love on a sinking ship

I've lived with Frank, or Frank has lived with me
half a dozen times over the years.
This never works out.
No matter how big the place is, there's
never enought room for even one of us.

Frank and I are cursed with the same spell,
the spell of beautiful women.
Since college, we've been tag-team assholes.
Bar dragonflies. Bastard brothers of the
holy barstool.

By now we have too many stories.
When Frank was arrested in Mexico as a Russian spy.
Twice. Me and my Bolshoi ballerina.
The Afghani mujahadeen I flew with to Montreal
to buy wire-guided missile launchers from
the IRA to shoot down Soviet helicopters.

The woman Frank slept with in the White House.
The strange story of the NOW attorney.
The time I kept Frank from getting arrested by singing.
The time we shot out his ex's air conditioner,
escaped in the stolen sportscar.

The 30-foot line of cocaine.
The rooftop midnight mescaline punch picnic.
The guy whose head broke the barroom window.
All the women we have in common.
The perfect loves we burned up and fucked away.
Most of these are true.

We sit on barstools in the Irish pub,
her long blonde hair floating between us
We are too quick, too relaxed, too funny,
as always. Often nothing happens.
This time she leaves with me.

Frank always won the most.
But I often picked off the best ones.
This chaps Frank like a cactus saddle, always did.
This is why I'm Frank's best friend.

Frank is quicker, more facile,
a better liar, an amazing voice, can dance.
But in some small way, there is something about me
that is more real than Frank.
No way he'll ever believe this.

So sometimes I win out.
I think I would like to keep this one forever.
But I always think that.

Frank and I will be roommates in hell.
He will play Celine Dionne,
that awful song, loving you forever or something.
He'll play it over and over, and I still won't be able
to kill him.

We will drink warm cheap beer and
glare at each other over an empty barstool.

I'm ready to retire from this game. Maybe this time.
This was one we could not confuse.
This one has golden hair, and a golden heart,
that sharp cynicism, the whole bar laughing.
But it's the next day, and she's certainly been
talking to her frantic boyfriend,
and you never know.

I write about suicide sometimes. But I would
never do it. As far as hell goes,
it may not sound like it, but
all this has been close enough.

Even if I've done enough good
to get my sorry ass into heaven,
heaven would never change, Frank says.
Perfection is eternal.

I would run around up there, bitching.
The angels would say, there he goes again.
That dumbass thinks
he's in hell.

As my roommate played
over and over again
his perfect song.


© 1999 by
michael mcneilley