If Jimmy Were Alive to Ask  Kevin Heath



I'd cast my memory back to that spring when Van the Man played St. Louis—the Checkerboard Arena, long gone now. We took your cousin's Ford, the mad Maverick, she lovely and it reeking of Mexican prayer candles. Nothing more honest than the stink of ox butter (her charms alone atoned for all profane spirits). Knowing where we were headed, she offered us her last candle and her lighter, too. You drove, Jim, and I rode. Between my feet, the rusting floorboard showed holes no passenger had slipped through, yet—good only for letting go of whatever one might need to let go of in a fix. Once, for kicks, I tried reaching under us, the road spitting like a grinder's stone, my nerves sensing what I'm more sure of now: there's no good way to suffer.


Jimmy, I'm counting back to a day I wish I could keep steadier. If there were omens then, guides and spirits—signals from a radio dying for higher ground, you hard at the steering wheel and me shouting something real over the wind from the open windows, I'm at a loss. The spare turned up missing. Your cousin's lighter was clear blue and empty enough to be useless. I wore a denim shirt unbuttoned to my bare chest and thrift store shoes a dead man fancied before me. Van did everything we wanted to hear, or so I'd like to now believe—“Summertime in England” near the end, his eyes closed and no way to keep time with him singing


it ain't why,

it ain't why,

it ain't why, why, why, why, why—


it ain't why, now,

it just is.