COME CANDY — A BOOK OF POEMS BY CODY WEBER

FOREWORD

The first time we touched…
I was young and I was scared. It was cold outside and the trees scraped at the windows. This would become a common theme throughout my life moving forward, staring into the abyss in the heat of a moment and noticing the small details that would eventually make them special. I don’t remember much about the intimacy itself, but I was hardly pubescent and much of those years have been wiped from my memory like cheap markers on dry-erase boards. I remember being taken aback by your confidence, how it seemed like I wasn’t your first or your second or even your third rodeo. I remember the aftermath. How I’d climbed out of my bedroom window and fell asleep before my dad woke up for work. How he called into work because he didn’t know where I was. How he eventually peaked through the window and saw the two of us on that smoke-infested couch. How terrified I was when he knocked and I saw him out there. I remember him not saying a word to me as he called the school and explained to them that I was sick even though I wasn’t, how I thought that was a death siren for me and how I felt like I’d disappointed him in the worst way imaginable. I remember him taking me to the mall, buying me lunch, not saying a word to me, and asking if I needed a pair of sneakers.

“You’re too young to be fucking.” He said.
“But if you’re fucking, protect yourself.” And then he threw a condom on my lap, right on top of a pair of Nike Air Jordan’s, and I already knew that he wouldn’t believe me if I’d lied to him anyway, and so I didn’t. I don’t remember much about you and I apologize for that. I really wish that I did.

The first time we touched…
I was confident and confused. You were dating somebody far more popular than me. He had better teeth and his family had more money than mine did. Your hair looked like Marcia Brady and you dressed like you went to some prestigious private school that you hated to attend. Your skirt was too short. Your eyeliner was too thick. Your voice was too loud. But you were beautiful, and I knew it was coming. We’d spent a few 4 weeks walking around town together, my only real taste of adolescent love, and I was enamored from the gate. I studied you with intense admiration, and fell for every little thing that you did. I remember watching you make an ice-cream cone at the gas station, how effortless you made the little swirl on top, and how my heart fluttered every morning as it became a routine. I loved that ice cream machine almost as much as I loved you, and I knew you felt it back. But, as would become the case for the rest of my life, it was complicated. You were spoken for. He was my buddy. You worked hard to reach the social status you’d obtained and your friends all warned you about hanging out with me. They all told you that you’d become a pariah if you kept doing it, and though the thought of that terrified me, I discovered a newfound confidence in your reluctance to adhere to their requests.

One night, you showed up to my house. It was late. I was browsing the internet when I saw the silhouette of your Marcia Brady hair appear like a phantom outside the window. I remember how it illuminated in the summer sky, that raw feeling in my gut that never happens again beyond the age of fifteen or so, and I waited there for a knock. After a few brief seconds, it came.

You were scared because your friends ditched you and you’d lied to your parents about where you were. Going home was not an option. I was your fail-safe.

“Could I crash with you?” You asked, and in my infinite naivety, I offered you my bed. Said I’d sleep on the couch. But you insisted that I stay with you. We could talk about the night. We could talk about whatever.

“Just hang out with me.” You insisted. And so I did I still remember the fragility in your voice, how the sound bounced off your hair and into my ear canals. How grateful I was for the moment. It was the first time, in fact, that I ever took notice of the exact place I was. I still remember the flowery scent behind your ear, the gentle rising and falling of your chest, and the sudden nervousness that overcame me as you reached over and grabbed the back of my head.

I’m thankful for this night. Even to this day.

The first time we touched…
was a long time coming. We were synonyms, alike to a god damn fault, 5 and neither of us were shy enough to avoid admitting that to one another. It started as innocuous as a Taco Bell order, and I remember how surprised I was that we’d both ordered the exact same thing without either of us knowing any better. I even remember what it was: a Nacho Cheese chalupa, plain, with a hard shell taco and a cherry Pepsi. We took notice of this and, eventually, realized that our significant others would have been far better with one another and we would have been better, too. But it was too far gone, too etched in stone, too far gone to do anything about it. It’s funny how final everything feels when you’re so young, when you’re so stuck in a moment that the future seems imaginary. And so we didn’t fuck with it, for a while anyway, until fate intervened and you were in my living room.

We watched The Wizard of Oz as a storm developed in the distance. Toward the final act, right when Dorothy was realizing that there was no place like home, it finally hit and there were loud rumbles of thunder that rendered any other sound irrelevant. The credits rolled and I offered you my bed. I’ll sleep on the couch and you can have the whole thing to yourself.

“Nah.” You said.
“I’m scared of the storm. Will you keep me company?”

I remember the lightning, those boats of reason and a captain-less ship that navigated harsh terrains as your hands crept against the tide of my flesh like you knew exactly what you were doing. Even then, I knew that you didn’t, but I didn’t either. My compass was fixed, though, and I knew where I wanted to go. I knew where I wanted to be.

I remember everything single detail of this night. I remember how it felt to finally kiss you, how long I’d waited for it, and how much it meant to me to finally get the opportunity to do so. I remember the intense buzz of your breath, how it rattled through and dug deep into my ears where it would rest for years and years afterward. I remember your fingernails, how they pried deep into my skin like they were trying to reveal something, and how gently you fell asleep after the fact. The rain had calmed down. The lightning had stopped. The captain was taken by the sea.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more at peace than I did that morning. I remember laying there for hours, completely motionless, hoping that nothing loud would ever dare disturb you. Eventually, as all things do, something did, and I will never forget how irritated I was to have to move beyond that stillness. I was still young, fresh as the day I was born, and I was excited to see where the breeze took us.

Oftentimes, I wonder why the wind picked up the way that it did. If I were less wise, and if I were still young, I would almost be inclined to believe that there was some malevolent creator out there that just really didn’t like me.

Even still, this night remains vivid. I don’t believe it will ever fade. I keep it there intentionally, and I’m glad to have it. The sour grapes have become sweet with time. And that’s a rarity in and of itself. I cherish that.

The first time we touched…
was in a dirty apartment in Michigan. I’d hopped a train in some ridiculous attempt to escape my own life. I hated so much about everything back then. I hated myself. I hated life. Part of me resented my own lineage for having unfolded in such a specific way that I was even a thing at all. And yes, by the way, I realize now how ridiculous and pretentious that thought process is, but it was one that I was also consumed by. I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I had nothing going for me, was hopelessly addicted to anything I could get my dirty fingers on, and I was actively daring the universe to do something about it.

“You should come visit me.” You asked me one night over Skype, and since I had nothing else going for me anyway, I decided to do it. I sold some camera equipment and took the next available train to you.

You were hours late picking me up and I was convinced that you weren’t going to show at all. When you did, though, I was taken so absolutely aback by your beauty. You were so tall, so lanky and weird, and you had this long strip of blonde hair that was so meticulous that it demanded attention. I was nervous for the first time in years. We got into your car, the very car that I drive to this day, and entered the next five years of existence.

We got to your apartment and I remember the walls looking like hospital scrubs. I remember how tired I was, how I’d been coming down off of an amphetamine bender and hadn’t slept in damn near 72 hours. I don’t remember the first kiss. I don’t remember the first touch or the first 7 anything, really, as I was just too delirious to truly enjoy the memory. It’s been wiped clean like some kind of bad dream, and it’s such a contrast to how much it would eventually mean.

You saved me in a time when nobody else bothered. You saw something special in me when nobody else did. I wish we could have remained friends.

The first time we touched…
sucked. You weren’t into it and it was awkward. I’d traveled via train almost 15 hours to meet you. And I didn’t even know why. You weren’t particularly important to me, after all, and I only made the trip for the trip itself. To go somewhere I’d never been! Still, I felt some strange connection when I saw your face for the first time and it would eventually overtake every last aspect of me. Something clicked right away. I liked how weird it was that we fell asleep in a closet. I liked how your city smelled. I liked how the birds sounded different. Everything felt so new. I felt refreshed.

You know, honestly, I struggle to write about you in a way that’s absolutely unparalleled and incomparable to anything else I’ve experienced thus far in life. Maybe it’s due to the lingering thoughts and maybe it’s due to the conflicting feelings I have in your wake, but I know that I sit here and almost have nothing to say at all. Perhaps that is fitting. Perhaps it is not. Perhaps I’m a coward and just know that what I feel isn’t appropriate to feel at all, and so I do my best to quell it. Maybe I’m still just raw.

But I do know one thing.

All the important things with you were never the firsts. The best trip to you wasn’t the first time. The best kiss sure as fuck wasn’t the first. The best drunken night wasn’t and neither was the first hangover. You’re one of those rarities that got better, and also worse, with time. And I suppose I did, too.

Still, it’s a lingering ghost that I don’t like to talk about. When I hear your name, even when it’s attributed to somebody else, I get overwhelmingly sad. I don’t like to think about you. I don’t like my memories with you. I go out of my way to avoid them, but I’m hoping time will seal that tomb. Someday, maybe, with enough time and distance, I will be able to appreciate it all more than I do now. It’s the one thing that I’m actively working toward.

For now, I leave it with an ellipses.

The first time we touched…
We were both drunk as all get out. Both reeling from failed romance. Both so terribly sad. Both doing whatever we could to silence that longing. You were on a mission to stop making out with anybody that you found attractive and I was on a mission to fuck anything with two legs, and so we had an immediate rift in intent. Still, you entered my life at one of those perfect moments when I really needed somebody to validate me in any way at all.

“You’re so fucking cute. Who are you?!” You exclaimed.

You looked at me like I was something otherworldly, like I held the keys to every one of your locks, and you were just so ready for me to pry it all open. I wasn’t ready, though, obviously, as is usually the case with matters of the heart, and I broke yours multiple times. Broken hearts break hearts. I slept around, I didn’t take you at your word, I was so god damn jaded that I thought your eyes were outright lying to me. Even though I knew better, I still felt as if I didn’t know shit. I didn’t trust my intuition. I didn’t see my own value and, in a way, that made it downright impossible to see yours.

I was broken. Still am.

Even though, by the end of the night, you broke your personal vow and I committed to mine. You kissed me outside of a bar. There was a dude pissing in the corner. There was a couple arguing on the other side. And there was us. Iowan glory. It was the kind of thing that someone from the west-coast would deem problematic and the east-coast would scoff at for a trashiness that it doesn’t realize that it itself exhibits. That night, though, it was one of those rare times that everything sucked and everything was perfect, too.

You left with your friends and I left with mine.

The first time we touched…
wasn’t a solo mission. You always said that you took pride in not having 9 slept with me, but chose to view that one time with another woman as something other than us having sex exclusively. “Whatever.” I thought, and it checked out because we had already slept with the majority of one another’s friends anyway.

You know something, though? I took that idea to mean something more than the superficial sentiment of our mutual perversion, and thought that the two of us together (alone) would likely alter the entire dynamic that we’d already spent so many years cultivating. We were just too much alike, both far too narcissistic to not notice that, and the sex would probably be very good (if not too good).

I was right.

I. DEVIL IN THE GLASS

You Stay In My Fingertips

I spent my afternoon scrubbing your blood
out of the backseat of my car. There was
a welling of fluid formed in the creases
of my eyelids and I can still see a
faint impression of the red stuck in
the creases of my fingertips. It was
kind of fucked up, really, how sad it
made me to watch you disappear again
and after a solid forty-five minutes
of scrubbing and drying, scrubbing and
drying some more, I got most of it out
and I silently sobbed to myself in
the front seat of that old car
as it hacked and it wheezed
and I hacked and I wheezed
and the two of us were alone
in there, in that white coffin
moving toward a home that
wasn’t much of a home at all.
And when I got there, I couldn’t bring myself
to walk inside. So I didn’t. Instead,
I sat there until the sun disappeared
and I didn’t really know what to do with myself
so I went out with my sister and took pulls
from a large bottle of red-labeled vodka
while her friends tried to console me
even though I never expressed
how sad I was. when I got home,
I still couldn’t bring myself to go in
and I spent a little longer
in that old white coffin of a car
staring at the red in my fingertips
wondering if that was as close
as I’d ever again
be.

Beauty At One Shot Deep

She said, “you’re a beautiful man”
and placed her hand atop mine
then asked if i was going to buy her a drink.
When i said, nah, you can get your own
she took her hand and pulled it away
like the only reason she bothered
to say anything at all was to get a
little more wasted
and make the statement
a little more true.
I sat at the bar and watched her do the
same exact thing to three or four other people
until one of them was foolish enough
to oblige her. She took the free drink,
said thank you, and then
she walked back over to me
and said it again.
“you’re a beautiful man.”
I grinned, said thanks but no thanks,
told her that she was better off
talking to the guy over there,
and then I pointed at him and she said,
what the fuck is your problem?
I told her that I didn’t have one
I just wasn’t interested in anything
that she had to offer and she said to me,
“how do you even know what i have to offer?”
and I told her, “well I guess I don’t,
but I’m not at all curious
to discover that
later on.”

“You’re a beautiful man,” she told me
“but you’re a fucking asshole.”

And then she left and I stayed there
at the bar playing spectator to
all the losers and the winners
congregated at the church
on main street. Buy one,
get one
FREE.

It wasn’t the first time somebody had
told me that and I was already certain
that it would not be the last.
Later on, she did leave with that fellow
after he bought her ten or eleven
additional drinks.

I bought my own booze all night
and didn’t bother buying any
for that girl or that one
or any of the others that
kept coming up to me
and saying the same shit
that I already knew wasn’t
true anyway.

After all…

I can make mistakes without
the aid of anybody else
and I don’t need help
to get to that place
so I can get to this one
writing about it
like I’m above it all
even though
I could have had a better story
if I wasn’t so
arrogant and
obvious.

I fell asleep cuddling a trash can
and you know what?

That’s kind of the
same fucking thing
anyway.

Supine

The ceiling was speckled with little black dots
Some kind of reverse outer space and
the void was just as infinite
even though the gentle hum
of an electric heater kept
the room warm.

The windows were frosted over and
I really had to try to make out
what the shapes were beyond them,
the familiar bright lights of cars passing by
of small animals huddled together
suddenly turned abstract and
there were people going to work
and kids getting ready for school
and I watched the gentle rise and fall
of a stranger’s chest
in my peripheral.

The taste of whiskey was still ripe
on my breath, and I desperately wanted
a cigarette, but didn’t want to
wake the sleeping giant
because the pills had worn off for her
in a way that they hadn’t yet for me
and I gnashed my teeth, stared first
into outer space and then through it
and I thought about that for a long time
as the blue windows turned yellow
and then the yellow turned orange
and the world spun around
at breakneck speed and
as I waited for the amphetamines
to wear off, I wondered:

the universe created me
to experience itself subjectively
and what if that is nothing more
than poor judgment?

I wondered if it could ever be proud
to have done something so foolish
in the first place and
I wondered the same thing
about myself, waiting
for the cigarette
for the easy exit
for the come down
that wasn’t coming
quickly enough.

The ceiling was speckled with little black dots
and there was a void in me
that no thing would
ever fill.

Bar Friends

My face is numb and
I order water to
sober up a little.

A voice from behind the bar says,
you don’t even seem that drunk
and I ask her,
is that my friend talking
or my bartender? And
she smiles at me,
cheshire eyes aglow
like a forest fire or
a street lamp,
but she doesn’t respond
with anything other
than that smile, and
I think to myself,
sometimes you
learn a lot more
by what isn’t said
than by anything
that is.

I order two shots of tequila
with some pickle juice to
chase it down with
and I tip her
a few bucks.

I think to myself,
this money is for my bartender
and not for my friend
but I don’t say that.
I don’t say anything.

I keep drinking and
I hope that she realizes
the same.

The Endless Miles Of Regrets

Why am I doing this?
License is suspended,
tags are expired and
there’s this girl in Missouri
that doesn’t want to
ride to town
alone.

