I might well have drowned at 17
Had a boy on shore not decided
To impress a girl by saving me.
I came close enough that a spirit
Was already hanging about. Oddly,
I recognized him. It was Gucko
My brother’s imaginary friend.
So powerful was Eugene’s imagination
That he had squads of such friends
Plainly visible when I was two
And he was five. They were mostly
A surly, dour lot. Had they been old enough
They’d have loitered about unshaven,
Unlit cigarettes dangling from bitter lips.
Gucko was better natured than most
But clumsy, constantly walking into things
Or tripping over his feet. I hadn’t seen him
For years. Frankly, I had hoped
For a more impressive psychopomp
If not Hermes himself at least, say,
Culsans, the Etruscan god of doors,
Or the aboriginal Barnumbirr.
Years later, I ran into Gucko in Penn Station.
The trains weren’t running that night
So we went into a Starbucks for lattes.
He said it was probably just as well
That I’d not died in that Israeli lake.
Having little sense of direction he’d been
A poor psychopomp and many of his dead
Were still wandering about the world.
He was living on a pension (I had not thought
Imaginary folk had IRA’s, joined unions
Or paid into social security)
But hoped, though his skills were rusty,
That some strange and lonely child
Might take him on again.