What Grace is For

This is for my brother Joey
who played amazing grace on a plastic recorder
so long one day I told him enough!
enough with the amazing goddamn grace!

He was practicing fingerings
to play it on the bagpipes
at our sister’s wedding.
He was 16 and a
half
I never saw him a-

A Lesson:
Let no variety of negativity
glom onto that beautiful song
of anti-slavery
because if you do
it may lodge in your memory
like a stone in a kidney
left and right
like a bone in a windpipe…
and Heimlich
it don’t work on the mind

enough! … He was 16 and a
half
I never saw him a-

. . . a green t-shirt
that read a boy of quality is not afraid
of a girl for equality.
Yeah I gave it to him but he wore it all the time
that time we camped out west
and he posted on the grand damn canyon edge
flailing and faking a fall
made my stomach fall
on a hand grenade
as if I knew
as if I could save any—

. . . one mother by her fifth
gets a little worn out
so I got up with him some nights
rocked him, rocked him till he drifted off —
tomgirl toughgirl but girl
me and my baby brother bonded
better than Lady Gaga and high heels
better than Michelle Obama and deltoids
better than Barry Bonds and steroids
better than Lance Armstrong and lies

One time we found these baby rabbits
all minkly soft in a bowl of meadow.
He pleaded could we take one home,
I told him Joey
they’re too young
and think of the mother
when she finds one gone

When our mother found him gone
grief tore her gut alien-like
and predator cancer
hauled the U-haul on in.
She didn’t last long.

He died in the cabin
of a dry-docked boat
with smoke and flames
and his best friend.
And you can bet I
heard that song 500 times
and heard that song 500 more
just to be the one on the floor
in the pukepuddle of guilt and remorse
for ever (I’m talking a Edgar Allen Poe
level of ever here) more

Where I found out
I found out
what grace is for

If the angels were singing
would you listen?
If the angels were listening
would you sing?
I say yes, O yes,
I don’t waste
this wretched lesson:

Amazing grace
it is always perfect!
all the verses.
And it need not end,
it is like the river
the I Ching speaks of:
any spot in the flow of it
unique due to the flow yet
the whole of it
always and ever one

So this is for Amazing Grace
which my brother Joey played
all day that day
working it even while waiting on line…
for a big mac and fries
like he was trying to bless the grease
trying to thread those irritating beeps
into beads
trying to finish
trying to finish
I’m trying to finish
unfinishable piece

I was his hero.
If he was here Oh
I think he’d say
get up off that floor
and make something outcha grief
now that you know what grace is
what grace is

that saved a-a

is for