Some eight hours in total,
a gentle spattering of cars
line the roads and
none of them know
my shame.

Oh? I say, and
as I throw caution
to the wind
as that wind sucker punches
the windshield as if it had a
reason to,

I get in a car and
head to her
yet again.
This will be a
major disappointment
because that’s all
it ever amounts to,
but I’d rather be
disappointed
because I did
something

than be sad
because I
couldn’t
do it.

Rumors Make For Reality

You know, there’s a rumor going around that we
already fucked?
And she laughs, but doesn’t respond.
She sips on her drink and makes eyes with me and
I make eyes with her, and then we dance and we keep
dancing and we are sweating and there’s blood on the
floor and there’s hope in the heart and that hope is
realized when she asks if I want to come eat breakfast
with her. She says that she can cook bacon and eggs and
pancakes and biscuits and she will feed me like a king if
I agree to come, and so I do. It’s cold outside. I see her breath
and I’m jealous of the condensation on her lips, how the air
seems to gather around them and I wonder if I’m just going
for breakfast of if there is a nightcap involved beyond the
bacon and the eggs and the gourmet biscuits, but I’m also
not expecting anything and I’m hungry anyway. So I imagine it
a classic win-win for me and we walk in through his doorway and
it’s quiet and there are kid’s paintings on the fridge and she fries
up bacon and eggs and biscuits and she wasn’t lying at all, she could really fucking cook and I devour them like some kind of rabid beast, though I probably just looked like a drunken idiot, I truly believe that
the line between the two is thinner than most would assume and that’s what attracts man to to the bottle to begin with: it brings us all closer
to what we already were to begin with. And so we eat and we laugh
and we talk about all our dead friends and family members and then
it’s five in the morning and I tell her that I should get going and she
tells me that it’s stupid to leave when it’s so cold. She says that I
should just come upstairs and sleep and she will give me a ride home come morning, when she can heat up her dad’s truck and the food
has all properly digested. I’m taken aback by her rawness, how her
hips seem to talk when she doesn’t, and since I am already more animal than man, I let the intuition do the talking and every ounce of my gut says to follow her upstairs, and so I do.

You know, there’s a rumor going around that we already fucked?
She recalls and then unbuckles the pants, slides her hand down the front of my jeans and we are suddenly naked. And she laughs, scoffs at the notion that we turn rumor to reality, but then makes it so, and we aggressively fuck until the sun starts to rise around the bend. She falls asleep in my arms and I know she will wake up and think to herself, Jesus Christ, I should not have done this. And that thought is unbearable to me in that moment, even as true as I know it to be, and so I gently move her arm from one side of the bed to
the other and I grab my jeans from the floor, and I take the condom off, and I don’t bother with the old pair of mismatched socks hidden somewhere in the cavalcade of that bedroom, and I try my damnedest to walk down the stairs without impression, and I open the front door, and then I walk the long, cold walk back to my house some two miles across town and I can taste her vodka and energy drink on my breath, and even though she might regret this night a lifetime, I am thankful that I do not share the sentiment. And I think about her bacon, and her eggs, and her hips, and the subtle noises that escaped from those animal lips and I genuinely wish that it didn’t take
half a bottle of whiskey to
get to this place.

Homely And Honest

They were talking to one another
and it made me uncomfortable
when both sets of eyes would
wander from their fixed state
over to the left, ever slightly
but in unison, right where
I was standing; bottle of
jack in my left hand and
two women to the right
too homely to make either
jealous and me, too kind
to walk away from
the pointless
conversation.

And so I stood there and
talked about god knows what,
probably how nice the weather has been
and how Casey fucked Joan
but Joan is still hung up on
god knows who and
Jesus Christ, it pained me
to be so kind.

I wish I could have said to them, oh,
I don’t know
something like: I DON’T
GIVE A SHIT ABOUT
ANY OF THIS AND
WHY ARE THEY
BOTH LOOKING
AT ME AND
SORRY, I
NEED A
SMOKE.

But instead I stood there and I
sipped on my Jack and
watched two former lovers
congregating there, their
only point of reference
and commonality
being that I had once been
intimate with both of
them.

But I wondered if
they were talking about
that, and I imagine that
they were and
this poem is
as worthless
and banal and
boring

as that Saturday
night and these
words are just
as self-centered
as the gentle
warmth of
their inside
clinging
to my
out.

Friday, April 19th

Give me the good legs,
the bruised thighs and
scabbed knees. Give me
the grace of experience,
bloody noses and
puking at four in
the morning.
Give me anything
to distract
from the
boring beast
inside of me.

Daisy

There are combinations that just work
like cigarettes and coffee in the early morning
washing out the previous night’s hangover
with a little bit of manufactured energy
and cute baristas that smell of dark roast
cheap perfume and expensive
faux wood tiles; all available sunlight
traveling toward it.

Those cold early hours
where one can see the
breath of songbirds
from the red glow
of brake lights and
responsible people
never once hungover
in their entire pointless
lives; you know the kind.
They shuttle off to work,
coffee in hand and they don’t
smoke because they enjoy life
enough to prolong it as much
as possible.

I don’t quite understand these people
but I understand the songbirds
and I understand the coffee
and I understand that
some combinations
just work.

There are combinations that don’t, too,
like early sex and morning breath
even though there are those of us
that enjoy the former enough to
ignore the latter, but I don’t
quite understand these people either
and I don’t like fucking in the morning
and I don’t like feeling her breath
on my shoulder when all I
ever really needed was
a little bit of space
to breathe.

The warm evening hours,
when the coffee is wearing off
and one has to decide between
another hangover tomorrow
for a poem worth writing
tonight, and he imagines
that it probably won’t be
but it’s not good enough
not a good enough reason
not to or to. Not a good enough
day and he’s probably
not a very good
person
anyhow.

I very much understand these people
because there are some things,
there are some combinations
that just work because
they have
to.

Ten High

The taste of ten high whiskey
still ripe on my tongue and
there’s birds singing at
the tail end of night
right before the ass-crack
of dawn at the three AM hour
and there are police everywhere
and local drunks driving carefully
as to avoid them
and, in a way, they
both do their
nightly
dance
routine.

Some will be successful,
climb into bed, maybe
next to the slutty girl that
they met at the bar,
the one with the stained skirt
and the heeled shoes
three sizes too small,
her crammed toes suffocating
on the dance-floor and
the sound of drinks
being poured as the
only music worth
dancing to.

Maybe not, too.
Maybe it’ll be
someone else
entirely.

Others will be less lucky.
They will eat pennies
in the front seat, trick the
breathalyzer, steady feet
and the neon glow of
a DUI arrest looms upon them like
death in a rose field
and smells as such
like copper and
cheap whiskey and
hand sanitizer.

I walk the sidewalk and
love the birds, the police,
the drunks and whores alike,
their nightly routine and
their mating rituals and
to be a part of all
and be a part of
none, too, at
the same time.

Up to tenth street and
a swift turn right, and
then left and then a
right again, not a
care in the world
and the world
doesn’t care

but the gentle buzz
like the birds singing
at the three AM hour, and
in a way, I guess,
I am singing
with them.

Pzazz

Baby, she says
I want to take you to Egypt
to the cayes in Belize
and I want to hold your hand
in the desert, in a van
or a subway or a train
hidden away like some
kind of lizard in the
midday sun.

Baby, she says
I want you to see the world
I want to take you to the mountains
and watch your nose bleed at
18,000 feet up, in a car
out in the open like
some kind of beast
with perfect teeth
in front of a
brand new
camera.

Baby, she says
only twenty dollars more
I’m going to hit big.
Twenty more dollars and
I will take you to the moon.
Wouldn’t it be nice to go there?
We could build a little house
out of a crater and never
talk to anybody ever again,
never see another face, like
sitting at the furthest point
in a vast body of water
except no fishes;
never any fishes
or faces
again.

Baby, she says
I want to take you somewhere nice,
but I don’t say a word in
response. Instead,
I sit there at the booth
and watch all the pretty lights,
the jackpots being won elsewhere and
the little, old lady with the
cigarette dangling from her
toothless mouth. The way it
slightly perks up in the neon glow
and I say,

baby,
luck ain’t on your side
because you’re with me
and luck don’t
live here.

Drinks On Me

Wet cigarette butts
strewn across the bar
like faulty secrets
in full mouths. Don’t
ignite them because
they won’t and don’t
speak because
you shouldn’t
when you have
nothing to say.

It’s all so
equally useless,
lifeless, and
damp.

Spilled drinks,
there’s vodka on my pants
and whiskey in my gut
and I’d really like a smoke
to get out of this conversation
and it makes me thankful
whenever I see a NO SMOKING
sign on the wall

because if I could light up here
in this dark room, with
the wet cigarettes and
the dry people and
the crisp air outside
never to get in,

I probably wouldn’t have
picked up the habit
to begin with.

Turns out, I don’t cherish any of this
except maybe the drinks
and even those,
when applied incorrectly,
seem to annoy me,
too.

Oh, C

She drunkenly grabbed my face
called me an asshole and
I agreed with her.
I told her that
I’d take her home,
take her wherever
she needed to go
because she was too drunk
and I was never drunk enough,
but she bit my lip,
grabbed at my waist,
called me an asshole
again, and I agreed with her
because I was
an asshole and she
deserved
better than
I’d put her
through.

I wanted to tell her sorry
and I tried to, but she
put a finger to my mouth
and said, “just shut the
fuck up already,”
and she kissed me
on the rocks
on the gravel
on that hill
outside of the
bar and I thought,

“well, if I’ve ever
been wrong before
I’m definitely
wrong now and
it feels so
familiar.”

And then she left
with some guy
wearing a man-bun
being a guy that
I’d been before
wondering,

“where the fuck
have you been?
what have you
been doing?”

And my friends
all said, just let
her go, don’t
fight this guy
and I thought,
why would I fight him?
he is me!
I am him!
I don’t want to fight him
I feel sorry for him
and I feel sorry for
her
and, Jesus
Christ
, I thought,
I am an asshole.

And I watched her go
and I walked in the rain
seven blocks or so
back to my car,
drove to the gas station
bought a soda and
now I’m here
typing to myself
nobody here
besides me,
just the way
it’s supposed to be.

So many people are
asleep next to someone
that doesn’t deserve them
thinking about someone
that they don’t deserve, the
only difference being
of course, in retrospect,
she did and i did
not and

the taste of her chapstick
is still there
on my
gums.

Click, click, click. The keyboard
roars. And I think,
maybe I’ll get in touch
tomorrow

and maybe I won’t, too.

Maybe it’s best if
I spare her
the disappointment.

Tonight

Tonight,
I walked in the rain
eleven blocks or so
to my car, after
a party that
I was far too
old to be at
and every time
I tried to leave,
somebody said
what the fuck
are you doing?
You don’t look 30.
You aren’t pathetic.
Stick around.
And eventually
I left anyway
this time without
saying a word
about it,

but god damn,
it was nice
to know
that I don’t
look a day
over
25.

Whiskey Sour

I started to tend bar
so I could drink more
and worry less about
where the money
was coming from
to support my
dirty habit

and

I started drinking again
so I could think less
and have more to justify
where those feelings
went in the
meantime

I used to have so
much free time
and it’s funny
to think that
I’m more free
now that I’m
here in this
place, in this
cage

clipped wing
thorn in the paw
broken leg and
seeing double;
naked flesh and
rotted teeth, the
bastion of neon
signs and bad
decisions

bad times and
good times
fuse together
and there I am
behind the bar
or in front of it
depending on
the hour.

Milk

lonely day, big deal
it’s just like the others
even when they were good
they were false, and
knowing that
understanding it
marinating in it
like a urinal cake
after a long night
of drinking makes
it easier to
come back
when I’ve
had too
much.

Fog And Dead Cats

Mysterious days
fog rolls in over the river
I sleep in, wake up alone
next to nobody, inside nobody’s
heart, head, whatever
just me alone and
the fog blots the sun
and the idea blots
the now and it’s all
speckled with
a sadness.

The stray cats cry out and
the dead one is still there
behind the shed, unburied
halfway draped in a cloth
and chewed up with a
chagrin smile on its
skeleton face.

I remember watching her
cry over that little thing
back when.

It was the only cat
that took to her. when all
the others ran away,
this one fearlessly leapt
into her arms. and i thought
why is that so special
when I do it every
fucking day?

but I didn’t say that back then
because the moment was cute
and I didn’t want to mess that up
so i stayed real quiet and
i bought the cat food and
she held the kitten in her tiny arms
caressed the back of his little head
and the summer heat cooked the
three of us there, but we didn’t mind
all that much.

it was all so saccharine and
I hated cats, but I related to
this one because
I took to her, too;
I fearlessly leapt
into her arms
and she wormed her
way into my heart
like the baby
cat, dead;

the worms crawling
in and out of
its eye sockets
now.

I noticed the little guy there
collapsed under a cheap fire pit
after a photo shoot one afternoon
and made the mistake of pointing it out
as it looked more asleep than dead
and it would have been cute if
it wasn’t so damn pathetic
and it was repose instead of
the shaking of its mortal
coil, but

she wrapped him up in a cloth and
a few tears rolled down her cheeks.
out of all the cats here, she asked,
why did this one have to be the one to die?
it was the only cat that took to me
it loved me, why did it have
to be her?

and I think the same thing
as the fog rolls in
but it’s completely
different
somehow.

Dark

The night closes in on me.
I am a wounded animal
shot in the heart and
bleeding in the grass
they come for me and
twist my neck hard.
it’s the humane thing to do,
after all, and then
it all goes
black.

Ulterior

I’m not horny, I’m just sad.
I don’t like to be drunk, Ijust
don’t like to be alone and
I don’t like the bar, but
I go to it for both reasons
not because I’m horny
but because I’m sad
and not because I
want to be there, but
because I don’t
want to be
alone.

it seems that most of my life is this way
never doing anything because
it’s something that i particularly
want to do or, and this would be
wonderful, doing something because
it’s just obvious and of course
that’s why I’m doing it, and
nobody is confused at it and
nobody casts judgement upon it and
nobody questions it at all
because it’s valid and
it’s pure and it
just is.

No, instead, it’s the ulterior that does me in
so I am not to be trusted because
I did not talk to you because I
yearned for conversation
and I did not buy you a drink
because I appreciated your
presence and your sharp tongue
and I did not ask you to come back
because I wanted to wake up
and see your sleeping face
shined upon by a morning
spotlight and I did not
fuck you because
I wanted to
because

I’m not horny,
I’m just
sad.

Extra Ordinary

Ordinary is waking up alone in a quiet house. There is glass on the floor and a cold breeze that sneaks in through a nearby window. There are ghosts on the mattress and I guess that doesn’t leave a lot of room for me, and I don’t like witnessing them all become friends anyway, so I get up and out of it. I shut the door behind me.

Ordinary is shivering and scraping ice off of my car’s windshield. It’s listening to the same CD over and over again and remembering a time when the player wasn’t stuck in a permanent stasis. It’s wondering how long I’ll be stuck that way, too. It’s thinking, “Well, I guess this is better than nothing at all”, even though is very likely isn’t. Ordinary is the comfort of my own cognitive dissonance.

Ordinary is the first cigarette of the day, how the smoke swirls and collects in the frigid air while I sit and watch from a safe distance. Ordinary is coffee breath and fresh ink on cream-colored paper. It’s writer’s block in the form of a dull life in the wintertime. It’s wondering if I have anything of worth to say, if I’ve ever said anything that mattered at all. It’s a growing suspicion of the letters as they slowly leak out like a broken faucet. Drip, drip, drip; each letter worth less than the last.

