You saw
Spike
While looking
For strayed
Fledglings,
The younger
Slayers,
In the
Modern
Gallery.

At first,
You did not
Recognize him,
He wore a
Suit, dark,
As
For a
Funeral,
A laying out,
Perhaps.

How he got
Here,
You do
Not know,
Still,
There he
Was,
Staring up
At a
Painting,
Wryly smiling.

He spoke first
Without
Looking at you
As you warily
Joined him.
It's not wise
To allow
Fledglings
To roam
Free range
In such a place
As this.

"I knew the lad,
What painted
This mess."
He gestures
With an unlit
Cigarette,
"Went t'
School wi' 'im."

You stare up
At the masses
Of color squodging
And swirling
Across the canvas-
Abstract
Was never your
Favorite.
You prefer
Davinci.
Michaelangelo.
Titian.

"Nasty lit'l sod,"
Smirking,
Spike looks at
You from the corner
Of one blue eye,
"Wet th' bed."
A tittering
Laugh,
"Every bloody
Night."
Uncomfortable,
You shift in
Your heels.

He adds,
"'E went into
The trenches,
The sausage
Grinder,
Just one more
Severed hand
In mud made
Of blood,
Mustard,
An' flesh."

He stares upward,
Rocking
Back
And
Forth
On his
Heels,
"'Ad I not
Gone down
Tha' alley,
Into Dru's
Arms,
I would ha'
Been right there
Beside 'im.
I 'eard later,
For king and
Country
He went
And enlisted
Come 1914…
Stupid bugger
Died in '18."

He is silent
For a long time,
Staring up at
The painting,
Fingers
Nervously
Playing with the
Cigarette.
You hear the
Younger
Slayers
Giggling in
The nearby
Gallery of
Greek nudes.

"Whiny lit'ul
Bugger,
Always whingin'
For 'is mum,
Kept me
Awake wi'
'Is racket.
Now 'e's just
A name on
Some
Crumbling
Bird shat-upon
Monument
In Belleau
Woods,
#12,220
Of over
9 million."

Spike turns,
Grinding
The cigarette
Into
The polished
Parquet,
"I should have been
#12,221,
But I
Wasn't
There."

His heels echo
Away
Through
The high
White
Galleries-
Life,
War,
And death,
Sanitized
In bronze
And
Paint,
"He was th'
Best mate
I ever 'ad."