wolfgang carstens, one story; two poems


“It’s amazing,” Tom said, “That smoking, the most foolish, repulsive, harmful of all human vices, in this modern day and age, is experiencing a resurgence. Cigarettes should’ve died out with generation X. It began in the 20’s and should’ve ended in the 90’s. They had us on the ropes. The advertisements were working; the programs were working; the old smokers were dying off in the most grotesque ways. So what did we do? We invented a kid-friendly alternative, a safer alternative—or so we promoted it: electronic cigarettes! We invented all kinds of cool flavors: cotton candy, bubble gum, unicorn tears, etc. We made vaping seem hip, cool, and healthy. It was a crazy gamble, but it worked!”

“So, you knew about all this,” I asked.

“About the chemical burns,” Tom said. “The respiratory problems—that kids would start dropping dead within two years? Of course, I knew. We all did. We never cared one bit about the smokers—so why should we care about the vapers? For every one that dies, another five start.”

“I’m speechless,” I said.

“Look Tony,” he said, “It was our plan all along. Vaping was only meant to be a short detour. All we needed to do was get the kids addicted—and we did. Then we removed their crutch and look what happened—they turned to cigarettes—our cigarettes.”

“You’re a monster,” I said.

“Maybe,” Tom said, “but I’m a rich monster—and so are you!”

Tom stood up, walked to window and clenched his fists.

“We’re back on top, Baby!”

i could tell you

about the killroom—

how everything
was wrapped in plastic,

the tools
used to separate meat
from bone,

how she screamed,

how she pleaded
for her life,

her last words,

how the spark
vanished from her eyes,

but i won’t.

these things
belong to me.

and ultimately
all you would remember
is the blood.

there was so much

you write poem

after poem

about how unfair
life has treated you
and how you want
to die
or to have never
been born.

page after page
of depression
and desolation—
the dark world.

let me put
a loaded gun
to your head

test your conviction.

write your last line.

that’s what i thought,

it was

the Devil You Know tour
with Ronnie James Dio,
Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler
and Vinnie Apicce,

the greatest Black Sabbath

we had great seats
up front,
to the right of the stage,

anytime there was a lull,
i’d yell “Die Young.”

midway through the show,
Dio looked me square
in the eye and yelled,
“This is for
that crazy motherfucker
right there,”

and the spotlight shone
on me.

“Die Young,”
he screamed.

it was a great
rock and roll moment,
ranking up there
with meeting Gordon Downie
and having a drink
with Chris Cornell.

ahh, dying young.

and by damn,
a few months later
Dio went and did
just that.

in fact,
they all

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