COLD

It’s never cold, not outside or in. I have been there for so long now that I don’t remember what cold feels like. There’s empty taverns down the street with expensive booze and there’s clubs down the other full of pretty women and cheap drinks. There’s concerts every night and people support local artistry with their money and there’s chubby guys with rose-colored cheeks that look angry, but they never are. They’re nice and interesting and have compelling conversation. None of them are chemically predisposed to violence and none of them are trying to get the women drunk enough that they’ll fuck them.

There are no hungry animals and no dog chains. Taylor Swift never comes on the radio. Nobody is living below their means and nobody is living far beyond them either. The old people don’t die (except the rude ones) and the bad kids all have access to proper mental health treatment and there are professionals ready and willing to help them. All the fast food is tasty. The fries are always fresh. The burgers are never frozen. The Coke is never flat.

There is a beach nearby. The wind gently rolls against it and it rains often. But only with lightning and thunder, the urgent kind of rain that never feels futile. The kind of rain that makes you excited. There is a city in the distance but nobody ever travels to it. They only talk about going. The smell of marijuana smoke lingers in that breeze, in those rain droplets, but you never get uncomfortably stoned. You stay right in that sweet spot.

And there’s a pretty girl next to me. Maybe she has olive-colored skin and pitch black eyes or maybe she’s pale or has orange hair or blue eyes with green specks. Maybe she is a shape-shifter and is different at different times of the day. She lays in the sun and in the rain, and we have the same taste in music and we argue about books and poetry and the war overseas. Maybe she’s a registered Republican. Maybe she doesn’t talk politics. Maybe she talks about etymology or carpentry or taxidermy. Maybe she’s my intellectual equal and maybe she thinks circles around me. But she always has something to say. She looks at me with a critical love. She doesn’t take my shit, but she doesn’t leave because of it either. She stays right in that sweet spot.

There are no bad cops or illegal drugs, but nobody feels the need to take them either. Maybe there are no cops at all. Maybe they aren’t necessary. People use drugs to advance themselves creatively, intellectually, or spiritually, but never to escape life. Life is good here. The people smile at you when you walk by. Everybody has perfect teeth. Nobody mentions that I don’t.
There is still pain. There is still a well-rounded experience. There’s still heartache and songs that make you sad and people that you wish were around but aren’t anymore and won’t ever be again. But there’s balance between them. There truly is an equilibrium. For every bad experience you have, you gain two to harvest in its wake. You still live and you still learn, but you don’t have to carry the weight without the promise of there being an opposite side. There is no black and white. There are more shades of gray than we are capable of seeing in this reality. But in that one? Infinite gray. Gray everything. Everywhere. Gray. We live in the gray. There is a mountain behind my house and I’m content enough to never feel a need to see what’s on the other side of it. Every Time I Die puts out a new record every six months. Grandma is still alive. She’s making potato soup just for me.

I care about the right things.
I know what the right things are.

II. WHISKEY IN THE QUILL; CLOSER TO THE NIL.

15.

take me to the clinic
get the scalpel
peel the skin
clean like an
apple, take
a bite and
keep the
doctor
away

we cough up
a lung, we
laugh and
the candle
burns all
night long.

the box of
lemon cough
drops is empty
and the taste
of tequila is
still fresh on
my tongue
and there
is no place
on earth
i’d prefer
to be;

sick or not
and sick we are, and we
cough and we laugh
and we cough
some more.

The Animal

The animal is helpless
supply it with an
extraordinary afflux
of hours;

thus exposed
without history
every pathway
shining like
polished gold.

these little animals
prepare for perfection, but
retreat toward a new
and improved
existence.

They make themselves change
and thus avoid the numerous
dangers that they were
conscious of before.

They are to make choice
from confinement
and the rest
meet in a beam
and wait…

Compositions

I wish that you were naked
beyond your skin; candid,
raw as a gunshot wound
blood red eyes and
it would be so beautiful
if your defenses would
stall for a minute or two
if I could get past the
bend in your eyebrow
through the complex
system of your hard-wired
disposition, swim through
your veins, shot downward
straight to the heart
where I could see
who you were
beyond what
you’re capable
of giving
outwardly.

I wish that you were naked
beyond your skin
for a little
while.

The Worst

oh, the perils of meeting
that transcendent love
that right place, right mood
wrong time kind of thing,
you know the drill
you’re familiar with
the feeling on a
base level (you think),
you have spent a lifetime
preparing for it and
it will sting like punching
a beehive, it will linger
like noxious smoke and
carve through flesh
as butter. but when
you look back on it
when you are newly unfair
all of the sudden
know the bar has
been raised, that the
next woman to step in
those shoes will have
a mile of space to fill
and that it is unlikely
that any will be able to…
you will have to laugh
at the predicament
ever thankful for the
experience, keep
the hope and maybe
if the cards are played
just right, sometime
down the gravel road
winding and bending
and twisting and carving
through flesh as butter:
maybe next time
it will be the right place
it will be the right mood
and time will have
no say so.

otherwise,
why waste anybody else’s time
when your heart will be
somewhere in
some east-coast city
in the back pocket of the
girl with blue hair;

wait.
writhe.
and
wait
for
it.

go.

But I Won’t Let You

The devil’s in the details
and the line is drawn
in the creases of your
skin, the way you
slightly convulse
as you fall asleep,
and the fact that
it’s all about to
get away from me.

The devil’s in the details
and time is the
flame.

Black Betty

the strays are multiplying
three kittens under the shed
gnawing at the wood and
not interested in my granola.
she stands on a chair and
tries to locate them one by one
says we have to get them
acclimated to people before
they get to the humane society
because she’s certain if they arrive
skittish as they are now, hissing
and claws out; the people at
the humane society will not hesitate
to put the kittens down.

and it’s better to be hungry and alive
than with a full belly and dead.
so i buy some cat food and
i watch her eyes dart from
one side of the yard to the
other. the kittens don’t ever
make an appearance but
the food was gone
within the day and
they are still skittish and
they aren’t assimilating
but they’re growing
pretty quickly and
they should be
comfortable.

so anyway,
today

i have a headache and
i had to pay bills all morning
and now i’m stressed out and
i kind of wish someone
would put me down
empty stomach or no
take me to the humane society
and let them do their thing;
i’ll even hiss if that
will convince them.

i’ll scratch them up and down
hide under the table and
shit all over the carpet.

okay okay okay
i’m being hyperbolic but
i’m sick of getting one foot ahead
and tripping backward and
sometimes,

it sure as hell seems easier
to stay in bed than it does
to open the eye and
look around, knowing
that the bad news is
always on the way and
there is no food waiting for me
on the other side of that door

only disconnect notices and
debt collectors.

Picking At The Scab

i didn’t want to bend backwards
touch the warm asphalt with my neck
and look at the world from the
upside down, but there i was
sometimes on a train
sometimes in a car from
sunrise to sun down and
sometimes in a closet
with a bed stuffed in it
while it rained outside
and college students
celebrated their graduation
by throwing their furniture
out on the lawn and
i counted her breaths
as the tiny rib cage
slowly inflated and
shrank back down.

my hair was long then and there
were lines in my face from
the years of numb, the void
that grew and the hole I’d
dug myself into, empty for
the first time in god knows
how fucking long, so i
bent myself back far as i
could, i let the asphalt
caress my skin, i took train rides
drove my shitty car halfway
around the god damn country
picked at the scabs and
never stopped. i’m picking
at them right now,
right here as i type this
break a line and then
pick at the scab, break
another line, broken
neck and sentence
wrong tense
right time
vice-versa
who knows?

i don’t know what compelled me
but it’s a nice memory
a little blot of light let in
from the vast nothingness
suspended in the sky like
a brave star in a lonely galaxy
where nothing ever moved
and nothing ever mattered
until the explosion
until the neck bent back
until the scab formed
flaked and was forcibly
picked at and kept
so fresh.

i’m twisted up, a contortionist
with a sprained skeleton
shaky and upset by
the smallest of slights
i put on an armor to be
more palatable, and it’s
fucking hot in here and
i don’t like the words
spraying from my mouth
because they don’t feel like
the ones I’d rather use
if it wasn’t so damn
concerning;

it would feel so much better to say
i am absolutely astounded by you
when i wake up and look over,
see you in repose beside me
and paralyzed at your radiance
there is not a man alive that
is as lucky as i am, and i am
thankful to have ever met you.
thank you thank you thank you
good morning, good night
et cetera

instead, i have a catalog saved up
of petty insults that i don’t even mean
to serve as a response to the petty
insults that she doesn’t mean
because if i had to choose between
being a douchebag and being
a complete and total pussy
i would choose the former
and regret it, even when
she laughs. even when
she appreciates the
insult.

it doesn’t feel good. i don’t like it.
i don’t want to wear the armor.
i just want to bend back
far as i can
as myself
and accepted
as that.

i am compelled and
confused and
convinced that
she is worth it
and she is.
she is.
she
is.

Learning Lessons

tungsten lights shining from a rope
and she was floating there
as they bounced off of her skin
before hitting the water
the locusts were singing
the frogs were watching
and it was warmer in the pool
than it was outside of it.

there’s a lot of things i should have learned
way back when i was a kid, things
that most other kids learned and
i just didn’t for one
reason or another

i never learned to whistle, for instance,
and to this day can only muster a
wimpy little noise when I try to.

the most egregious of these things, though,
the way in which i feel that my parents
coddled me too hard, failed me the most,
and let me have my way simply
because i was too scared to
just get it over with is:

i never learned how
to swim.

now, one might assume that this isn’t
that big of a deal, especially in light
of some of the other things i definitely
should have done and didn’t (like,
oh, I don’t know, the fact that
my first dentist visit didn’t happen
until I was twenty years old),
but those things bother me less
for one reason or another
than never getting a chance
to learn how to swim.

so anyway,

she asked me to rest on her hand
back toward the water, she said
let your ears go under. i won’t
let go of you, and my hands
were shaking somewhat
uncontrollably but i mustered
enough guts to do it. she said
just pick a star and stare at it
and eventually you’ll stop being
so nervous. she said it’s actually
very relaxing once you give yourself
away. the body is naturally
buoyant, you won’t sink.
you won’t sink.
you won’t sink.

i was laying there. i picked my star
and i tried to look at it real hard, but
all i could really focus on was her
hand on the underside of my neck
and the gentle cadence of her breathing
while the locusts sang and
the frogs watched.

i still can’t swim, but
she said i did a lot better
than she expected me to
so i guess you can chalk that one
up to a win, and
the light shined soft and
the pool was warmer
than ever before.

The Rats, The Drugs, & The White Line

you’re what i was looking for
in the space between those rats in New Orleans
in between the garbage cans where
they fought over scraps and the
time between sobriety and popping
the first pill of the day. you were the
first cigarette of the morning after, too
when i woke up on couches
not knowing where the fuck i was at all
but it didn’t really matter back then
because i had nowhere to be
and i was no one of
concern.

i didn’t know that i was looking for you.
i thought i was just enjoying the wet blanket
placing bets on which rat would win and
which one would starve. i thought i
was just getting high, just killing time
before it killed me — you know, i’ve
a flair for the dramatic and i always
enjoyed the residue that would
stay on the underside of my nostril.
it fought the deep inhalations and
won, wasn’t sucked up like the rest.
would have rather been wasted entirely
than used under false pretenses
and gone under appreciated
or maybe not noticed at all
when in the path with
so many just like
him.

i’ve been thinking about getting your
teeth marks tattooed on my hand
not only due to your affinity for
gnawing at it, but also because
it would feel pretty damn good
to have a physical manifestation
of the crater that has been left
in your wake. you try to talk me
out of it with the concern that
what if this never goes any further
or, worse yet, what if we end
spectacularly and i’m left branded
forever with the bite marks of a
woman i cannot stand? how
stupid would you feel, then?
you ask me. and i think about that,
i think about it real hard and
it’s kind of fucked up but
that doesn’t really matter much
to me. i’ll still remain thankful
for the days when we did nothing
except lay around and watch movies
or the days when we did a whole lot
drank to excess and fucked
like we were moments away from
expiration. it wouldn’t be about
my attraction to your lips, how
your teeth feel when they wiggle
and clamp down on the thin
stretch of skin between my thumb
and pointer finger (though it would
play a part, admittedly). instead,
i would look at it and remember
exactly who i was in that moment
when i had found everything that
i was ever looking for, and what
it felt like to feel so
fucking
alive.

you’re it. no matter what happens
from this point on, you are
it.

Poems and Poets

you can either be the poet or the poem
and here’s the catch:
nobody wants to fuck the poem and
nobody wants to love the poet
you can’t be both, but you have to be one
or the other and that’s just
how it is and it’s just how
it has always been.

making the mistake is dire
(and you will make it over and again)
each method with it’s own
caveats.

two poets don’t work because they talk too much.
everything is a story to us
the napkin with the salt spilled on it,
an old man sipping on his coffee at four-thirty in the morning
the way the light creeps in like it doesn’t
want to be seen, it’s all part of the narrative.
when a poet loves another poet, they talk
so damn much that the moment passes
without much consideration until then
when the desperation sets in after
the love wears off and you’re left only
with a body beside you that doesn’t
set your soul on fire, and make no mistake
you don’t set theirs on fire either
and they both wake up wishing
that they were the poem,
but they aren’t and they
can’t be. it’s just the way it is
and the way it has always,
always been.

two poems can’t love one another because they
are so busy with themselves. it’s a game that
nobody ever wins, but the meantime is so
much fun that nobody is worried about the
ultimate consequence (and the oddest part
of all this, really): when you love a poem, especially
if you long to be one yourself,
to be loved and doted on and
written about with fondness and
appreciation and gratitude
when it inevitably doesn’t happen that way,
when the only words written in stone
are etched in a languid dialect
that nobody can read (especially you)
you become the poet and
there’s no going back
from that.

nobody wants to fuck the poem and
nobody wants to love the poet.
that’s the way it is and that’s
the way it’s destined to
always be.

if i’m ever proven wrong, i will
definitely write it down
then again, maybe
i won’t

maybe i won’t need to
lord sure as hell knows
by now that I’m
pretty god
damn tired
of being the
poet and
never the
word.

The First Time

The first time I saw her
wasn’t the first time
I looked at her.
That took some time
some time to get there
some years off my life
some tread off the tires
some conversations that
I wish I’d never had, but
the first time I saw her
wasn’t the first time
I looked at her.

She was the kind of girl
that made me sick to want,
a rich, little conservative girl
that didn’t have to bleed
for much, too beautiful
to really suffer and
just smart enough
that she knew how
to get away with
being a bitch.

That’s what they say about
smart women anyway, you know?
If you’re a woman and
you have ever been called a bitch
just know that you’ve
bested someone
and they know it.

We fell asleep in her closet
on Robinson Street
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
a city made of transplants

rich, little conservative kids
and rich, little liberal kids
side-eyeing one another
and the sun came up
over the hill and
I thought, “Man,
this girl is beautiful,”
but that wasn’t the first time
I saw her.

The first time we fucked
was in a cheap hotel
after I’d skipped on a train
and we made out in her car
for a little while, windows
fogged up as the kids
bounced up and down the street
like sewer rats, but
I didn’t care about them
and they didn’t care about us
and she asked, “Do you want
to stay for one more day?”
and I replied, “Fuck yeah,
let’s go find a hotel.”
but that wasn’t the first time
I saw her
either.

The first time I saw her
wasn’t the first time
I looked at her.
That took some time,
some effort
something…

The first time we fought
was in a trailer, the dead heat
of summer wafting in through
the windows and she wanted
to go out without me and
asked if I’d stay home
even though all my friends
were out already and
it upset me enough that
I said things that I wish
I didn’t say, that I wish
I could un-say, things like
MAYBE THIS IS WHY
YOUR FRIENDS DON’T
TALK TO YOU.

MAYBE YOU SHOULD GO HOME
YOU BITCH.

