#304: Willy and Biff Loman Cross Paths with Talking Heads

Once in a Lifetime

(with gratitude to David Byrne and Arthur Miller)

What have they asked of themselves?
The tiniest slice of the pie belongs to
that beautiful house, which mostly,
they recognize because it’s a thing
they can see and a 25 year mortgage
they can feel, every month for 25 years.
Am I wrong? They have difficulty with this–
unwilling as they both are, the father more so than
the son, to face down their demons.
Where does that highway go to?
Out to the country on a farm?
Out on another futile sales trip?
Over a bridge on the water, carry the water,
under the water? Remove the water.
That large automobile, that
illusive, slippery part of the past,
that red chevy, or this new one–
it’s a kind of weapon.
How did I get here? How do I work this?
Two sides of the same coin, an insoluble
mystery for the father, the life’s work
of his son, striving for something like
full consciousness and awareness,
a sense of self not totally foreign and
packaged for them by exteriors
and other peoples’ hot-air expectations.
Am I right? Tell me, am I right?
They spend a big chunk of their energies
trying to convince themselves and the world
about the validity of their dreams,
same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
But ultimately, it’s about 25%:
My God, what have I done?
A quarter of the time:
My God, what have I done?
They know exactly what they’ve done.
One of them must die for it,
only once in a lifetime.
The other will live, saying
I know who I am.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

3 thoughts on “#304: Willy and Biff Loman Cross Paths with Talking Heads

  1. How do you come up with this shit on a teacher’s salary and a teacher’s budget of time? You’re a genius. A new genre and a true story at the same time. And the chart. Did I mention the chart? If I didn’t have relatives that are still Christians I would say something sacrilegious about now. Instead, I forbear. And bow.

    1. O, you. It’s called selfishness. And the chart was posted by a friend on facebook. I cannot take responsibility for it. You’re the real deal, my friend. I miss you.

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