By Joseph J. Patchen

I was born on a trans-Atlantic bus with a cord wrapped around my neck. Cradled in a shoe box, someone found me with tissue paper on my lips. I don’t know who turned me in, but when I was found they institutionalized me.

For a lifetime since, I’ve labored through an endless parade of introductions and pleasantries - flowered with promises and paved with rejections. Along the way there have been lulls for rape and abuse. Disappointment, fear, deceit, anger - I’ve courted them all. It was only when I reached the age of majority that I settled squarely on hate.

It has been a whirlwind romance, a starry-eyed fling, but ever since hate found me, my life has become easy. No issue is ever complex. No relationship leaves baggage. I never exert myself belaboring thought, patience or redemption.

I never need to break a sweat cracking my back to bury lies at the feet of others’ feelings. I never have to check my blood pressure when a donut oozing flatfoot makes sport of me. Hate has ordered my life, made me decisive, and streamlined my time.

And time I now possess in abundance to apply to recreation.

I devour phone directories like cheap best-selling novels. I snack on obituaries. Maybe a name or a photo will jog me. Or a map – in a library or post office - will give me a street or county or a park to wake me. But to date, nothing has felt right and nothing appears on the horizon to dissuade my seemingly endless trek for an origin.

Each passing day, I feel a little farther from home, but my hope is forever searching.

Where am I now? I’m not sure. I can care less. It simply doesn’t matter. This place seems nice, like any other midsize city. The people are many and anonymous, and to that aspect, I feel akin. Their faces betray their ‘dowerness’, their sourness and their confused and muted disgust.

Death begins at birth
and ends at death.

And in between
you assess your worth
and make your next bet.

Then it begins again
with a like kind of breath,
a new way to ends,
but without the same old debts.

In my next life I will kill more, regardless of the score birth gives me. I know what I like and I like giving others that cosmic chance.

As a child, I stole three Cadillacs and from a variety of merchants, and at no time was I ever pinched. As a teen I hustled in alleys and penthouses and to many a man I was their King all while making them feel royal. The work was honest, paid for, and sealed with consent.

All through the night - God, they seemed to love the cloak of night - we would snuggle hand in hand, cash rubbing against their thighs, and the sweet smack of success on my lips. Then I would bow to them as my maker, with a toothy smile and waving tongue, allowing the streams on
my face and around my mouth to shine and sparkle like bulbs on a marquis, all the while as I plan ahead to my next performance.

But tonight the clouds shorten the sky. I stand on a stage of old rotting crates, a cord wrapped around my neck. The boxes sway lightly and softly - like the tip of a blade of grass. At some point they’ll snap and crack and be rendered to dust and I’ll twist and swirl as if in wind.

At some point they’ll find my body, with blood and foam on my lips, but by then I’ll finally be on my way home.

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