And she said to me,
You know, dudes always say that shit
when they talk to a smart woman
that doesn’t put up with
their bullshit.

She went to the bathroom,
flipped me off and
locked the door

That was the first time
I saw her and
she was all
the more
beautiful

in her indignation
and my fragile ego
could hardly
handle
it.

give me a reason

i can only write about that
which i am already aware of;
what i know to be true
or at the very least,
my interpretation of it
as it sways in on
a breeze just before
it rolls on through
on toward something else
somewhere far away
and real close
at the same
time, but

i have had this block now
for the better part of a week
and i haven’t been able to
write like i’m usually capable
of doing; and it’s not
for a lack of effort,
believe me,
i try.

it’s just
when i write lately, it doesn’t
feel as good as it usually does
neither the product or
the feeling that generally
accompanies it and
it almost seems like
i should make my fingers
follow suit alongside the actions
that i try and fail to accomplish
with my lips.

do you know what?
i wish that i did,
wish i had even
the slightest clue
what the fuck is
happening.

but i don’t.

i woke up this morning
with a numb hand
after cracking it
against the mouth
of someone in
Kentucky, he was
halfway into the
window of my
little old car
in the parking lot
of a Walgreen’s, i
loaded my fist back
as far as it would go
and then watched him
spit a couple teeth
onto the hot asphalt.

people rushed at us,
and that made me more
nervous than him reaching
into his pocket, so i got in
my little old car and I
fled the scene.

it felt good and then
it felt real bad
and then i felt
guilty and now
my hand is numb
and my knuckle
has a fracture
down the length
of it.

the truth of it is
i don’t know what’s wrong
and though i have a vague feeling
of what is right, i am seemingly
incapable of convincing
anybody of the same, so
why should i bother
writing it down at all
when there is nobody
reassured by it?

give me a reason
to give a
shit

please.

Kiwi Strawberry

her skin is an orchard
and i am a dirty, old dog
with muddy paws.

i bury my snout deep
into the earth and
find fruit.

farmer with a shotgun
protect your crops
but i’m sly

and hungrier
than any of you
motherfuckers.

Eric Orwell

George Orwell’s real name was Eric Blair
which means he intentionally chose
the name George and probably thought to himself,
“god damn, Orwell is so much prettier than Blair,
jesus christ i hate my fucking name”
and that has never
made a god damn bit of sense to me

What kind of man chooses George Orwell over Eric Blair?
how can you trust a writer that does
something like that?

I have a hard time
reading his books with that
knowledge in tow because
I can’t get my head
around the fact.

The other night, we were all sitting in a hot tub
discussing our favorite pen names
I said that I loved the name Ernest Hemmingway
but couldn’t ever get into his writing
because it felt like he spoke to the reader
like they were dumber than he was and
even though that was probably the truth
it felt condescending but i really
liked his name a lot, though.

And then I mentioned the thing about George Orwell
and everybody looked at me like I was an idiot
“Only you would take issue with something
like that.” she laughed, but never said
what pen name she enjoyed the most
or what names she didn’t like even
as my step-father smoked a cigar
and my baby brother had nothing to add
because he doesn’t read and was
missing prime video game hours
to cook in a warm tub of water
with us.

it’s little moments like that where i know
i am hopelessly irrational and then
to further add to the case
i glanced over at the laughing girl
and felt my heart literally drop
into the conduit of my
stomach and dissolve
in the vat of acids
pooled there.

what kind of man chooses George Orwell over Eric Blair?
well…probably the same kind of man that
chooses to stare way too long
at a blinding, burning
light.

how can you trust a writer like that?
it’s probably why she has such
a hard time with
it.

Fine, Then. Have It Your Way.

my white flag is flying
i strung it up with my shot nerves
and though it was quite troublesome
to get it up there, and it’s quite bittersweet to
watch it wave back at me, i know that it
only looks that way now because
i was so cocksure, so ready
and i jumped into the abyss
with reckless abandon
with bravery

i just got too close to the source
too soon, too fast, too whatever
and it used to be so beautiful
so warm and so transcendent
and i suppose in some ways
it still is, up there, way up high
stripped of color and cowardly
singing down to me in triumphant defeat

i gave it all i had,
more than i thought
i did

more than i thought i was
ever capable of

so i’ll only play songs in minor keys for a while
and i’ll learn who i am again in virtue of whatever
the fuck this was and i will miss you
and i will love you from a distance
and i will stay real quiet and
i will not say a word
or try to change your
mind.

my white flag is flying
and if you think, “man, what nerve?”
just know that it’s
mine.

and it hurts that you couldn’t be as sure
because the abyss might as
well have been
the gates of hell or
absolute paradise.

the line between the two is
actually pretty
shallow.

you can walk right through
if you choose to.

wish you had.

Chlorine

i could still taste the chlorine on her skin
still can, several hours later as the only
person awake. it’s sunday, which is usually
my least favorite day of the week
because i live in a small town
of no particular importance
and the only place that i can get my coffee
(a sacred ritual that i take very
very seriously)
isn’t open on Sundays, and that’s
a petty reason to dislike an entire day
that one must go through once
a week, and i don’t mean to sound
that way, but…

i could still taste the chlorine on her skin
and i held off because i started talking
and you know how that goes
when you overshare and
the sincerity in your voice
is far too apparent and
you lose your air
so I wiped the spit from my lip
and rolled over to the other side
and said nothing else
and tried to catch
the runaway of
my collapsed
lung.

i dreamt that we were in a hot air balloon
over some foreign land with animals
that didn’t make sense. there were lions
with the heads of dolphins and giant ants
with rib-cages for teeth and we laughed
at how stupid it all was and
i could taste the chlorine on her skin

even then
even now.

7 and 7

Seagram’s seven, three ice cubes and
distilled water in a thrift store coffee mug.
The sun sets angrily in the distance. Cars
run stop signs. Red lights turn green. Otherwise,
there isn’t much worth writing about.
Except…

Last night, after a binge (soreness
not withstanding), I found myself in a cemetery
at the edge of town. There was roughly three hundred
bodies six or seven feet below the hard dirt and there
was a young woman above that. She wore frilly pink
underwear and she took her thumbs, placed them between
the creases, and asked if I was going to take her there
to that special place between life and death
at the cemetery on the very edge
of town.

That’s when the whiskey set in and
my body became just another
dead son of
bitch.

God dammit, I thought
and then I pulled up my
pants and she drove me
home, both of us
defeated.

I’m sure all the ghosts
laughed a
little.

Vascular

a disgusting habit, sure, but
the hooks are in deep
and there are times where
nothing on earth is better
than a fresh cigarette.

Like,

after sex, for instance, when the smell
is thick in the air and
your mattress has a puddle in it
in the exact shape of that girl’s
shaking body, when
the lights are low and the
air-conditioner hums
the prettiest song
from the hole in
the ground.

early in the morning, when
the neighborhood strays are
fast asleep atop ripped
garbage bags, when
the humidity rolls in;
endless waves of
things on the way
some will be good
and some will just
be obnoxiously
hot, but that’s
okay.

and there are other times,
for instance, when there
are words that you wish to say
but cannot,
either because
they have no utility or
just because you’re
too scared
to be the
weak one

when the silence is cumulative
and it reaches it’s fever point
when you want to say things like
i love you so much that it
makes me physically ill, or
you’re so fucking beautiful
that i find myself choked up
when i look in your direction
as your eyes do that thing
when the sunlight shines
in on them like
stained glass.

and other times, when the exact
opposite happens and i’m
feeling uncharacteristically cavalier
when my mouth goes confident and
my tongue does that thing
where it says the perfect thing
at the right time and is met
by a roll of the eyes and
a subtle, “yeah, okay,
sure you do.”

a cigarette is oftentimes the
only thing that makes sense
and sometimes, you don’t care
that it’s slowly killing you
and other times, it’s almost
like it’d be quite okay
to die in that exact place
like there is nothing else
that could ever come close
to topping it so what’s
the point of continuing
anyway, especially when
there is nowhere to go
but back down the
rabbit hole.

maybe someday i’ll have incentive
beyond the longevity of myself
but for now, i think i will
light my last one up and
then go to the gas station
and buy another pack.

a disgusting habit, sure, but
the hooks are in deep.

Elegy

animal magnetism, canine teeth
wedged deep in the freshest of fruit
from the highest of trees, so close
to the sun that my wings melted
and now i’m trapped there
staying high on intuition
sunburned and misled
by the liar that lives
in my gut.

but the fruit tastes good. i’m not starved,
just occasionally hungry for
something more and

i’m close enough to god now that
i could whisper and he would
hear my prayers from my spot
in the tall tree with the
fresh fruit and

it’s funny because
I do, and it’s always this
one-way conversation
he either ignores me outright
or even worse, just doesn’t hear me
or isn’t there at all and
if that’s the case, then
it’s all up to chance, isn’t it?
and I’m a fool with
bad luck.

take a look at my melted wings and
my proximity to the ground
for justification of
that.

it’s weird, too, because
i spend my day wondering why
the sun has to be so god damn
malicious, so intent on shining
directly on me, so cocksure
and then, the moment it
bends down below the horizon
when I watch it crest and
i watch the yellow turn
to orange, then purple
and then that calm steady black
when the white dots come
when they sparkle and they shine
and they love me unconditionally
and they’re bright but they
don’t burn, and they’re
beautiful but they aren’t
overt, and they talk
back to me when
i whisper, though
it’s only ever
small talk

i find myself wondering
what’s the sun up to down there?
and i’m a little cold now
and not starving necessarily
just a little hungry for
something more
could use a blanket
or something

but i don’t want to express that
not right here, not from the tall trees
with the best fruit and
a view into infinity where
all is clear and, simultaneously
completely obscured
by itself

so i try to stay quiet and
i whisper to god and
guess what?

he still doesn’t
reply.

but the hope has not been extinguished
and that cruel sun has done little else
but spark a fire from
the inside out.

no firefighters in sight and
it wouldn’t matter anyway
send all you got.

i’m too far up to be reached
and i will burn.
i will burn.
i will burn.

Dishes

When she left, she took the dishes
every spoon, fork, pot, pan, cookie sheet,
plate, coffee cup, and
bowl.

I never replaced them.

The Clothesline And The Sunshine

spit in my mouth like i’m a hungry bird
and teach me how to fly
imbued by the marks on my neck
and the thick smell of day-old french fries
resting comfortably on
the nightstand.

slap me in the mouth like i said something
that i would never, ever say.
put me through the ringer, give me your
best shot. do you got it in you?
well, do you?

open up my skin, raise it like a child
and make my hands shake, put me
on a conveyor belt, through the wash,
and hang me up to dry by the throat
be my clothesline and the sunshine
and the stiffness in my rusted joints

hold me there until i can no longer breathe
until i can no longer say the stupid things
constantly streaming from the sewage of
my mouth

or until my lungs give way to
the other side
of whatever.

listen up:
i know that you’re a gift
that i don’t deserve, but
i like it when you
leave me raw;

surprise me like a christmas present
and i will be your lumps of coal
painted gold, black and blue
hungry for
worms.

spit in my mouth and take away the words
take what you want and leave the rest
and that will be just fine
by me.

Like A Breeze, But More Violent

i always think the ride is almost over
that eventually i will learn all that there is to learn
and the ceiling will be met with a vengeance
like a drunk driver, whiskey fresh on his breath
colliding with a barrier at breakneck speed
no seat belt, body thrown into the windshield
broken neck, clipped wing, and then
the calm will set in, i will know
all that there is to know.

i’ll know what high-school was like for you,
your favorite flowers, your hangups,
i’ll know how you react to things
both favorably and not so much
and i will love all of those things, but
they will no longer catch me off guard
like they presently do.

but just as i’m thinking that, like maybe
today is the day and, come tomorrow,
i won’t feel any more strongly
than i do today

something always happens
this grand temporal shift sparked up in blackness
neurons firing on all cylinders, brand new
synapses and the birth of a greater something
wrapped up like a Christmas present
in the dead heat of summer
as the sun shines in
and the day starts
up. a brand new light
some kind of
glow.

you say or you do something and then
there is a cinder block on my chest
a nervous twitching in my hands
a fog lifted from the damp crater
of my shallow head space
and, after so many times now,
there is also a sudden and
ultimately terrifying
reassurance:

there it is. that’s it.
you’ve done something
and now i love you more
than i did yesterday and
i loved you yesterday more
than i did the day before
and it never stops
happening that
way.

that car hits the barrier.
this body hits the windshield,
but instead of crashing against it
i blow right on through
like a faint breeze
but more
violent.

i don’t know what to do with this
and i never really do,
but that’s okay
that’s alright
that’s okay

as long as i’m wrong
because truth be told
i’d stay on this ride forever
forever ascending toward
some celestial body
if you would let me
if you would
won’t
you?

Radio Waves

the voice cracks like an old radio
but i was tuning in, yeah,
i was tuned on in

it might have been raining and
it might have been the dead of night
or the middle of the day or the
earliest part of morning

i’m not really sure
of anything
most times

especially when the one
thing that i am sure of
is talking.

i was tuned in, yeah,
i was tuned
on in.

Wow.

there’s no magic combination of words
to snap life into the ideal, so
instead of ruining the moment
on a fool’s errand,

i say nothing
and i think

wow, i’m really glad that
you’re here right
now.

and oddly enough,
that’s when it
is.

Sunspots

the morning sun crept in
through a slit in my curtains
and rested against your skin
like it was meant to shine
in just that way
like it was birthed from the center
of an ambitious star and knew
exactly what its destiny was
and maybe, i thought to myself
laying there, pins and needles
fingertips calloused and
my jaw clenched tight
itching eyelids, i thought
that just maybe
i was supposed to wake up
at the exact moment I did
and maybe that was my
destiny, too? after all
the star was so sure and i
was so sure and there was
this instant paralysis
as the orange illuminated
a small sliver of you
and how jealous i was of it!
to be all over you like that
the milk of morning washing your skin
highlighting these exact points
against the blackness of
the bedroom;

you were there
and i was there
and i couldn’t move
and i couldn’t breathe
and i couldn’t look away
and i stayed there like that
until the sun moved an inch over
and the room got all dark again
but i never did fall back
to sleep, you know,
because how could I?

there were small blots of light
stuck on the inside of my eyes
and if I blink hard enough
even right now,
i still see the orange glow
and these exact points
of your sleeping
majesty

i sigh, i laugh
i’m fucking crazy
i’m fucking crazy
and i’m so
fucked
now.

November 14th, 2018

Are you trying to take that home?
He asked, fog rolling from his branded lips
like he wouldn’t still try even if
my answer was yes, but
it wasn’t, so
it didn’t matter.

He continued…

I already talked to this guy
and to that guy and
I don’t want to step on your toes
because I know you have
a history with her.

History is strange, isn’t it?
I thought the universe was a strange place
due to that history, how just
a short decade or so ago,
I would have went to bat
put my fist to flesh
and probably got my
teeth knocked in, just
to prove some fleeting
imaginary feeling that
I was so convinced
was perpetual.

Turns out, she was right all along
when she said I’d eventually give up
and I’d forget why I went through
all that trouble to begin with.
I did.

I looked at her sitting across the bar
vodka and Red Bull flushing her cheeks
and she was still just as pretty to me
but I no longer cared who took her home
whether it was me or this other guy
pretending to be
courteous and, in fact,
there was a part of me
that was thankful
to not deal with
it at
all.

She ain’t mine. I said.
Take her with you.

My eyes were stretched ever onward
toward the abyss of a new love
fleeting and imaginary
a love that I was convinced
was perpetual, a love that
I’d go to bat for
fist to flesh
all that stupid
bullshit.

I sipped on my whiskey and I thought
Everything has changed and
somehow, nothing has
at the same
damn
time.

