me on left, brother Cat on right, 1981
(not my hair, not his glasses)
Lady’s done the final edit on my memoir and now it’s down to formatting, so it should be out in a couple months.
Here’s an excerpt from the chapter titled “Dead Cat.” Cat was my brother, 11 years younger. He committed suicide in 1987 at the age of 30.
~ ~ ~
My father’s long distance phone call woke me up. “Vince shot himself,”
Pappy simply said.
“He’s alright, isn’t he?” I croaked.
Cat killed himself in 1987. His wife had left for a rock musician and Cat had just bought a new pickup truck he couldn’t pay for. Thirty years old, doing too much speed, coke and alcohol, and irresponsible with money, he drove the new unpaid pickup to his wife’s parking lot while she was at work and to teach her a lesson blew his brains all over the back of his truck bed.
I didn’t think it through, but my folks didn’t have the money to bury him. At first I didn’t even consider going out to the funeral. Why should I? He was dead; my presence wouldn’t bring him back. But my coworkers insisted my family needed me so I flew out and it turned out they were waiting for me to take care of the details. I drank a lot of alcohol, snorted some crystal, yelled at my sister in a drunken rage and paid for the cremation. A week later they mailed Cat’s remains to me in a cardboard box.
I kept his ashes in that temporary box marked CREMAINS for eighteen years. I’d ask folk, “Would you like to meet my brother?” and hand them the box.
After his death, I started to hear a periodic chirp in my studio. I tried to trace it down as it slowly became more frequent and insistent. I’d sit in my chair, drunk, and wait for the beep, trying to aurally and visually plot where it came from.
It came high off the wall in front of me so I took my ladder over to the wall, climbed up, sat atop the ladder and drank and smoked and waited for the next beep. It’d reoccur halfway down the wall on the other side of the room so I’d move my ladder over there and sit and drink and smoke and wait. This went on for a week.
One night I was way beyond normal drunk and thought, this beep started happening right after Cat’s box of ashes arrived. In a flash I realized this is my brother’s soul trying to contact me from the other side. He needs my help. I decided I had to save his soul from wandering, so I lay fifteen of his small art pieces around me in a radar dish circle to capture the soul. I figured he would enter the art and I would break up the circle and a portion of Cat’s soul would remain in each piece.
It didn’t work. The beeps continued
Desmond Velcro dropped in. As a college DJ, Desmond was intimately familiar with sound and he listened to the beep. My living room consisted of a four foot high by eight foot wide pile of what some might consider trash with little paths in, around and through it. Part of the pile extended under the kitchen table in the center of the room. Desmond dug down into that portion and pulled out a smoke detector still in its box. After years in the pile, its battery had gone weak and it was beeping for me to change it.
Sound travels in a straight line—it had hit the underside of the table and reflected over to the wall where it bounced back to my ears. Wherever I was listening to it was above the tabletop, so I always heard it in the wrong place.
~ ~ ~
Sound and Water
water is sneaky. also patient, and insidious.
it’ll beat against you for thousands of years
in big waves
until it smoothes you down
or breaks you apart
or it’ll lie still in quiet pools
and insidiously work
on the weakest
when water does
slowly sneak inside
and lies in wait
it can FREEZE and EXPAND with
TREMENDOUS FORCE and BREAK
(so water is sneaky,
while SOUND is slippery
slip slides off every flat surface
double or triple slip slides..
(so you think what came from there
SOUND plays tag with yer ears
in destructive force,
- Smith & Lady, 2008
Stations of the Lost
A true tale of
armed robbery, stolen cars, outsider art, mutant poetry,
underground publishing, robbing the cradle, and leaving the country
by Smith & Lady
to be published by Lady’s The City Poetry Press this summer.
Cat – collage & foto Smith