Salud, Comrade

When it's gone
as it almost is
I'm not sure what will happen.
Maybe the boy truly dies then.
There are no by-laws for the supernatural.
I hadn't thought about it until today.

Mocking acquaintances
from a time when they were tolerated
called it the Dead Guy Disaronno.
The large bottle of Italian liqueur
had come from a cleanout job
I did in the East Village years back.
Cancer even kills in Manhattan.
Cancer even kills 21-year-old kids.
His family paid us to empty his studio
in order to avoid further heartache.
It seemed to be the right decision.
I'd want the same in a similar scenario.
We discovered a bong and dirty movies in the closet;
a used rubber behind the bed.
I found recording gear and a deviant
pornographic film script in a shoebox.
I haven't told anyone about that until now.
Among the syringes, pill bottles
and expensive pieces of plastic medical equipment
that didn't earn their keep
there were packs upon packs of empty Marlboro Reds.
He was Russian
and wanted to be a cowboy
but instead he died
an ocean away from his birthplace
nowhere near the O.K. Corral.

My employer salvaged some usable items
unworthy of the trash heap
and encouraged me to do the same.
It lessened our trips to the dump
and the fees.
I copped that bottle of amaretto.
My bar back home needed some sophistication
amidst the mags of whiskey and rum.
Wasting the nectar of freedom is abuse
and I'm not one to abstain.

It didn't get much play
in our weekend cocktail rotation.
Only now, in my hermitic years
has it had its cap removed.
Coffee is better with a bite
like a kiss
so I've sipped and been bitten
and grateful.
Tonight as I indulge
with a pungent cigarillo
the dusty bottle stares back
two portions left.
It's dawned on me
with teeth, as death often does:
When the vessel gets tossed
in a week when it's empty
that Russian stranger dies
for the last time in my life.

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