Your sister says you bolted from treatment at Memorial
and picked up where you'd left off
on the road with anyone looking for a miracle.
An expert hitcher for a guy who once owned a Volvo,
you could get around the country anywhere,
shouldering your bass gig bag.
Your letter is just one long string of names
and ours are on it. Are they goodbyes,
or a list of everyone that failed you?
New Years night you asked, "What does it mean
that Morrison, Hendrix, Bonham and Joplin
all OD-ed, were our age, and had 'J' in their first name?"
Did we answer without thinking?
"It immortalized them," my brother said.
I said, "They weren't even all the exact same age."
Every night you'd take us downtown,
avoiding crowded interstates, under the bridge on Krog
with its lamp-lit graffiti moons and lips,
through alleys we've yet to find again, acquainting us
with the big city: music, neon, drunk girls in short skirts.
We went back to school and heard next spring
you'd fallen apart -- quit your job, went missing
with two rich friends from Japan,
enough coke to last a lifetime, toured the country
in their Mercedes, following rave scenes.
You'd been trying to get it together at home.
Your sister came by our parents -- house to tell us.
What went through your mind hanging in the dark from a pipe?
Your family's name was on the list.
My brother had a star by his name -- John*.
What did the star by his name mean?
My brother and I are home again, acquainting ourselves
with places off the map, the empty city.
Sometimes we take those same back streets,
crank your music, and do donuts in the parking lots
where we all slugged beers together and peeled away,
the burning rubber hot in our noses.