The Death of Adam: A Kaddish

Adam is dead and I eat Greek yogurt in my office between classes.
Adam is dead and I reply to emails requesting recommendations.
I purchase Iron and Wine tickets for their November show on South Beach.
I buy Band of Horses’s “The Funeral” off iTunes and Adam is dead at twenty-two.

Adam is dead and the Yankees win another playoff series.
Adam is dead and another tropical storm sweeps toward the coast,
its outer bands like locks of hair across Florida’s face.
At the gym, the Israeli Health professor claims bagels killed more Jews than the Nazis.
He asks about me and I tell him about my parents.
The stoplight at Spanish River Drive never changes
and I don’t know what to do and Adam is dead.

When I got the news I was still hurting from my football team losing
by thirty to its rival. I reread the box score and rewrote the turnovers.
I imagined the opposing team’s touchdown catches
as drops, holes opening between tackle
and guard so our halfback scrambles seventy-five yards into the end zone
instead of being tackled in the backfield and fumbling the handoff.

Is see Adam lugging his suitcase through Times Square, weighed
down by evidence that Floridians over pack for northeastern winters.
I see him inviting me to his memorial service the way he’d invite me out
on a Friday night: “You’re going to come, right”?
I see him asleep gasping for arrested breath.
I see him walking the avenue of burning churches
while the pavement shines like freshly shaved legs.

Adam is dead and I have become a professor of eulogies, an expert of funerals.
Adam is dead and I teach my classes, grade my student’s papers.
My students are Hitler. Are John Wayne Gacy. Are O.J. Simpson.
Are Jesse Owens. Are Olympic gymnasts. Are middle management.
Are bartenders. Waitresses. Are nothing. Lost cell phones. Abandoned Facebook pages.
They’ll write pop songs for Volkswagen commercials.
They’ll design online marketing for mud flap manufacturers.

The implements of birth, of rebirth, the breast, penis, vagina, scrotum: dead.
Useless. Yesterday’s lottery ticket dropped in a parking lot.

Adam died in his sleep and his death recalls other death.
My uncle. My grandfather.
My classmate beheaded in Afghanistan.
My other classmate who shot himself after receiving a rejection letter from Harvard.
No one paid him attention until he was dead.
Then everyone was his friend.
Adam is dead and I’m left with a survivor’s guilt.
I feel absurd standing in the checkout line with my Gatorade and eggs.
I feel ridiculous. Like a pencil sharpener in an airport.
Like a racing stripe on a minivan. Like a giraffe running.

Adam is dead and I could jump in a river but then I’d be wet
unless I jumped from high enough.
I could jump in a river from a high bridge but then I’d miss
the November Iron and Wine show,
the Yankees winning another World Series,
the Stanley Cup returning to Detroit, miss children singeing
my hair white with the fire of fatherhood, miss minivans
and retirement parties and living off social security if it survives.
I’d miss funerals of my friends.

Adam is dead and it will get easier on his mother.
She will shop again. She has other sons.
His girlfriend will date again.
She will marry and have another man’s children.

Adam is dead and we are left with covered heads and amens
and amen is just another word like Oxycodin. Like heroin.
And words are as comforting as expired credit cards.

brad-johnson1Brad Johnson has two chapbooks Void Where Prohibited and The Happiness Theory available at His third chapbook Gasoline Rainbow is available at Work of his has recently been accepted by Nimrod, Poet Lore, The South Carolina Review, The Southeast ReviewWillow Springs and others.

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