The Sparkle

all of history has
led up to this moment
like a fuse stretched
infinitely backward, crackling
and shrinking
and sparkling

clouds in the sky
are bellowing
an audience
of seven billion
scream all at
once

snuff it out! wallow
in the stream of
smoke that it
leaves behind

the cannon weeps
the mother weeps
we all weep.

no light show, but
the sparkle was
pretty damn
alright.

So There’s That, I Guess

I dreamt that I blew my brains out
with a small gray gun
in the back room of
a garage I’ve never
been to before;
it smelled like sawdust
and kicked some up
at the moment of impact.

My body went limp,
blood pooled onto
the warm pavement and
I was finally free to run,
drip away and drain
into whatever was
downhill with all
the other rats and
then I woke up, all of
the sudden like, with a
headache and was
sitting too still and
I was too afraid
to move or acknowledge
that I’d made it through
to another
fucking
day.

Sumbitch

Oh, there you are.
The dark impulse has slept like an infant,
warm rays of sun shining on its backside
as it breathed and never moved
for years and now, day one as
an individual, living for myself and
not for the betterment
of anybody else,
he finally
wakes
up.

And he stretches,
scratches at his balls,
then says to me:

hey you fuckin’
piece of
shit.

Halfway

Sometimes I see her at the bar
even though she hasn’t been around
in almost half a year now.
and sometimes I still go there
halfway expecting to see her and,
when I realize this, I have a
hard time telling the difference between
getting drunk because she’s not
and getting drunk because
I halfway expected her
to be.

America’s Best Value Inn

2:18 AM. The paint cracks and peels off the walls and the whole place smells of cigarette smoke and hope. I have never felt so present as I do when you’re beside me. It’s like the whole damn world opens up and closes in at the same time. They turn lung and they’re black and they’re new and they’re infinite and they’re infinitesimal all at the same time. There is nobody else, there is only you and me and the cigarette smoke and the hope and it’s so fucking beautiful in there no matter where we find ourselves. I find myself, though, over and over again. It happens when my hand brushes up against the small of your back, when my face rubs against yours and when your long strains of brown hair blot out my vision and I’m left blind and breathless. Infinite and infinitesimal all at the same time. The world opens up and closes like a set of old storm shutters on the side of some abandoned building in some forgotten town. There are no other people. There are no other houses. There are no other rooms. There is only you. There is only me. There is only cigarette smoke and hope.

The paint cracks and peels off the walls.
The city comes to life and so do we.

III. LITTLE BIRDS

Chintz’s

It’s quiet. The lingering smell of fried catfish clings to the air in an attempt to be noticed and it does its job well. The Budweiser cooler has been stocked, the television switched over from M.A.S.H. to some professional sporting event taking place a million miles away, and the jukebox hasn’t been touched in hours. In the background, our cook’s strained voice can be heard as it bellows through the caverns.

“Kitchen’s closed everybody.” She says. From the other side of the bar, a collective sigh can be heard from the hungry drunks, the drunks that either walked in a few seconds too late or have been there a few hours too long (I can never tell the difference).

I find that I get tipped better when I don’t ask what somebody wants to drink, and that’s become increasingly more simple as faces begin to familiarize themselves. That phenomenon is as strange to me as it is obvious when examined critically: some people just need to know that they’re noticed. Even when it’s at a dive bar and even when the kitchen’s closing: it’s at least some kind of evidence that these people exist. As the whiskey sours or the tequila sunrises or the bloody mary’s or cheap domestics slide across the bar, in the space between picking the glass up and it reaching their lips, there is some paramount, indisputable confirmation. That’s where comfort lives.

Bar time reads 9:30 PM and the usual patrons start filing in.

Safe

five years ago,
i was in seattle
doing photography work
and there was a dead body
in the hotel beneath us
and she thought,
“is it safe that we’re here?”
and it wasn’t, but
it never is, but
it never was
and now i’m
sitting here;
neighbor’s a doctor
the other does construction
and the one next door
recently died, but he
made his money as
a prominent lawyer
and i think to myself,
“is this safe?”
and it isn’t
but it never is
and it never was
and it won’t
ever be, so
why bother
with any
of it?

Don’t Laugh At Us

the night was old before it started
had that old people smell and
the bar was full of young kids
trying to fuck one another and
there was no amount of booze
in the whole world that would
have made any of it
less predictable.

Degenerate

we had rough sex on the living room floor
and now she has bruises on her face
and i have rug burn on my knees
and there’s a spot on the carpet
that i had to scrub down with
some hearty effort and
extra-strength floor
cleaner

and there’s a feeling of guilt in the pit
of my stomach lining, like
maybe we went too hard
and how i know that somebody
at some point, at some place,
and some point in time is
going to see the marks
and say to everyone,
“hey, he beats that
girl and he’s
scum!”

and the thing that
fucks with me isn’t
even the idea that
people find me
to be a
degenerate
because I am one
and I don’t mind being
labeled as such, but
if you’re going to give
me an appropriate label,
then I would prefer if
you gave it to me for
the right reasons
like…

i haven’t had a sober night
since march and
i have slept with married women
and widowed women and
all kinds of women that
needed love and
settled for
scum;
and…

i haven’t had a job now
in some three odd months
sacrificing my bar job for
a spattering stream of
photography gigs and
my girlfriend wants flowers
but i can’t afford them, so
she settles for looking pretty
in front a camera lens and
wonders, sometimes out loud,
if I like her at all. if only
she could have the tulips,
then she’d really know
you know?
and…

that’s how the whole mess started
her, naked as the day she was born
and me, drunk as i was the day before
posing in front of a neon green light
posturing with her thick, scraped legs
and that disingenuous look of vulnerability
when in truth this was her true element and
she preferred to walk around without clothes
and would probably never put them on
if given the choice

and even though I knew that about her
and she knew that i knew that about her,
neither one of us bothered to dissuade the
other with some pesky truth that
didn’t offer a benefit to either
illusion and so,

there was a gentle row of clicks
coming from my camera body
and some pop music from
ten or eleven years ago
when i sat the thing down
and she said, “hey,
you fucking loser,
slap me and
don’t be a
pussy about
it.”

the same marks she wears with pride this evening
as evidence that i was so involved that
i lost control (and that IS true, by the way)
are the very marks that let me
know how long of a road
this is all going
to be, but
back to the
point now
before I
seem a
little
verbose…

i don’t care if i’m called a degenerate
because I am one, but
if you’re going to give
me that distinction, then
at least give it to me
for the right reasons.
otherwise, i’m stuck with this
for no reason at
all.

Okay, Then

Barefoot drinking barefoot
$7.99 at the grocery store
while I continue my tradition
of drinking the cheapest
whiskey on the shelf
and she says to me,
“I don’t feel anything
for anybody right now
and you’re pushing it
and I hate when I
feel this way and
I’m hungry as hell
in more ways than
one and…”

It keeps going on this way;
empty her, empty me
sipping on drinks
hoping the night
devours us whole and
maybe there will be
a stop to the run on
of sentences and the
flowing of verbs
before the well
runs dry and
the bottle empties
slower than the
heart, or…

maybe the cheese will
fill her little belly and
maybe the whiskey
will hit me just right
and the night will
end and the sun
might actually rise
and it might stop
raining for a few
hours and maybe
the feelings of death
will pass before
the urge to just
give up on it
does, and…

I sip on this cheap
well booze, and I
think to myself:
there have been
worse nights than
this one and I
wait for her to
realize the same
because it’s only
that specific instant
that anything good
can come from
the trash of
a moment,
and…

so I wait
and she waits
and the rain
keeps on
keeping
on and
the bottles
gently
drain and
so do
we.

Pickle Juice Slushies

The lights dimmed and turned blue
and the sound of bowling pins was
only blotted by blown speakers
trying their best to keep up
with the rhythm of nightfall,
and there was tequila on my breath,
pickle juice on hers, and she
came so close to a strike that
her small body fell to the ground
as the pins wobbled. I said,
“damn, you got really close!”
and she came within an inch
of my mouth and asked me,
“how close did I get?”

The blue lights turned green,
and we rolled around the slick
floor all over one another as
if there was nobody else
on the planet (and it
certainly seemed
that way), and then
we played until the
regular lights came
back on, and then we
were out in the cold
in a car three levels
too loud.

We drunkenly rolled
down the road with
adrenaline flowing
through blown
speakers and
it seemed as if
we had manifested
something beautiful
that only the two of
us would ever
get to
know.

You’re A Flower

You need to quit smoking.
You need to live until
you’re completely wilted
and I don’t want you to be
plucked from the ground
when you still have
time in the sun,
so you need to
quit smoking
and isn’t that a
pretty flower?
Won’t you pick
it for me so i can put
it in my hair
or in a mason jar,
set it in the window
and watch it collect
sunshine.

There isn’t a
hint of irony
in any of this
until I light
one up and
leave the
flowers
be.

Nobody
notices
that.

God, Shut The Fuck Up Already

there are patches of my life that
have become so irrelevant
so past-tense and
so tedious to to even
think about that I
oftentimes forget
about them
entirely.

and there is strength in forgetting
how a woman’s breath felt early
in the morning, what kind of birds
were singing outside the windows
and how the yearning for coffee
would become the only
consistency in all that
boring madness.

maybe they’re just not important enough
to write about anymore. yeah, I
assume that is probably it, and
there is a sadness in knowing that
there are just some people
that don’t learn anything
from past experiences
and are so cocksure about
false narratives that they
are never humble
enough to think, “if everybody
keeps leaving me, then maybe
it’s not always them. maybe
the common denominator
is me.”

but i don’t care enough to tell them that
and so i don’t, but there are people
that i spent years with that, while they don’t
feel a waste, necessarily, they
also make writing poetry about
feel so irrelevant
and so past-tense
and so tedious
that i don’t care
to do it.

yeah, that’s it. but
they’d never hear
the truth, and probably
think the lack of words
lack of narrative and
lack of them is an
indication of fear
rather than what
it really is:

i would rather be sad alone
than sad beside them
and that should have
been evident from
the very start, so
shut the fuck
up already.

Rain On Dead Flesh

How many bottles does it take
to get to the bottom of it all?
How many times do we have
to talk about the weather?
How many nights will
I try to find the answers
only to end up
checking the clock
to see if there’s still
any time left to
buy another bottle
and talk to the
clerk about these
odd cloud
formations?

Poor Dog

the mind is too quick for the mouth
but the tongue is more clever
and there was a stray dog
running rampant in the street
until a car hit him and
the drunks mourned around
his lifeless, little body and
vowed to kill whatever
motherfucker was driving
that green land rover and
there was this guy that checked
for a name tag on the collar
but he didn’t have one, and
he picked the poor bastard up
and set him on the curb and
he left a small blotch of
bright red blood on his
pale blue dress shirt, and
the guy said, “god dammit,
now i want to kill that
motherfucker in the
land rover, too.”

the mind is too quick for the mouth
but the tongue is more clever
until there’s nothing that
is worth saying, and
hey, who the fuck
kills a dog and
just drives off
anyway?

Times That Can’t And Don’t Change

she says, it’s so strange to think about
where we were back then compared
to where we are now. remember
back when you’d see me at the
bar and then you’d go somewhere
else and remember when i saw you
making out with that stupid slut
and got so drunk in your wake
that i ended up beneath a
car tire and you had to
pick me up and make
sure i made it back
inside and begged
me to get a cab?
remember that?

she says, it’s so strange to think about
where we were back then compared
to where are now. remember when
you saw me at the bar with that
poor bastard that still sends me
books in the form of messages,
a really stand-up dude that
loved me for who i was, but
he wasn’t you and so, when
i saw you there, dancing and
unapologetic, i couldn’t help
myself but disappear with
you and then it didn’t
work out, but it never
did back then, do you
remember that?

i say, baby, it’s pretty strange to think about
where we were back then compared
to where are we now, but I’m a fuckin’
loser with a really nice skill set, and
sometimes it’s hard to see the smoke
for the trees, but if you look beyond
what i am capable of and, instead
look at what i am doing, what i have
done, and who i have become in
the process; then i assure you that
my talent is just another wasted
thing in this town of wasted
idiots, and she says to me,
“well, you’re definitely a
fucking idiot, but I believe
in you…”

and the room is mighty quiet for
just a few moments, and then
she laughs and she says,
it’s pretty strange to think about
where we were back then
compared to where we
are right now

and I say, it really is girl
but i’m glad the ball
spun back to
your court.

another saturday.
let’s fuck it
up.

Big Fan

i used to be a big fan of your photography,
but your stuff has gotten so damn dark, man, and I
remember back when your pictures were all dreamy
and simple and beautiful. now they just make me
sad. and i watched a thick glob of spit form on
the creases of his mouth, looked to my left and
saw two guys eyeballing one another, really
sizing one another up and waiting for the other
to take a swing. and i looked to my right and
saw a young girl slumped over her vodka tonic
with a row of ugly vultures crowded around,
feigning concern and hoping for an opportunity
to feast upon her drunken carcass, maybe in
the bathroom where nobody would see and
maybe out on the back patio where everybody
would; it made no difference, really. nobody
cared. nobody said anything.
well, almost nobody.

i really like the photos you do when you use
baking flour or the ones where you capture the
motion in water as it falls on some beautiful
girl’s body, and say, how do you get these
girls to get all muddy for photos? man, imagine
how beautiful you could make them! why do
you insist on dirtying them up all the time?
why do you cover them in blood? what do you
get out of that? you’re fucking yourself over
man. who is going to hire a fucking weirdo
like that? i used to be a big fan of your photography
back when it dreamy and optimistic and
i have a hard time seeing some of it
these days. and i can’t stop staring
at the globules of spit and the two
guys did the respectable thing and
took their argument outside and the
drunk girl was asked to leave because
it wasn’t a good look for the bar to be
slinging drinks around some sleeping
drunk girl, and so she left with some
fella and they took it out to the back
patio too, and it was enough to break
up the fighting dogs and the fighting
people and everybody was out there
watching live pornography, but she
didn’t really make any noises, just
kind of took it and when somebody
tried to break it up, she said,
“you aren’t my fucking father,
get away from me, you creep.”
and so the guy did, and this
other guy wouldn’t stop telling
me about all the things that i
was doing wrong and how
good i used to be, and
i didn’t say a god damn word
because what the fuck did
it matter anyway?

the bartender asks if i need anything
and i suppose that i needed a lot
more than that place could ever
offer me, so i settled on a shot
of tequila and a glass of ice water
and i watched as the spit kept
collecting and i drank the damn thing
and thought, maybe my work has
gotten darker because there’s
not a whole lot of light
anywhere around
me.

i bet he wouldn’t like this poem, too,
but i doubt he reads much.
more of a visual guy, just
make it dreamy.

“that’ll get you more work.”
he tells me.

