Poetic License: Pedrito II
In Memoriam Peter Paul Pacheco (Pedrito) 1924-1944
It wasn’t at all like the movies,
There was no last thing for him to tell me,
No brotherly advice, no dying wish.
I couldn’t sit through the Coming Attractions
And wait for him to come on again:
His screen was blank forever.
This was the fact of death
His cold clammy face
Made me face for the first time
In the chill of Rotella’s Funeral Parlor,
Arrayed in his coffin in khaki,
Soldier hat fitted on
To cover the wound in the head,
Killed not in battle but in accident of war,
Not in glory but in unlucky break.
For a while I remembered him
Dearly and clearly, but reminiscence
Weakened with each resurrection,
And the relentless fact kept leaving
Fewer and fewer to share remembrance;
I kept thinking of him less and less
Until hardly at all,
Until almost out of mind.
But he would appear in dreams,
Often to tell me it was all a big mistake,
His death had been faked by his superiors
To allow him to go “undercover”
And he was sorry he had made us suffer —
But when could he see his nieces?
In another dream we sat on my patio
Drinking Ruppert’s beer and reminiscing
About the old neighborhood,
He had acquired a wife and two children,
And we watched the cousins play.
But on the soundtrack of every dream
A voice like my own kept whispering:
Whose face was that you kissed in Rotella’s?
Whose grave is that in Pinelawn?
Then he stopped appearing altogether,
And for the longest time
In the feverish daylight of waking,
There were only glints of thought,
Or occasional wisps of memory
To remind me I had not always been
Without a brother.
Now as the deaths keep piling up
And the distance between us
Like daylight in winter
Grows relentlessly shorter,
He reappears in reverie
As in a sequel
To the movie I once loved,
To pick up seventy years later
From where “The End” left off,
And we get to share our manhood
And talk about women and sports,
And we are there for each other
At births, graduations, weddings
And our parent’s funerals,
And on the soundtrack of Pedrito II
A voice like his keeps saying:
“That wasn’t my face in Rotella’s,
I am not buried in Pinelawn”
But then, in sudden flashback,
The cold clammy fact of him
Intrudes in black and white,
His screen goes blank again
And there is only present and pain.
Dearest only brother,
Never father, never uncle,
Too briefly lover,
Of all who have ever lived
You are the one most like me.
Now three times longer unlived,
The life you lived still lies
Embedded in my own,
And what is left of you will remain
In whatever is left of me
Until I face for myself
The fact of death
I first learned to face
When I kissed you so uneasily
In Rotella’s Funeral Parlor,
13th Street and Avenue A,
New York City.