“Triptych” by John Amen

John Amen


In ’96 I used to take Levine to the Mental Health Center
for his monthly psych appointments. I’d drive while he
told me of IRS men who were appropriating his garage,
homosexuals who had it out for his dead uncle. It’s tragic,
how someone’s pain can become chronic noise, a shtick
you learn to tune out. That last time, though, something
came over me, and I swerved into a parking lot, turned off
the car. “Do you really believe that?” I yelled. I saw it, my
words slicing through decades of fixation, a forgotten sun
rising in his arctic eyes; for three seconds he was free, whole.
Then the shadow fell again. “It’s documented in the Vatican,”
he said. Not long after that he hanged himself outside the church
he attended when he was a kid. I went to the visitation, but I don’t
remember much about his family, just that they stood there,
parents and siblings, a quartet in a perfect row, shaking hands
and saying over and over, in tones that struck me as oddly
indistinguishable, thank you thank you thank you thank you

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007

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