On The Sixth Day

the first time i ever saw a dead animal
was as a young boy, maybe six or
seven years old. a baby blackbird,
his small chest splattered into
the pavement like a Jackson Pollock
painting (only different because
this would actually resonate with
me and I never understood
splatters in any other context)
baby bird, minus feathers,
minus life, and i spent every
morning for the first three
or four days studying him
with extreme interest and
i patiently waited for god
to take him. by the fifth day
i began to wonder what was
taking him so long, and his
poor little body stayed there
on the pavement, the Pollock
blood now washed away after
a night of light rainfall, there
was a putrid stench
wafting off into the spring
and a few visible bones
showing beneath him.

on the sixth day, i rose from
bed and made my way to the
pavement outside and the
little bird was gone. i thought,
finally! god has taken him!
he’s probably learning how
to fly and i was so happy and
it was the kind of happiness that
you take for granted because
you’re too young to realize that
it’s in short supply and
there will come a time
that you find it difficult to
even recollect upon,
but it was real
and i know it was
even though I cannot
recall the sensation
with any kind of
accuracy.

so i started walking to school
and i stared down at my feet
and i thought about that
lucky little bird and wondered
what god smelled like and
then, from the far corners
of my peripherals, i saw
the little bird there, on the
grass now, being ripped
to shreds by neighborhood
cats and i thought to myself,
does god just not care
about the birds? how could
he do this to him? he was so
sweet, so gentle, so cold, and
splattered there on the pavement
like a little buddy less imaginary
than quiet and i watched
as the cats ripped off what
was left of his tummy, what
was left of his beak and
his organs and the
rest of him until, eventually,
there was no bird left at all
and the cats carried on
like nothing had happened
and i stood there on the
sidewalk for a little while
and then kept walking.

i walked in to school and
the clock read something like
8:19 AM or 9:02 AM or something
of the like and the principal walked
up to me and asked why I was
so late and i didn’t want to
tell him about the bird
or about cats or about
god and so i just said,
my mom woke up late
and i was sorry and
i wouldn’t be late
again.

it was the last time i thought
about that bird. the last
time i thought about cats
and the last time i took
god seriously.

Traps

she scribbles lines on the paper
i’m sick of being here, baby, she
says to me and i can’t tell
if she means here as in
the establishment or
here as in the bar or
here as in the world
at all, but i relate to
it because i generally
agree and i wish that
i lived somewhere that
i didn’t have to tell people
to take off their shoes
some kind of rat’s den
a trap house where addicts
and queens and kings and
all sorts of people could come
and nobody would have
to worry about the
ash on the floor or
the stains on the rug
or how they were going
to get home because
home is an abstract
to some of us, and
she’ll get that eventually,
so young and beautiful,
that girl, still with the
glow of hope in her eyes
not yet snuffed out by
the weight of the world
and the burns in
the carpet.

Joe

he was a quiet guy and i didn’t
particularly like him at first. i
didn’t like when he loudly proclaimed
that he was ex-military and waited
for people to thank him for his
service and i didn’t like that he
tried to take my girlfriend home
with him, and i kept my distance
when i’d see him out at the bar
loudly drinking, loudly moving,
loudly breathing even, like
i could hear him from two bars down
telling anybody that would listen
that he’d sacrificed and he’d
take a free drink if it was offered
but he didn’t expect it, but he
kind of did (at least, that’s how
i saw it, anyway)

one night i was trying to sober up
i was staring at a shelf full of glass
bottles with one eye shut, trying
desperately to make them line up
and appear as singular objects,
and he sat down beside me,
took a pull off his Budweiser and
said, “hey man, you don’t much
like me, do you?” i didn’t reply
and the silence was enough of
a response, i guess, because he
stood up, tapped my shoulder and
said, “well, i like you buddy. you
seem like a cool guy. maybe i
could buy you a drink sometime,
but not now, though, because you
already seem like you’ve had
one too many.”

i didn’t much like the assumption, so
i turned around and said, “hey man,
fuck you. get away from me.” and he
put his hands up, scoffed, then walked
to the back of the bar to continue his
night of loudly being and i continued
my game of line the bottles up and
that was all there was to it
for a while.

there was another night that i saw him
slumped over the bar, playing a game
of his own and there was nobody next
to him and i kind of felt like an asshole
and hadn’t been drinking anyway, so
i asked him if he would like a ride home
and he said to me, “hey man, fuck you.
get away from me.” and so I did, but
by the time I sat down at the end of
the bar, there was a shot of whiskey
sitting on the table for me and
the bartender pointed over to the
guy, somehow loudly being
even when he couldn’t be and
said to me, “he wanted to buy you
a shot. said he owed you one,” and
i looked over and his head was still
slumped over his arms, but he had
a single thumb up and i thought,
“man, i was wrong about
that guy this whole
time. i kind of
like him.”

last night, he took a loaded gun and
two blocks away from the bar that
i originally met him in, put the barrel
in his mouth, looked to the sky once and
loudly pulled the trigger. blood on the
asphalt, birds in the trees, and cops
surrounding his lifeless body, i wonder
if he thought about them before he
did it and maybe he said, “hey man,
fuck you. get away from me.”
some people clearly
don’t know how
to listen.

Corn Chips

i didn’t talk to anybody. i didn’t
watch the rain as it continued
its slow path westward. i
didn’t look out the window
when the thunder clapped
a roaring, self-aggrandizing
applause or pay any mind
to the light show
that followed it.

i didn’t pick up the phone when
it rang and i didn’t check my
messages or voicemails and
i didn’t get back to the lady
that wants photographs of
god knows what and i didn’t
write any words or think
any thoughts and i
didn’t go to the bar
to mourn another
dead friend. i just
didn’t feel like it,
i guess.

there’s a guy that
wants me to photograph
his products and another
that wants to hire me
as a consultant for
his failing art magazine
in Iowa City and there
is a family of twelve that
has another on the way
and they need ideas for
a photo shoot and i
don’t know if i need
the money bad enough
to deal with that, so
i turn the computer off
and i plug the phone in
and i take one of those
long showers where
you just kind of stand
there and enjoy
the waste of water
with no soap or
shampoo and
i waited for the
water to get cold
and when it did
i didn’t move at
all.

there are nights like these, sometimes,
and i guess that the important thing
the real glut of them is
to just get the fuck
through it.

there are nights like these, sometimes,
and i guess that the important thing
the real glut of them is
to just get the fuck
through it.

and so i wash my hair in the cold water
and i look out at the rain outside
and i turn my computer back on
and i check my messages and
i tell the lady with twelve kids
that i’d love to do a shoot for her
and i tell the guy with the failing
art magazine that i don’t feel
qualified for the position, but
i’d submit some pieces if he’d
like them and he says that
would be really nice of me
and then it’s four in the
morning and i’m not
awake, but i am
and there are just
some nights
like these,

sometimes.

Thank God They Can’t

if these hands could talk, they’d
never stop. about the
way the trees in seattle felt
and the slope of her ass as
her olive frame shook berries
from the roots. and the
glass bottles, the plastic
cups, the hand-rolled
cigarettes and those
sweaty palms. how
nervous she was to
get a chance at you,
like you were really
something. you really
did a number on her,
really fooled that girl.
and that’s what they’d
say to me. they’d say,
remember the dark-skinned girl
and the pale-skinned girl and
the latin girl that barely spoke
a word of english? remember
how you didn’t need words?
they’d say to me, do you
recall the night that you
fucked in the back
of the Taurus, how cramped
it was and the bruise that
the child safety lock left
right above the vein that
resembled an eighth-note?
remember that? and i’d say,
quiet you. calm down.
don’t remind me.

if these hands could talk, they’d
never stop. about the
thousands of cigarettes and
the women that complained
about kissing an ash tray, like
they hadn’t seen me smoking
an endless stream of them and didn’t
have the choice not to do so. in fact,
as my hands would surely suggest, maybe
that’s what attracted them to begin
with and that’s really something.
remember the girl that said you
reminded her of her dad? and how
she asked you to slap her in the mouth
and tell her how worthless she was
and how your stupid mouth just
couldn’t do it? remember how
she called you a buzzkill
two seconds after calling you
daddy and remember how
strange that was? remember
how she left her underwear
behind? remember that?
and i’d say, quiet you.
calm down. don’t
remind me.

if these hands could talk, they’d
never stop. about the girl
with thick thighs, how she
warned you that she’d crush
your goddamn head and
she drank whiskey by the pint
and dated a buddy, but you
were drunk enough that you
didn’t feel guilty sliding off her
lace panties and testing her
theory, how disappointed you
were down there, how you
could still hear her northward,
and how you thought, “these
legs are really just for show,”

and how she pretended, too
and how you saw your buddy
the next night out and empathized
with him when she disappeared
with somebody new. how you
said to him, “man you need
to dump that bitch. she’s
a goddamn liar.” and how
you were both lying
and telling the truth
at the same time.
remember that?

if these hands could talk, they’d
never stop. about the piss-filled
streets in New Orleans and that
girl that sucked you off in the bathroom
of that no-name bar, how you visited
every strip club on the block and
every last stripper took the palm
and rubbed it against them saying,
“boy you’re lucky” and how
your stupid mind was offended
that nobody was saying it
to the girl beside you. you were
too young to realize that men are
never told this and there is an
empowering society within
womanhood that you would
never understand, but you
envied it and you wondered
how nice it would be to see
one of your friends and tell him
something nice. but that wasn’t
allowed and so, you finished the
night and you took the girl back home
and then you went back to the
strip club and the stripper asked,
where did your girlfriend go and
the only response that you could
muster was a faint, who? and
she smiled, offered you a free
dance in the next room and
never mentioned her again.
and remember how you thought,
it’s quite alarming to know
that empowerment is
so fucking incredibly
superficial? remember
that?

if these hands could talk, they’d
never stop. remember traveling eastward
on a bullet train toward the most
beautiful woman in the world? remember
how anxious you were, how sweaty
these palms became when she
appeared from the ether and
remember how in love you were
how foolish you were? remember
taking all of her luggage and
throwing it on the lawn, pointing
an index finger toward the door
and screaming at her to get the
fuck out of your house? remember
how she lingered in your town
like some kind of infestation and
how you have to pretend, even to
this very day, that your friends are
actually your friends and wouldn’t
pull some shit if given the chance?
remember taking her to those house
parties and watching her dance and
tell people that you weren’t her boyfriend?
remember how bad you wanted to smash
all their faces in? remember the scar
on the left-hand knuckle, when you walked
into the bathroom and, after seeing your
disheveled face in the mirror, couldn’t
help but bash the fucking thing
to oblivion? remember leaving with
these hands in your pocket
so nobody would see the blood?
remember that? and i’d say,
quiet you. calm down.
don’t remind
me.

if these hands could talk, they’d
never stop. remember how
the blisters felt after a night
of drumming? remember how
these fingertips felt before you
ruined them with guitar strings
and cigarettes butts? remember
all those endless nights and those
nights that ended too soon and
how there are so many poems
that you have yet to write and
so many that you wish you could
and so many that you wish
you hadn’t? remember how
in love you felt? no? me either,
but it was a nice feeling, surely,
or you wouldn’t have done the
things you have done. and
remember the girl in seventh
grade that held your hand while
she was kissing somebody else
and you do know how ironic that
is, right? how, deep down, that
is a culmination of your entire
life and it’s just the same story
told over and over again
with different faces,
different hands,
different locations,
but the outcome is
always the same?

if these hands could talk,
I would cut the fucking
things clean
off.

Not Bad

The most shallow thing about me
the one aspect of myself that I
really don’t like to admit is
the joyous feeling I get
when I see an ex
next to somebody
with soulless eyes
arm-in-arm like
they are swinging
from a rope.

“How you been?” I usually
say to them.

Phlebotomy

she works as a phlebotomist
taking blood from sick people
or people afraid that they
might be sick and when she
is at my house, she’ll take
her index finger and run it
along the length of my arms
to find the perfect vein
and she says things like,
oh, now that’s a good one.
you have really good veins.
you should let me poke you
for practice. and I never
let her, but she steals
needles from her job
sometimes just in case
I change my mind.

and she struggles with the
profession and the
ideal, what she wants
versus what is expected
of her and I remember those
days, working long hours
and how disconnected my
own mother was when she’d
say, “you’re doing so well
for yourself” even though
I longed for death harder
than I ever had, it seemed
like everybody was real
proud of me and so I
wasted a large chunk
of life making other
people happy and
I spent money on
expensive food, insurance,
house payments, vacations,
textbooks for school, hospital
bills that weren’t mine, camera
equipment, gasoline, onions,
steak, and garlic butter (among
other things).

I used that money to fund
travels all around the state
used it to stay at a suite in
Florida and to visit a family
in Detroit that wasn’t mine,
and I kept working. long
hours, the longest of hours,
hours that crawled by at
a snail’s pace and, eventually,
when the bottom dropped out,
I quit my jobs and moved back
home to a trailer in Iowa. my
neighbors were addicted to
meth and they would often
fight on the lawn and pass
out with glass shards in
their skin. my mom
told me, “you used to do
so well for yourself and now
what the fuck are you doing
back here?”

and that was the conversation
that I realized I wasn’t like
these people. my mom loved
me, and my dad loved me,
and my sister and my brothers,
too, but they didn’t know
how to love me. they
didn’t know what made
me happy. they didn’t know
what made me tick. they only
knew what worked
for them. and I didn’t blame
them for their perspective,
I just adjusted my own
and vowed to never live
for somebody else
ever again. this life
was mine and
mine alone.

and she asks me sometimes,
how do you do it? she doesn’t
say those words specifically,
but I know that’s the war
being waged within her
and i sit back and listen,
but never offer advice
because I know how
hard the bottom drops
when someone says,
“I’m proud of you” for
something that you’re
not proud about.

she’ll figure it out. she’s
got a lot of
moxie and
a whole lot
of guts.

Current Joys

There are some things you never finish.
I don’t think I’ve ever completed a pen,
or a lighter, or a poem, they’re either
abandoned or they’re stolen, but
they’re lost forever, to the ether
snuffed out before their time.

And there are some things you always finish.
l don’t think I’ve ever wasted a cigarette,
or a good steak, a bottle of whiskey
or a crisp $100 bill after a good
day of work, and they’re used
up, to the ether, wasted or
invested or somewhere
in between and

I find that people often fall into the
same categories. There are people
that fall through the cracks and
you think, “man, i wonder what
happened to them? i hope
that somebody else is
getting the best of
them and i feel real sad
that I never did”, but you
sit back and you remember
the times where they were
the pen and the lighter and
the poem and you aren’t
really mad, but you’re not
really happy, either. There
is a line between then and
now and both of you crossed
it at different places and
that was that.

And there are people that are used up
by everybody. they’re cigarette butts
in the gutter, plates full of cow’s blood
and bottles turned flower vase and
you feel guilty for taking sips, taking
pulls, and swigs, and puffs, and
bites out of them while there was
still something left on the bone and
you see them out and think, “man,
I remember when you were really
something, back before they got
to you. but they did.”
and they did, too.

And it makes you wonder where you fall
in that spectrum; how many people
have looked you in the face and thought,
you were my abandoned poem and
my lost lighter, the other sock that
got away, and the fresh pen full of
ink stuck beneath the heat vent.

And the others might be worse,
the ones that got the best of you
the ones that think, “man, he’s
so fucking chewed up now. I
remember back when…” and
you will never know who
thinks what and that’s
the biggest tragedy
of all because

One man’s dinner is another
man’s scraps, and one man’s
cigarette is another man’s
pact to quit and there is
no rhyme or reason
or differentiating
aspect. you just
roll and hope
you bump into
neither,

but you will
and you do
and that’s
all there is
to it.

Devoured By Nothing

The morning air is crisp and there is
a sharp breeze that blows my
curtains back and forth and
I slept, I guess, but I didn’t
sleep well. There is a nest
of blackbirds somewhere nearby
and it is quiet enough that I
can hear them feeding, so
I get up and dust the cobwebs
off my eyelids, throw on a pair
of pants, a sweater, and I sip
on my coffee.

Writing hasn’t been easy lately and
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s
the predictability of my own movements
and maybe it’s the lack of good
conversation and maybe the sex
hasn’t been as good as it usually
is and maybe the drinks have been
making me more nauseous than
usual and maybe it’s the same
thirty faces at the bar and maybe
it’s all of those things or none
of them. I crack my fingers,
dust the cobwebs off the
keys, and I sip on
my coffee.

There is a family of nine at the coffee shop
and they all wear matching crosses.
All the boys have neatly pressed slacks
and dress shoes. The girls wear
sundresses and shiver over the
same nine drinks poured together.
I can smell the espresso and the
vanilla flavoring and can’t tell
if it’s coming from the cups of
from their father’s neurosis,
but they all look a lot happier
than I do, like they didn’t sleep
until noon and all know their place
in their nearly-pressed
machine. I stare at them, one
looks back, and we both look
away at breakneck speed,
and I sip on my
coffee.

