Steve McOrmond,
"Proof of Life"

I don’t feel like going to work today
and my dutiful angel can’t make me. Call in sick,
fake a cough like a C-lister, mumble something
on the message about feeling under the auspices.
Later, I walk over to Ron Sexsmith’s house.
He answers the door wearing that shirt
with the little diamonds on it that he found
in a vintage shop in Helsinki. If we weren’t
such good friends, I’d steal it off his back.
I tell Ron I woke up this morning wanting to listen
to the saddest song ever. Would he mind if
I had a look through his vast collection of sad songs?
Ron’s game, so we settle in. I throw another 45
on the turntable and Ron says, “Sorry, not feeling it,”
tossing it on an unruly pile on the floor. “Next!”
Ron says he once cried nonstop for a week,
cried so long and hard he ended up in hospital on an IV,
but that was back in the 80s. He’s really quite happy now.
Ron says the selfie of him at Elton John’s party
doesn’t count as proof of life, though he likes
the one with Tom Waits at the butterfly conservatory.
Maybe he’ll get it blown up and framed. Ron says
he had a dream about Voyager’s gold record: Ladies
and gentlemen, Blind Willie has left the solar system.
Ron relates a little-known fact about Gertrude Stein
and James Joyce’s tailor, followed by an unpardonable pun.
The sun comes out and Ron draws thick velvet drapes
the colour of merlot so the mood remains undiluted.
“There’s no time like the present to dwell on the past,”
muses Ron, as I dig in the crates on my knees.
Ron’s cellphone rings and he lets it go to voicemail.
Ron says the whole world has gone straight to voicemail.
He confides he hates it when Elvis Costello calls him Ronnie.
Next time that git wants to go hat shopping, he can go alone.
Ron says the human heart is a transistor radio.
We keep listening. Together we’ll find it, the saddest song
that ever was sung, and when we do, we’ll wear it out.