He was playing air guitar,
I mean, really. Solo, right out front
of a junkyard, a discarded marble doorknob
curled in his left hand, right hand dream-rolling
from finger to finger reaching
for notes you could see clear through.
Skipping the easy chords, I heard
all the most difficult. I toggled
through faces of passersby
--- they weren't looking, not at his open army coat,
hairless legs, sneakers. If only he'd
had a styrofoam cup or an army cap
between his feet, they might have witnessed,
and tossed a coin.
But he was playing it solo --
silent guitar, blind audience. I alone stared,
riding along his bridges, and yet,
I was angry no one seemed to want to hear
him. Maybe that's my problem -- I mishear.
The other day, I heard a guy say,
"I graduated from failure," and I thought,
there's a school for that? They should advertise
on the buses. Make a mint. I could use a course
or two, of course, more could improve
my rate of failing. Sustained failure. Pushing
failure to its limits.
Maybe failing was something he left behind. Could
the air guitarist and I, all of us, become such experts?
Congratulating each other when we lost
another case, spilled another cup,
dropped another thou in the market?
Since most of my life looks like
something I need to apologize for, I'd like a degree
to hang, "Expert in Failing." Remember,
I said I have this problem mishearing --
you are free to make anything you want
of this. If you heard me say, "misbelieving,"
for example, that's okay, too, because everything
I say is interchangeable. Put a Phillips head, blade first,
in the guy's left hand and he could be riffing the air
trying to find the hidden stud
behind the wall of the home he may have promised
himself after the war, in which case, failure starts
when he locates the dull place
after so many remarkable echoing taps, or
is sometimes taken as success
depending on whose side you're on, sort of like
a war, when the headlines say, "War Going Well,"
and you wonder,
©2012 Muriel Thumm