Writing hasn’t been easy lately and
I think this might be
why.

Bukowski And Chicken Sandwiches

Lunchtime; we sit at a Wendy’s restaurant
and she fills out a United States of America
Passport Application and muses with
great zeal about how much fun Mexico
is going to be and wonders if I’ll be able
to come up with $1,000 ticket to attend
the wedding (even though the people
getting married don’t much like me,
they have shown their love for her
by ignoring their distaste for me), and
I unwrap my meal. It’s a spicy
chicken sandwich slathered in
barbecue sauce, onion straws
piled up to the heavens and
trace amounts of mustard. I grab
the back end and take a bite,
but I say nothing.

“You know, the thing about Bukowski,”
I explain to her, “is that he could write
about damn near anything and make
it interesting. I really wish that I could
do that.” It scares me, sometimes, that
my word is often too similar to his,
just not as good, not as interesting,
like I’m an asshole, just not as
good of an asshole as him, and
she fills out the application and
ignores her own sandwich
with great zeal.

Behind me is a young man. He’s being
interviewed for a position at the
restaurant and the manager asks
him all kinds of questions that should
have let him know right then and here
how much of a nightmare this bitch
would be to work for. Questions like,
“What’s the significance of that turtle
tattoo?” and, “Where do you see yourself
in five years?” and all kinds of other
insignificant questions. I pain for him,
but he needs the job and says as much,
“I look forward to hearing from you.” He tells
her, and he shakes her hand, then walks
out into the great nothing.

“I don’t understand why there are two forms here.”
She points to one page and then to a second
that has inquiries for the same exact thing, but
I’ve never applied for a passport in my
life and figure that I wouldn’t be of much help.
“It’s a government form, baby.” I tell her.
“They’re going to make it as redundant
as complicated as possible.” She laughs,
shoves a french fry in that cherubic face
and says she’ll figure it out later. “Mexico
is going to be a lot of fun.” She tells me,
“And I really hope that you’re able
to go with me. I’m looking forward
to it.”

My sandwich is gone and the manager
is speaking to a young lady now,
her red hair bounces gleefully
and she’s excited to answer all of those
unnecessary questions. “I look forward
to hearing from you.” She says and
then she walks out into
the great nothing.

“Bukowski wrote a lot about cats.” I tell
her as I read out loud another piece by
him (in which, he muses about his
cat with great zeal) and she says to
me, “I know you’d love cats too,
if you weren’t allergic to them and
if you could just give them a
chance.”

“Nah, baby.” I say to her.
“Cats are little assholes that don’t
care about a god damn thing.” and
she says, “Yeah, I know. That’s
why I think you’d like them. They’re
kind of like you.”

“I’m going to use that in a poem.” I say to her.
And she sighs, wondering if that’s
a good thing or not.

I do, too. After all, I’m no
Bukowski. And this poem
right here is probably
evidence of that.

I can write about nothing, too.
But I have a hard
time making
this shit seem
interesting.

These Nights Are Building Toward Something

The path of least resistance, there is a fear
that lingers in every day objects, I see
the face of God in coffee cups and
I see the devil in songbirds. God is
ugly. She has thick eyebrows and
slumped shoulders, scabbed fingers
that never dry and she’s unintentionally
abstinent, doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke,
doesn’t dance on the bar, doesn’t
make eyes with the barkeep or
fall asleep cradling toilet seats. She
only talks about the weather. She
isn’t interesting. She bores you. The
other side is always prettier. She
has olive colored skin and she’s
loud and exciting and looks at you
like she’s down to go home and
make mistakes. And I see God
in legal fees and I see the devil
in melted butter. There’s God in
the windowsill and the devil
in its dust.

I like the reassurance of having a pack
of smokes in my pocket and a bottle
of whiskey waiting for me. I like
pretty girls sleeping in my bed and
I like when they think about all the
other girls that I’ve fucked on it. I
like all those girls even if I don’t
much like them at all, and I like
them even better when they see
me out and say things like, that
dude is a fuckin’ prick. Compliments
aren’t reassuring in the same way
that a good insult is. When someone
goes out of there way like that, to
really dig deep into their stomach
and vomit up some ripe condescension,
you really know that you did it. You
got to them. You matter. I’d rather
hear that I’m a piece of shit ten
thousand times than hear I have
nice eyes once. And I see God in
the jukebox and the devil in a
good pair of legs.

I’m not complicated. I’m a simple man with
simple desires and simple words are
always better than the convoluted. Little
man at the bar looks at me and says he
knows who I am. Tries to shake my hand
and tells me I’m a homewrecker, reminds me
of a girl I dated ten years ago now, how she
was married to his cousin and that I was
a faggot that fucked other men’s wives.
Shake my hand, he says, puffs out his
chest, and scratches at his balls. This
doesn’t offend me as much as it does
everybody else and I realize my friends
come out in the shadows as a few drunks
surround me and wait in line to get their
chance to smash the little fellas face in, but
I’m not much interested in that. I just smile,
tell him thanks but no thanks and I disappear
into the night. God is in the streetlights.
The devil’s sitting ringside. My breath
reeks of tequila and whiskey and there’s
a woman on my hip and she says, “I’d have
fuckin’ hit him.” I can’t tell if she’s proud
or disgusted of me and I see, for the first
time, God and the devil in the same face.
Abject misery, glee, cherubic faces and
virgin smiles and dead towns in the middle
of nowhere and there are two of them
as far as my drunk eyes can see and
I think, “God dammit. Maybe I
should have hit him. Maybe it
would have felt good.”

The path of least resistance, there is a fear
that lingers in every day objects. There is
something happening here, but I’m always
six inches or so
to the left.

Ball Park Franks, $0.97 For 8.

Three hotdogs, cajun style
it was a choice I didn’t even get to make
but it was one made somewhere
by somebody at some place
and at some point in time. There are
moments, days, weeks, months
like this where I think I should just
give up on all of it and try my hand
at a more respectable trade. I’m
sick of eating hot dogs, sick of
just slipping by, sick of watching
my enemies prosper while I
sit still,
hungry.

Sumthin’

My frame is reference is speckled in
drug dust, soaked in alcohol, and coated
in many, many layers of lubricated latex, so
I’m not sure if that makes the information
less reliable. It might make it more reliable
depending on the circumstance. For instance,
there was a night last year that I found myself
in a bar making eyes with the barkeep and
all the people next to me were convinced the
two of us would knock boots before the sun
came up around the bend, and I told them that
there wasn’t a chance of this and she was
just trying to get good tips out of me and that
the flirting would stop if I bought my next drink
and didn’t continue to tip accordingly. But by
the end of the night, I was out of money and
sitting for a cab ride home. The barkeep had
nothing left to get from me and offered to
do me a solid, and so I let her. She said we
needed to stop at her house first and I was drunk
enough that it didn’t seem particularly odd to me,
but by the time we pulled into her driveway, her
hands were knuckle-deep in my pants and she
whispered in my ear, “we got to be quiet because
my roommate is also my ex-boyfriend and he will
try to fight you if he sees you with me.” God damn,
I thought to myself. Those poor bastards were
right all along. I don’t recall the night much after
that, except her roommate wandering the halls and
suggesting I get myself tested if I’d fucked her
without protection, and I walked out, called my
cab, and waited there. The last ten bucks to
my name went to that fella. He told me I smelled
of processed meat and I assumed that
he wasn’t lying. I suppose my intuition wasn’t
exactly reliable that night and, if the idiots
at the bar knew more than I did, then
I am not one to be trusted with
recollection.

However, there are other nights that my
gut isn’t as tricky. These nights aren’t as interesting
to write about, but they happen with enough
regularity that I feel it necessary to mention, at least
in part, and so that’s what I’ll do here: There was a
guy giving me a different kind of eye and I
sipped on my drink with intention (there’s
just something about getting punched when you’re
drunk that feels a whole lot better than it
does when you aren’t), and I waited for this
little guy to make his move all night. Around
1:35 AM, he did exactly that, taking his
vodka tonic and throwing it across the room
in my general direction. All I could do was
look at him and ask, “What the hell took you
so long?” And, as looks generally are, his
were deceiving and I took my ass-beating
like a defiant child. He had a pretty
strong left hook and I wasn’t sober
enough to defend my strong side.
It didn’t take a lot. He finished up,
hopped in his truck and left. I went
back inside and cleansed my bruised
jaw with another drink. Some things
are just obvious to me. Especially
when it comes to drunk
men.

I suppose this is the true battle of the
heart, the mind, the gut, and all the
little vermin that are nestled inside,
to understand the same sex with such
acumen that you could pinpoint the
exact moment when somebody decides
that they are going to fight you and, sometimes,
even occurring on the same night, understanding
the opposite sex with such cluelessness that
it’s still surprising to know that somebody
made the decision, at some point, to fuck
your sorry ass. Maybe that’s the drug dust,
or the alcohol, or the lubricated latex, or
the bruises, or the busted glass all over
the counter top. Maybe it’s scorned former
lovers and optimistic new ones and maybe
we’re all just caught in this trap hoping
to understand the world a little better
than we will ever have the hope of
understanding
ourselves.

Lazy Bones

There is rain, but it falls lazily
so it’s hard to care much about, and
so I do not. And there is a dog. He
doesn’t seem to mind it much. He digs
holes in the yard. There is an old man
waving to passersby from a porch step
and there aren’t any birds. There are
thick patches of mud with tire tracks
and useless firewood soaked by lazy rain
and there are storms coming from out
west (they have not arrived yet) and I am waiting
for them in the meantime. The Warriors
play the Trailblazers in a conference
finals game tonight. I look forward to that, though
the outcome is already obvious, I assume that
the process will still be enjoyable to
observe. God help the Blazers.

The bartenders in town are just waking up.
The breakfast nooks are just closing shop and
I nurse a hangover with a large cup of coffee.
There are words like this one and this one and the
ones above and the ones below, but they
leak from my fingertips lazily,
and the rain falls lazily, and
the dog lazily digs holes
in a wet yard.

Purple Flowers And Dead Dogs

These flowers, she says, always remind me
of this memory I have as a little girl. I was walking
on the sidewalk and saw a patch of them, thought they
were really pretty and picked a few, then I kept walking
and there was a dead dog nestled underneath the bed
of a truck and I saw him there, so now I can’t see them
anymore without thinking of dead dogs and summer days
the image of them completely ruined by chance, and
the sun peaks up above a row of trees and there is
a couple swigs left in the whiskey bottle, but none of
us have the guts to drink it, and it’s warm anyway and
now, I think, whenever I see the bright sun for the
first time in the morning, I will recall this event and
will only have the reminder of a hangover setting in
before I even got to bed, one of those awful hangovers
that sits in your stomach and travels back and forth
from it to your brain and back again, days on end,
and I’m useless in bed, the image of a warm sunlight
forever tainted by the memory of purple flowers,
dead dogs, and five star
whiskey.

IV. WRITING MY WRONGS

No Country For Young Men

Morning comes again. There is coffee,
some creamer, and old men discussing politics
over scrambled eggs and hash browns.
One talks about the necessity of a strong
police force, an even stronger military, and
he says that a war in Iran actually makes
sense to him in a way and a good war
would make for stronger morale within
this segmented culture. Wartime, he says,
gives Americans a sense of community and
he remembers his daddy killing Japs and
he remembers killing the Vietnamese
with extreme prejudice, something that
the country needs at a time like this. Did you
know, he asks, that we have Muslims serving
in congress? The country is going to hell
and the youth know nothing of unity because
they’re soft. Even the young military men
don’t know what it’s like to have a common
enemy like his daddy did. Like he did. Like
he still does, and he shoves eggs in his
mouth with presumed veracity and none of his friends
seem to have an opinion on the matter and
I sip on my coffee, wait for my own plate,
and silently long for the swift death of
my own enemy: them.

My biscuits arrive. The gravy is thick and
lukewarm, my hash browns are burned to shit
and I eat the whole plate anyway. I need that
strong resolve, after all, in the event of
wartime, and I eat my eggs with assured
veracity and I’m hypocritical and the waitress
comes. She refills my cup. Down the hatch
it goes. The old men finish up, pay their
ticket, and leave fifty cents on a thirty-seven
dollar tab for the poor waitress. She’s on the
phone. She asks someone on the other line
to bring her a different shirt because
her nipples are poking through the
one she has on.

Wet Tuesday

I sip and wait for the fun to happen.
Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes there is much dancing and
sometimes there is no music at all and
sometimes there is captivating conversation
and beautiful faces and other times there is
only small talk from toothless mouths; tweakers
at the end of the bar that ask for water and
other times, people are kind enough to
indulge me with shots and beers and
mixed drinks and other times, I have
enough money to return the favor. Sometimes
I bum cigarettes from strangers and most
times they bum them off of me. Sometimes
all they need is a light. Sometimes
I spend my night searching for one.
Sometimes it’s not there.
Sometimes it is.
Sometimes…

I sip and wait for the fun to happen.
The house is quieter than usual and she
is in my bathroom agonizing over the
placement of her faux eyelashes, wondering
what color she’ll paint over the lids and
questioning whether or not she should wear
any lipstick. I hope she chooses not to,
but sometimes she does and that’s okay, too,
I suppose, but she is on her last day of
antibiotics and has to babysit me as I
entertain the notion that this wet Tuesday night
will be any different than any other, that
all the faces at the bar (if there exists any)
will be beautiful. They will be interesting,
captivated by our presence there and
actively engaged in whatever nonsense
we conjure. That the rain will finally
turn to storm and the power will cut out
and the bar will get dark and everybody
will sit there together in a familiar environment
turned foreign, and it will be fun and
it will be worth writing about; because sometimes
it is worth writing about and sometimes it’s
not, but you have to roll the dice or
the decision makes itself and,
whenever that happens,
it’s never the choice
you’d prefer.

I sip and wait for the fun to happen.
Sometimes it does.
Sometimes it
doesn’t.

Crying On River Road And A Disconnected Phone Line

She’s a people pleaser and she satisfies people
at her own undoing, does things that she does not
want to do to satiate the desires of other people
that she considers friends. I use that term as loosely
as possible, of course, and not only because it doesn’t
seem like a particularly friendly thing to do to somebody,
manipulating vulnerable aspects of a person to sate
your own goals, but also because I guess I just don’t
understand friendship in that way. For instance,
It’s not uncommon for me to sever contact in its entirety
when somebody gets too chummy, too close, when they start
asking me to go get dinner with them and ask where the hell
I’ve been lately when I’ve been in necessary hiding,
drunk and slamming on the keys like mad. What the hell is
it to you? I think, but I don’t bother communicating that, I just
stop talking and wait for them to get the message, but…

She says to one of them, I’m going to Quincy today and
I know we had tentative plans to hang out but I’m really
not in the mood for that today and maybe we can tomorrow? and
the other line gets real quiet for a moment and her friend says
something or another, blah blah blah, are we even friends and
she says maybe we can just hang out tomorrow instead? i love
you. and then there is more quiet and then there is a gentle
click from the phone. and then there is tears, first in reluctance
and then like some kind of admission. And then she looks at
me and she says, why does this make me feel bad? I don’t
even want to hang out with her today. Why does this make
me feel so bad?

