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Poem: "Ballad for Jimmy Damour"

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Ballad for Jimmy Damour

Bursting out of ourselves,
rush of coat and elbow,
we rode over, over
Jimmy Damour, standing guard in the dawn—
the door yanked from its socket.
We rode as though on horseback
in the direction of our wanting.

They say you lay in a sleep of bronze
on the white linoleum,
while we shopped for TVs.
You a stone in the current of us.
Like water, indifferent, serpentine,
we carved the earth,
with our urgent business.

They say you shielded a pregnant woman
with your body,
that beneath the weight of us
she heard the grinding of her own teeth.

I’d like to say that because of you, Jimmy,
we make do with less.
It would suit my miserly heart
to cut, extract, leave out, whittle
down to the essential quart
of milk and sack of beans
to sit hearthside with this set of hands,
this ballad of do-no-harm
while all around the world
unravels as it turns.

But would you have wanted that?
You were a big man with love in your name.

On his last day alive,
Jimmy Damour smelled the sea.
He watched the sun
illuminate the shopping cart
that we lifted over our heads
like a parade saint.
On his last day alive,
his breakfast fit in his pocket.
On his last day alive,
he closed the door
to his mother’s apartment
like a book of prayers
and, in the dark morning,
the grass lay brittle on either side of the walk.
On his last day alive,
he did not doze to the stop
and start of the numbered bus.
On his last day alive,
Jimmy Damour did not once sit down
or stride down the aisle
to snatch one of the terrible markdowns.
We came at him like a wave,
and he lay down.

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