A Million Ways to Go

 

My first summer out of high school,

five hundred miles from home,

I moved into a basement apartment

with a new roommate from Hardin

 

who dug rock and roll and marijuana,

indulged my photography and poems.

We pooled our money and bought a lid

of Rez weed. Well, I took the ride

 

with the dealers, two guys he knew,

sampled a joint in the back seat as they

cruised, no headlights, across the prairie

in moonlight sucking on a pint of Jim Beam

 

while my pal, Dal, got a hand-job from his

girl. We spent the night at his parents’ house

where they both cooked dinner, then his dad

washed the dishes—that was a first for me.

 

Happy-go-lucky, we knew how to succeed

in school and work at the mental hospital,

how to get along and have fun. We had to

go to the park to smoke with the gargoyle

 

because the old landlords upstairs were

eagle-eyed and owl-eared. For ten weeks

we were best of friends. Then we went on

the journey of our lives. I was married a year

 

later. We lost touch over the decades, wrote

a few letters, but life, time, took over. Forty

years later Dal came for a visit on a return trip

to the homeland, Montana. It was the same,

 

easy, like Harold and Maude and Cat Stevens’

songs we’d spun on the stereo that summer

after watching the film for the first time. So,

last night to celebrate Dal heading west,

 

I rented the movie and watched it again

for the umpteenth time. It was all I could do

not to bawl like a baby out of sheer joy for

first loves and the dark comedy of prank

 

suicides, his Jaguar flattened upside down

on the beach, seagulls squawking, the camera

slow-panning up the cliff where I knew Dal

would be standing, smiling, gazing out to sea

 

before turning to stroll and tune his banjo, hop-

skipping into the fade. There are a million

ways to be. We know that there are. So live!

Do what you want. Be free. Sing out! It’s easy.

 

Mark Gibbons

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