Once upon a time
      When life was simple, youth seemed eternal
      And truth could be found in a dozen different bottles,
      I considered myself to be a wealthy man,
     Good-looking in a smooth, Nordic way,
     Suave, popular, oversexed and undercool,
     Straight A's, expensive clothes, a brand new car
      And all the other insubstantial niceties
     That took the place of love.

Once upon a rookie year
     We paid our dues and made the grade,
     Practiced loading and firing -- the art of survival,
     Counted collars, tickets and holiday speeders,
     And played God at least ten times a day.
     Mistakes by the dozen; some small, some large
     Like that night in the alley -- the boy with a gun --
     When I froze like a statue and you didn't.
     I saw part of you die with him that night;
     Your 'first' in the line of duty,
     And I remember you threw up all over my new shoes.
     Then you cried.  And I cried with you.

Once upon a partnership
      We cruised the streets in your garish car,
      Told ancient jokes, pulled crazy stunts,
      Talked shop and sex and girls and shared our future dreams;
      Played Batman and Robin with the low-life inhabitants,
      Turned the filth of the city into our own private domain,
      And in those sewers found garbage and hatred and bigotry
      and Gillian a once-in-a-lifetime lady.
      You tried to warn me, but I didn't (I couldn't!) listen.
      And when she went away, a part of me went with her.
      I remember I lost my head and hit you.
     Then I cried.  And you cried with me.

Once upon a nightmare
      I heard you fall and gasp in pain, blood spurting
     Crimson wetness on the callous, littered street,
     And I rode with you through our dark domain
     Talking on and on of things that didn't matter.
     (Knowing you couldn't hear me even if they did.)
     I prowled antiseptic hallways,
     Feeling broken and old and useless,
     Old memories flashing by like bits of crumbly celluloid,
     Blurred imagines, all -- coalescing into crystal
     Your face on the stretcher, a strangled mask of death

Once upon a sleepless night
     I paced and worried and soundlessly screamed out my anguish
     Wishing futility wishing it were me in there, not you
     Then feeling guilty and ashamed of myself
     For wishing this kind of pain on you
     Waiting for someone anyone (Please God!)
     To tell me that you haven't gone and left me behind
     To stare at the pieces of my shattered soul
     That I won't have to say another premature goodbye,
     Ponder the waste, the grief, the empty years ahead,
     And that I won't have to go back to the way it was
Once upon a time.

Once Upon a Time
Theresa Karle

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