Self-portrait as Cardinal after Watching A Star is Born (2018) with My Mother
My mother knows the cardinal’s song. Says hear him out in my garden. Says look. We see different worlds, orange guitar pick & two black eyes.
People caged cardinals for the audacity of red crest. Conspicuous. Will never be mistaken as crow, as raven. Music, his own – my father’s band, hard rock
in FL bars. He gave me my first drink. At 15, became his drinking buddy like Jackson & his daddy were. & when I fled the scene judge ordered outpatient
rehab – the working-class kind with grey walls & no fancy name like Promises or Chances because only rich people get those. At 19, I sat with drunks.
Their country songs: dirt roads & nights. Only stars to guide them. I still drank but not as much & we all gotta start somewhere.
You might think the bassist is safest – the least assuming – but he’s the most bitter, the one who doesn’t have the voice to be a star. & I say if you’re gonna fuck
anyone in a band, choose the drummer with good tattoos. I used to get blackout drunk & pretend to be a rock star like my father was in my mind.
I stopped when I got sober because I’m no cardinal. Can’t carry a tune. My mother & I know how this movie will end.
It’s a remake of a remake, but when Lady Gaga says It’s not your fault we’re crying. Both know he won’t survive.
I pray let this ending be a beginning unlike the one before this & the one before that one, too. A few years under my belt decided
songbirds shouldn’t have all the fun. Sang Cher & Dolly & Shania at karaoke because I’m a diva & dramatic but those songs helped me survive.
Realized drunk people clap for anybody who isn’t scared & I can bring down the motherfuckin’ house& my voice is mine – it’s all I got in this world.
-- Tyler Gillespie is the author of Florida Man: Poems (Red Flag Poetry, 2018) and the forthcoming nonfiction collection Florida Men & Monsters: My Search for Pythons, Pioneers, and the Truth about Paradise (University Press of Florida).