Friends Fall Out: An Excerpt

Chapter 1

The hero Robert Hunger wakes, and he
from shuttered closet takes a towel to wipe
the beaded sweat off a neck so corded yet,
that dreams relieved, their bare and fleet descent,
cannot convince of his wholeness again.
The interposition of the cordial
telephone agitates these meagre sticks;
an empire of must, so thoroughly nicked,
the auctioneer's consignment rejects it.
In brown tones, a fumbled hello; a voice
like comfort's door unclasped quits receiver:
"My dear, wake up! On this day, all we fear
and something more, is coming now to be.
Obscured is the reason, but the outline
of an evil season fast approacheth.
Our man walks out of jail, as we once did."
He snaggles a comb through black hood of hair,
one middle-aged man, dowdy, who proceeds,
in feeble dawn, a transient phantom,
down back stairs to the fuming parking lot,
and sees the streets, those who swarm, and suffer,
and work, on breasts of a savant mother;
forsooth, call it our Terminal City.
Downtown highrises flare. Robert pilots
his own inerted heap on the crests of
arterial spoor. A penumbra
of glory wraps him, and wraps him, and then
is gone. Stoplights blink in sympatico.

By the noodle house, upon the strip mall,
against a tool rental facility,
locate the Missionary Church of God.
In front, of florid, freckled face, its prop,
the Rev'rend Mister Vicarious Haunts
tarries, in tight collar and choking cross,
engorging ice cream in the breakfast hour.
A small boy waylays yon slouching cleric,
and, shedding free tears, beseeches him hear
the tale of He-Hoo, greatest dog ever,
who went to Heaven, straight away, when struck
on the highway, or so said his Pa-pa.
With flick of a crumb comes revelation:
"Ain't no God kid. Trust me. Who's the expert?
When He-Hoo died, they put him in the ground.
Vermiculation, baby! As for love,
I'm sorry, the mutt only shilled for meals
and warm place to pee. Blame the selfish gene."
A squalling child, the apostle of anguish
shoos away; just then, his ride arrives.

From prison gates, the ex-convict exits
through minute crack, into the outer world;
registered as Harry Shields, known hacker,
and rifler of secrets on locked networks.
For the kicks: no exploits thrilled by money,
or mob, or off-account spook direction;
enough for his enhasslement, five years,
penned, fed and squashed at Terminal City's
discretion. Released in a suit of rags
with nowhere to go, and no one to know.
Cavernous ways disclose, two cars idling,
who want him now, whose headlights spark to life,
and, rolling, follow him like sniffing dogs.
Interminable surveillance begins,
with disdain for privacy, and the debt
he has discharged. A remonstrance stifled.
Inside he feels something unlatch. A soul
that flees its holy roost like rippling smoke,
and collects in Robert's car, where, in back
there is, wrapped in foil, new body for him,
its egress sealed by a crackling blue flame.
A boneless puddle of flesh is gathered
where it lays on the sidewalk by Rev. Haunts,
the source of separation. Off he drives.
The voice of a woman beside Robert,
almond-headed, plump, good-willed Jill Winter
to Harry 'splains: "You must sleep, as we take
you somewhere safe, and there your soul will choose."
His heavy eyes drooped shut, and he worried,
"Have I exchanged one jail for another,
not knowing its measure of smothered air?"