I wrote this a few years ago after the death of the actor Raul Julia. In particular, Julia's last on-screen role as M. Bison in Street Fighter the movie.
At the end of the film, Bison is roundhouse-kicked into a wall of televisions by Jean Claude Van-Damme. He is electrocuted and dies. As it happens, Van-Damme quips: "You're off the air. Permanently".
Julia was survived by his wife and two sons. I wanted to write something about how strange it would be to watch your dad die like that. This train of thought led onto feelings about my own dad, and that led to the poem.
I don't know why I changed it from Van-Damme to Rutger Hauer. I guess I wanted to distance it from Julia and make it seem like the events were happening inside a more generic action film. Anyway, here it is-
My dad hijacks a nuclear missile
and threatens to launch it
at the Statue of Liberty
if his demands are not met.
He salutes a wall of televisions:
sallow-skinned agents are activated in Honduras,
followed by Washington, Rome, Peru…
Each with a briefcase handcuffed to their wrist
and a scorpion tattooed on one buttock.
Codes are scrambled. Intelligence suggests.
Manic laughter brings down a chopper, whilst
fresh ammunition is shuttled to the coast.
Dad puts a bullet through his general’s eye.
There are reports of a life-sign inside the perimeter.
Guards are found naked or not at all.
Torture chambers flood with blood.
The adventure ends. His army crushed,
my father stands alone on his secret island,
staring into broken radar screens, sparks
raining off his trim, well-decorated uniform.
I pause the video less than a second before
Rutger Hauer rolls out of the darkness, then
edge the film on, frame by frame, until
the image closes in like hands around a neck,
and my Dad’s eyes dilate for the last time,
lips dribbling scarlet plasma.
And then I get down on my hands and knees,
press my face against the television set,
and tell him that sometimes
it’s OK to lose.