the stipe angle

we sat together on the touchline
me on the bench
dave in his wheelchair
a tumour caught in his head
as squarely as the softball
in that outfielder’s mitt

did you see michael stipe
on unplugged MTV
I think that’s when it really hit me
he said
what did?
I’ll never be michael stipe

and in the time it took
to look away and back again
three strikes and you were out
chemo, crystal, prayer
(and a last minute flight to brazil
for a cure that – needless to say – didn’t)

we sat in concentric circles in the meeting house
stood up in turn, said some things
met afterwards in the courtyard
the snacks were fine, it went okay
the banality of tragedy
someone else cleared up

and death shall have no dominion
dylan said (thomas, not bob)
it did alright with you, though, didn’t it
that metastasising piece of shit
and here I am, thirty years later
still wrestling with the stipe angle