Whirlwind, 1986 - 1997

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
In 1997, the world’s highest paid corporate lawyer, Lawrence Inlow, was struck in the head by the rotor blade of a company helicopter when he prematurely departed the aircraft. Company CEO, Steven Hilbert, was subsequently questioned regarding the incident, and the disembarkation procedure he himself approved (to save executive time). The story was big news in Indianapolis, where I could be found at the time. This is a story about myself, Inlow, Hilbert, the book he was reading that day, it’s author, James Carvell, and you.

Submitted: October 30, 2012

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Submitted: October 30, 2012



I’m a firm believer in the power of a death in vain.
Have been since ’97, when, even though I was eleven,
I wondered what it might feel like to jump too high
jumping out of a helicopter.

It’s Lawrence Inlow’s fault, the moron.
His head launched 250 feet----fireworks that go up in one spark
and then out from the center to form a circle in the sky;
Probably dropped to the ground..
A deep red-purple plum falling from a tree----
Rolled up next to his body, sporting that new suit.

I use the term plum lightly.
Do plums grow on trees?
The analogy’s better than it would be
with an apple.

Imagine how the mood in that conference room changed---
outside the window Lawrence’s head flies by,
the blades of the chopper still spinning-----and they all realize why we call it that.

It was 1997 but the book next to Hilbert takes place in 1979.
His head’s still buried in the thing at the head of the table
despite his advisor’s recent decapitation.

You’re skeptical of corporate investment firms.
On the day Inlow went up,
he still made 507,000 dollars.
Same as every other day in ‘97.
Highest paid lawyer in the game that year,

and the two of them only talked in the sauna at the club.
Heads back against wooden-walls, sweat filling each grain,
Their eyes stayed closed. Neither snuck peaks.

But that day Hilbert strained his sweating eyes getting back
to the last chapter of the James Clavell novel, Whirlwind,
that Inlow loaned him back in 1986.

And through the steam, spinning,
circling his every everything, you’ll note
the paperback becoming more and more like a paper sack.

No spine or any resemblance of a book at all.
The pages, the covers, curling in and under ---
the toes of every foot-bound woman of the ancient orient
with each word,
down every page,
toenail-shaped drops
forming at his feet
like tears that never will.

He turns the page and in that instant
the helicopter fortunates, officials and oilmen of the Ayatollah Khomeni
--- the ‘Struans’ --- clever Clavell coined,
watch their regime slip away into the steam.

They, and you, look back at Steven Hilbert.
His own head begins to crackle.
Everything valuable snaps at the stem,
a leaf dancing in a whirlwind to a cold fall earth, poisoned
by the acid-laced rain of our generation.

Hilbert’s company sinks with the onset of a war a few years later.
Spine like a book left to sit alone in steam.
His everything a small shoe forced on a foot for vanity,
the purple-red plum, always boasting, revealed ----
purple can’t exist without red,
and Lawrence’s head would never be reattached.

So you and I could never know the feeling,
the sound,
the instant the blade pierces the skin.

But nevertheless, we recognize ---

On January 11th, 1986, James Clavell was offered a 5,000,000 dollar production deal for his book Whirlwind, making him the highest paid writer in his game.

And later that evening,

at exactly 11:24pm,

I was born.

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