly how to win sad hearts.
Enough already. Move with me. Roll with me. Out into the road, down the lane, over towards the Amish farms. Smell the cow shit. Breathe it in hard, man. Listen to those dogs barking in the distance and know that somewhere up there on that mountain right there a deer can hear those same dogs as us.
Put a blade of dead winter grass between your teeth. Look at the low pale sun. Cover your ears, do whatever you’ve got to do.
Don’t be a baby.
I’m going to kill everyone now.
And I’m going to do it my way.
The right way.
I'm a rocker
I'm a roller
I'm a right out of controller
I'm a wheeler
I'm a dealer
I'm a wicked woman stealer
I'm a bruiser
I'm a cruiser
I'm a rockin' rollin' man.
All my dad ever really would want at this point, is to be remembered as a rocker. It was a point of high esteem in his eyes. When me and Dave showed him our band, in the very first moments when he stood there at a soundcheck and heard the guitars start in and then the drums and bass, I saw in him, in his eyes, something fierce and raw, a kind of desire returning that I could tell almost instantly was a feeling he had suspected he would never know again.
The power of rock-n-roll was the gift my dad gave me. Gave us, me and Dave. From our earliest days, we would go up into the attic of the old house in Conshohocken and we would sit there in the rabid summer heat and we would gulp for oxygen as my dad, drunk on Pabsts/ a whole Saturdays worth of warm summer cans/ he would get behind his drum kit and tap himself in with his sticks and explode into the pure American thunder.
He didn’t play the drums like some jazzy French cruise ship milksop. He hit them as if they were the planets falling on his legs/ slamming into his arms/ trying to crush him under the endless monstrosity of their very existence.
His drumming was man versus nature. Sweaty and violent and so rhythmic that he could have played with anyone. Muddy Waters. The Stones. His god, Little Richard. They all would have raised a glass to the white boy from France. The crazy one with the cinematic laugh and the deep smoker voice and the flashing silver tooth that never was explained.
Dave and me would watch in stunned silence as our father, the source of half of our flesh and blood, would blind himself with his own saltwater until his eye rims were crimson at the tightly shut edges, his terse body pumping at the high-hat, slashing at the snare, moving the kit forward even on the attic rug as his chiseled right calf seemed to breath like a cut-out lung tied to a man’s leg as it tried, desperately, to launch everything: drums/cymbals/drummer/rug/kids/beer cans/that 4-4 beat from the depths of a single man’s innermost being/ right out the fucking giant attic window and into the world.
All of us spilling down into the yard below, my dad still rocking the drums as he slammed into the grass, his body impaled on the wood fence, blood shooting out his nose, his arms still slamming into the snare, his sweaty toes flung out of his 70’s-ass Adidas now and caught in the the thin tin jaws of the high-hat/ still tapping out the intricate pattern/ the snare and the cymbal talking to each other/ moving through this world with timelessness/ stopping the message/ ceasing the fire/ still-life everything at once for a holding pattern instant/ the fence post through his heart/ as his two young sons/ just kids/ come crashing down out of the sky only to land on his now still body/ the force of the blow completely cushioned by them landing upon him.
Two bothers landing on the slick sweaty back of the unmoving drummer.
He was just so alive only seconds ago.
He was just so alive and we saw him.
He was just snarling at us with his eyes forced shut and his fingers were spraying blood from fresh wood cuts and his sweat was landing on the edges of our lips and we were drinking it like summer rain and it was glorious, his noise, it was glorious and loud and it was pissing the whole neighborhood off and we knew it.
Everything is quiet where once it was loud. Lost seagulls cry off in the distance from the dumpster behind the bar. I can hear the neighborhood crew trying to see into our yard. Then we just close our eyes, a couple of dumb kids. Fall asleep for a while on the dead man’s back.
It’s okay, I know.
Death of a rocker.
Only way to go.
In memory of Serge Bielanko, 1944-2023.
Chacun voit midi à sa porte.*
This piece was strange and hard to write. But obviously it was inevitable. It feels, now, like some kind of release/ antiquated chains cut off.
At long last, I make a beeline for the tree line. And I’m free.
Edited by Arle Bielanko
Photos. Top: me and my dad. Middle: me. Bottom: me, my dad, and my brother. Last: my dad’s band in France. That’s him on the very left… drumming.
Check out gnarleART for cool stuff.
Subscribe to Letter to You by Arle Bielanko.
Please subscribe to Thunder Pie if you don’t already. Paid subscribers pay $120 a year or $10 a month for one new weekly essay from me, in your email inbox, at 9am every Friday morning. You can also pay a custom amount if you feel so inclined (just hit the True Believer button when subscribing and type in the amount you’d like to pay for my work). I have some folks who have done that for me and it truly means more than I can say.
Writing this stuff week in and week out has been the most incredible weapon against depression and anxiety that I have ever held in my hands. And I owe it all to you, the reader. I love you all very much. Thank you for believing in me.
* “Chacun voit midi à sa porte” is a beautiful expression which, while being somewhat unfortunate, is nevertheless quite true. The literal translation goes, “Everyone sees noon at his doorstep.” It means that every individual is occupied, first and foremost, with his or her own personal interests, and each feels their subjective opinions as objective truths. When such tenacity occurs, the French would say, “Inutile de discuter,” it is “useless to argue,” since every man feels he is right. Innumerable are the contexts in which this phrase may be used, and it would impress a French person to hear it from a foreigner.
-from FluentU, French Language and Culture Blog