music: Richard Stoltzman
The dead among the living
The deaths by suicide
What part did I play
'Fore they died. When they died.
Was it that one thing
That I did or said?
Is that why she's not here?
Is that why he is dead?

There's a popular TV series
It's called "The Walking Dead"
But I think more popular
Should be the walking wounded instead
The wounded are the dead
Before they die
They're the ones to listen to
Not some seance from the sky.

I feel that it is possible
I played a minor role
In both my friends' suicides
Though major minor as a whole.
I told her something private
I was busy, he was needy
She didn't need that info
He didn't need the greedy.

But really it was her father
It was his family grief
He abused her beyond believing
They hurt him beyond belief.
I was placed into their lives
Like many of us are
We share the secrets hidden
We revealed the hidden scar.
We're placed within the framework
The picture frame contains
Of friendships unexpected
From people with new names.

I've slowly left the tribal past
Replacing heroes with the new ones
The imperfect outdated narrow roads
With new trails much more broadened.
She was an atheist Republican
He an abandoned gay
Both were the best friends I found
Though lefty and a straight.

They taught me more than Sunday schools
More than Lutheran catechisms
They're gone now but I'll never forget
What they schooled me about schisms.
I'm old now and I'm glad I am
I've listened to the young
When I wished to but I've more embraced
The young who held their tongue.

He and she they left me
Alone again (naturally)
I sometimes cursed their callousness
While cursing their bravery.
I spurned my parents' shielding me
From templates such as they
My parents' inability
To admit in shades of grey.

So then we come full circle
This wounded poet, me.
Laura. Paul. Mom and Dad.
The walking wounded. We.
Give me another year or two.
Give me another ten.
I'm old, I'm tired and can't relate
To those who just pretend.
We all in some way influence
The deaths of ones we love
The 13 reasons make some sense
From a ghostly crying dove.

You could say I'm a deluded fool
Drama queen to rights
But when the only voices you hear
Are dead, you can only write
Write down the things they whisper
Write down the dreams they sear
Write down the images and the thoughts
That make them still quite near.

You may be wrong in pegging me
As the next to buy the gun
Or save up pills from the unsuspecting
The next to say "I'm done."
They taught me love and I'm in love with love
I'm addicted to these mates
The ones who've gone before me
And those yet who await their fates.

So if there is an afterlife
It won't matter who was misled
Sooner or later everyone
Ends up wounded, if not dead.

October 31, 2019
Taft, CA