Jim, that restless roaming character, is dead.
Jim was twist-tie thin.
Corroded water pipe thin.
Lone railroad track sprawling
miles across the Dakotas, no traffic,
no animals, no company,
only loneliness, thin.
A man on-the-edge of society—
a tone deaf trumpeter in
the local marching band—
a man out-of-sync w/
the rest of us,
a man not-of-this-century.
Despite his punk rock accoutrements—
spiked bracelets, studded belts,
black neckerchiefs—he had
the look (bird’s nest beard,
pond brown, shredded wheat hair,
Teddy Roosevelt glasses, cigarette
constantly in hand or lip) of a
He wouldn’t be the mountain man
wrestling a mother grizzly in
an oil painting, but he’d be in the background,
maybe loading a pistol.
He wouldn’t have been the Indian scout,
Bloody Knife, who tried to warn
General Custer about Little Bighorn.
But Jim would’ve been
Bloody Knife’s friend.
He would’ve listened to the scout’s
complaints & they would’ve
He wouldn’t have been invited
to General Sherman’s staff meetings
about the march through Georgia, but
I could see the General saying
a kind word about him.
“Jim rolls a damn fine cigarette,”
he might’ve said.
Or, “Lord, Jim always says hello to me,
no matter the daily hardships.”
Some folks are just a little misaligned
w/ modern society.
I know plenty of ‘em.
Jim was one of them.
If you’ve driven through
Cleveland Heights, especially
Coventry, you’ve seen Jim.
He was a fixture, a habit,
a routine, a landmark, for
those of us that worked, lived
or visited here.
Maybe you’ve seen a thin shadow man
w/ his cigarettes—Joe Camel smoke,
chimney smoke, surrounding him
like a warm, carcinogenic blanket.
That was Jim.
He had a family, but no wife,
This was his home.
We were part of it.
We were the friends for
Goodnight, my friend.