Your arteries shone like Milky Ways
in a doomed galaxy. The doctor,
detached as a Hindu god, showed me
points of budding light like supernovae
invading black cortical sky. “Each of
these spots is a aneurysm. A brain
that has this many lesions puts
surgery out of the question, “ he said;
“There’s nothing we can do.” That is,
soon all the supernovae would become dwarf stars.
The first time I met you, you were
sitting on your little sister,
beating her head on the porch.
After she went wailing in to mother,
I introduced myself; we became friends.
Two working-class outsiders
who despised their alcoholic fathers;
we had much in common. (Except you
had more to hate: your mother, often
drunk, was cold as your father was cruel.)
Twenty years later, when the first star blew,
cops fished you out of an alley and
dumped you at St. Vincent Hospital.
Another kid on drugs, they thought;
yet when the tests proved negative
while you stayed wild and combative,
the diagnosis changed from “drugs” to “crazy.”
The boy who shot clips at his dog
in a sack hung on a clothesline
from the fourth floor; the boy
who told me with a puzzling smile,
“Guess what? My father died!”;
the teenager who left his mother’s funeral
to wander about in New York;
no misfit, mugger or murderer,
despite expert predictions,
the boy became a high-school teacher,
generous, sober and kind: a star,
till many starbursts later, he died
incoherent on a dirty ward
in the building where we both were born —
Who knows how much hard work it took
for him to become average?
Though forgotten by almost everyone,
in my sky you remain a first-magnitude star,
like Schubert, dead at thirty-one,
Walter Wilczewski, my friend.