But since it’s not uncommon for me to sever contact in its entirety,
I can’t give her a response with even a hint of clarity, and so I
don’t say anything at all. Then I say, I don’t really know how to
handle stuff like this when it happens but I do find it curious that
neither of your friends like one another yet they manipulate you in the
exact same way. And she doesn’t know how to respond to that either,
and so she doesn’t say anything at all. Then I say, hey stop at the
coffee shop and I’ll get you something to drink. She smiles and
then she pulls in the driveway and then I go inside and I order
a dirty chai latte that’s heavy on the sweet side, whole milk, iced,
please. And I walk back outside to the car, it’s warm out,
she takes a sip and assures me that she’s already feeling
better. And I can’t tell if she’s being honest or if she’s still
pleasing people (and then I worry that the people she’s pleasing
all look a lot like me) and I don’t know how to handle that and so
I don’t say anything. We get home, she walks into the bathroom,
and I wait for our trip to Quincy with great hesitance, wondering
if she even knows what it is she wants to do, what she wants to be, where she wants to go, and I sure hope that I’m not influencing
any of it beyond her own will. But one cannot be sure in
matters and times such as these, and so I don’t say anything.
I slam on the keys like mad and she walks out and asks me,
are you ready to go?

sure, baby.
I say.

A Roll Of Pennies In An Old Shoebox

The amount of hate I have in my heart is unparalleled
and it isn’t healthy for one man to have this much disdain
in the prime of his life, looking around and seeing bloodsuckers
all of them wonder what they can get out of him. What is he
worth to me? For the girls, it’s a night of deep dicking, maybe
he’s well-endowed. Maybe he’d hung better than him, maybe
I can really put it to him! And the men are even worse. Maybe
I can put his face through the glass. Maybe I can show her that
I have worth! Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. All around the room,
all around the world, nothing but maybes and what ifs and
a thousand sentiments that won’t do anybody a damn bit
of justice. Because justice only exists in courtrooms,
with police officers and witnesses and when nobody is
paying a god damn bit of attention, you are free to do
whatever the hell you damn well please. And so that’s
what everybody is. They are who they are when nobody
is paying attention and they are also who they are when
everybody is. They’re both at once and so they are neither,
and that is a paradox that we all must live inside. And the
smartest of us take the easy way out. Some of us paint
the most beautiful of abstracts all over the wall. Others hang
like a display sign in a window, and it’s effective because
nobody loves you more than they do the moment you aren’t
anymore, and that’s the cruel world in which we all live in.
So it makes sense that some of us go truly mad. Some of us
use our shit to paint on the walls. Some of us use our brains
and the dullest of us use bank accounts and retirement packages
but we all use something. There’s always something. And I
have the capacity to love fervently, to love that mad love that
turns men to beasts and I have no time for it, so I dull myself
out too. Sometimes. Other times, I let myself feel it for a little
while and then I say, NO. And my girl hates that. She thinks
that I don’t love her enough. That I don’t love her fervently
enough. That I don’t love her at all. And I do! I really do,
she is the light when there is none and she helps me
when nobody else tries to, but I cannot. I will not
succumb to the listlessness and the fruitlessness
and the banality of the TRUTH: because truth is
a fool’s errand and I’d rather be a wise idiot than
another useless intellect. There is truth out there,
but I am too dumb, too dull, too jaded, too cynical
to ever realize that. And usually, that is MY cross
to bear. And when it is mine exclusively, I can
adjust myself accordingly and sabotage my life
accordingly, but it’s only when someone steps
too close to the fire that I have to wonder:
how well can you handle the flame?
Time will tell, but time is the moth
and truth is the fire. And nobody
wants the truth. Nobody does.
I don’t. I don’t. I don’t.
I want something
better than
that.

We Never Fuck Before The Sun Goes Down

We fuck intently before the sun goes down and
after, she washes me in the shower. She says
that I deserve it, and she gently caresses my
dry frame like I’m a fragile piece of neglected artwork.
There is soap, steam, scalding hot water and it
runs down my sides, my ass, my legs, my fingers, and
she gets all the spaces that I neglect, even the crevices
between my thighs that I generally allow the rest of
the wash to take care of. I feel accomplished. It’s as
if I’ve climbed the summit to her own personal Mount Everest,
and I look out from the peak with an overwhelming feeling of success. My teeth marks are sunk deep in her young throat. Her fingernails
are like fossils and they run down the length of my old skin,
they are puzzle pieces and fine artwork and kaleidoscopes and the taste of three-day leftovers, toothpaste, and tequila. And then the suds fall off like dead skin or dying friendships and I get out, wipe down, find a pair of, underwear in the closet, grab a green shirt, a pair of blue jeans,
a red hat, and a couple mismatched socks. I walk back to
the bathroom and she’s naked as the day that she was born,
standing there proudly and intently, minus towel. My brother
walks by, sees her naked, and she gasps. Loudly.
All of which makes for a pleasant Friday evening.
My member throbs. My heart races and then slows
back down. I find what’s left of my whiskey.
She grabs what’s left of the tequila.
Hey, we might not be making it in the
traditional sense. But we’re still making it,
somehow. And that’s better than just
getting by.

I Guess This Is All There Is To Being Alive

I’m not free to write what I want to write
I’m not free to go where I want to go or
be who I want to be or say what I want to
say or, even worse, not say anything at all,
and I’m trapped in this small bubble and I know that
they only like you because they can tolerate you
and because you know what they can tolerate
and so you dull yourself out, you dim yourself,
you don’t say what you mean to say, and you don’t
care about what you actually care about because
nobody has time for the real. They want the
parts of you that are easily digestible and
the rest is just extra bullshit that nobody
signed up for (and you didn’t either), and so
you sit at the keys and listen to them laugh
from your bedroom and you really just want
to be alone, but you can’t say that either because
there is a fine line between what they want and
what you are and you have to walk it like a trapeze
even when you don’t want to, especially when you
don’t want to, and there will come a time that you
will walk back into that bedroom and she will say,
hey baby, are you okay? and you will say something
like, yeah girl, I’m good. Or, baby, let’s just turn
the lights off and go to bed. And you will sleep,
and she will sleep, and the whole world will sleep,
and tomorrow she will wake up and kiss you,
she will whisper how much she loves you and
she won’t be lying because she doesn’t have to
because the only liar in the room is you, and you
know something that nobody else in the world
will ever know and you are the loneliest person
in the room, in this dead town, in this dead world,
and you will know that you are never free, that freedom
comes at a cost too great, and that you have fifty-one
cents in your pocket (not nearly enough to afford such
a thing), and she will ask you how you’re doing
and you will say that you’re going great
and she will, unfortunately,
believe you.

Instant Karma

Sometimes I don’t want to be touched and
that’s something that is impossible to explain and
even harder to understand, I guess, and
sometimes I don’t want to be talked to or
acknowledged or placated or, whatever…
Sometimes I don’t want to write even though
I feel a strange compulsion to do so and sometimes
there is smoke in the air and other times it smells like
a hospital room in here and sometimes I notice each
passing car like dust suspended in a beam of light
each fleck their own story and I am just overwhelmed
at the idea that there are so many novels being written
simultaneously and then there are other times I think
about all the bad books that I’ve read in my life, about
all the bad books that I myself have written and then
those little flecks don’t seem all that special to me at all.
They become cupboard space, the kind of thing that
you buy because the cover looks compelling enough
but then you get bored within the first several chapters,
close the thing, put it up high on a shelf and watch as all
the other flecks collect upon it, for that is their one
true purpose, and it was their destiny and, sometimes,
if I squint just hard enough, I notice the high-beams up ahead
and I think that it would take a simple act of bravery to
crank the wheel sharply to the left and make a story out of
this, this, this…whatever it is. Life, I guess, that’s what
I’m told it’s called but there are times, sometimes, that
I have a hard time calling it as such. Sometimes life feels
a whole lot like it did yesterday and the day before and,
sometimes, when the lights twinkle just right and the skin
graces my own with enough electricity that my mind
registers it as genuine touch that I can call back to
the times before when newness was less of a concept
and more of a destination, back when I was young and
foolish enough to believe that things would somehow
improve, and sometimes they do and sometimes they
do not and sometimes I just sit here staring at a blank
page and I wait for the magic to happen. The good nights
are the nights that I have something worth saying and, sometimes,
a lot of times, there are nights that my pretension supersedes
my wisdom and my words are too flowery for comfort and
I write about birds and traffic and bar tabs and I think to
myself, all of this is such garbage and I wish to stop, but
there is something else that compels me to keep going
to keep writing it down, to stumble upon brilliance
because when it’s good, it’s real fucking good and
there ain’t a god damn person on this earth that
can take that from me. But when it’s bad, and
sometimes it is bad, I feel as if I couldn’t even
bother to give them all away, even if I had to,
even if I cared to, and boy,
remember how it felt
to care?

Surfeited

she says, i know that i kind of fucked up your night last time
so i promise that i won’t do that tonight, i won’t get
in my feelings about some irrelevant shit and i won’t
ask you invasive questions and i won’t drink myself to
the point that i don’t remember things and i say, ok girl,
i believe you. and then her friend calls, says she ate
a potent hydrocodone pill and there’s some guy trying to
fuck her and she would probably have sex with him but
then it would be weird tomorrow and she doesn’t want to
deal with that, so could she please come get her? and so
we hop in that little red wagon of hers and cruise down
one of those privileged white areas with paint-by-numbers
housing and there’s a family packing up a van in their
garage and her friend takes forever to get out to us and
the whole time, she’s growing frustrated and i’m just
reading my book and biding my time, hoping that she
doesn’t end up pissed off or, worse still, saddened by
the events still unfolding. And so her friend gets in the car and
she tries to be friendly, but it doesn’t work very well and
the ride is uncomfortable and awkward for me and when
her friend asks, well are you guys doing anything tonight? i wonder what sentence is going to fall from her lips next. and then there
Is nothing of note that happens besides the general wasting
of more money that i do not have to spend, three days until
rent is due, but i buy another pint and she says to me, i know that
i kind of fucked up your night last time, so i promise that i won’t
do that tonight. and i say, ok baby. i walk in the gas station,
buy my bottle, grab a pack of cigarettes (that’s for me exclusively),
and we go home, watch videos, and i write bad poetry while
she does her hair. or her makeup. she was doing something,
anyway, something away from me, and
i enjoyed that very much.

later on, as we take pulls from the bottle i’d purchased, her father
calls and says that he worries about her car’s muffler, that there is
a hole in the exhaust and he thinks maybe it could cause a buildup of
carbon monoxide and that she needs to take the car to his guy and
have him weld it closed, and that he doesn’t know how much it’s
going to cost, but it’s something that needs to be done and i hear his
loud italian voice grow louder and louder as hers grows more and more subdued, and then i walk outside and unwrap the new
pack of cigarettes, thankful that i’d bought them when i did
and i smoke the thing from tip to tip and then walk back inside.

she’s still talking to her father about
the muffler, but she doesn’t really say anything. he does most of the talking and then she hangs up and she says to me; i know that i kind of fucked up your night last time, so i promise that i won’t do that tonight. and then she starts drinking alongside me. at first, it’s just gentle sips, but it grows more and more violent and soon, she’s sticking her fingers
in my brother’s chicken-dip and asking me if i’d still love her if she
was a hundred pounds heavier, and it seems like some kind of dare,
like she’s going to keep eating that chicken dip and she’s going
to roll through McDonald’s later and she’s going to eat and eat
and eat and eat and she will know when she reaches that hundred
or so pounds, whether or not i’m man enough for the job. And i tell
her things like: you know, i might get there before you and i’d really rather not talk about food because i don’t like this gut i’m getting and, anyway, we’re on limited funds and food just muddies up the whole process of being blissfully drunk and she says, are you ready to go
play darts at the bar and i have been ready for a long time and so
i say, yeh, let’s go…
and we do.

the car ride is quiet. there is a police officer sitting at a stoplight and
she veers from one side of the road to the other, but somehow avoids him entirely and she slides in the back parking lot undetected. we walk through the mud and the gravel and up the stairs and into the empty bar and i throw another dollar into the dart machine (now i am down to $3.25) and we start to play our game. she throws her plays wildly, like she doesn’t care about the outcome, and i start to pull ahead, first from 301, and i hit a couple good shots and suddenly i am in the

single digits while she lingers behind in the 200′s. her face goes from
a beautiful indifference to a jaded uncaring to a general sad and
finally, when i get down to five points or so, i throw my dart and
win the game. it’s the least accomplished i have ever felt in my
life and she doesn’t say, hey i know that i kind of fucked up your
night last time, so i promise that i won’t do that tonight. and i
assume it’s because she knows that she has already done that
and so i put the darts back on the bar, i wave goodbye to the
few people sitting ringside, and we walk back out to the car.
she tells me that she feels sad and downtrodden and i say to
her that i know, it’s written all over her face and that maybe
it would be best if she just went to sleep when we got home
and i could sit and write like i was doing before we left and
she says to me, i feel like i’m ruining your night and i say
i’m not mad. and i’m not mad. i’m not anything at
all. i’m just here, the winner of darts. the emptier of
bottles, and my wallet is just that much thinner
for the privilege of of this
blessed fucking
evening.

Bacardi

She cooks me up a batch of hard-boiled eggs
and we ate ice cream before the power went out,
then we stole some pretentious cheese from a big-box
conglomerate and it tasted like regret and shame and
she said that it tasted good, but she also has a fondness
for me, so her taste can’t exactly be trusted, and then we lit
candles, made macaroni and cheese (with onion), listened to music,
and fucked like school-kids on prom night (add a decade) and then
I took a shower and now I write a little poem (here), a rare
night of dignified air when the rum hits me just nicely
enough that the child in me (sings), the little bird in my
heart (sings), makes an appearance and says to me,
hey you motherfucker, I’ve been here the whole damn
time! and I tell him to shut up, don’t out me here in front
of everybody, you loud son of a bitch and he quiets down
and she is boiling water and asks, should we drink more
or should we eat more and I can’t help but wonder why
the two of us must make some arbitrary designation when
lord knows we are going to do both, and some nights,
there is nothing better than to indulge on every
silly impulse you still got (because it lets you
know that there is still life
left to go), and that’s
something to
sing about.

The Mississippi River And All Dead Fish In The World

The sky is dreamsicle flavored, peppered by
river bugs and mosquitoes and thousands of footprints
left by those trapped in the chemical swirl. There are
flashbulbs and sunspots and car horns and children
looking for their mothers and there is a speck of me
and a dash of them and my stomach is tore up from
several nights of binge drinking. There is a glorious
unrest, an upheaval of self, a war that is waged
from the inside out. I think that I should stay sober
for a few days and I also think that I should stay drunk
for the rest of my life. That’s the true duality of man,
an anchor sat in the center of two opposing ideologies
and thousands of promises as broken fingers are pushing
against either side, steadily, and without prejudice. There
are churches and mortgages and thrift stores and junkies
and baby bunnies and burned fingertips and young love
and they are nothing when viewed exclusively but everything,
both good and bad, when viewed as a whole. There are
trash cans and debt collectors and cell phone towers and
stolen cars and a bottle of Jim Beam in the backseat of
an old Cutlass and there are virgins and skyscrapers
and miles of asphalt, concrete, dead animals, and
there is a sky that is dreamsicle flavored. The rest
is hardly worth writing about.

Polaroids In A Garbage Bag

I spend most of my day by myself, alternating between
cigarettes and pot and loneliness, and it makes me feel
quite weak. Sometimes, especially when I am crowded
all I want are moments like these. Moments of clarity
where I can sit back and see the world from a safe distance unencumbered by other people, other situations, other
scenarios; but then I finally get a day where it’s just me
all by my lonesome and that’s the best way to describe it:
leave a man alone and he goes man. Put a man in a crowd
and he goes mad. Give a man a girl and he goes mad (eventually).
Give a man nobody and he goes mad (some of us get for a while
and paint the walls with blood when it goes). Don’t give a man
anything at all. Isolate him in a thick box with concrete walls and
no windows, no doors, feed him with vitamins shoved through a
small slit in the drywall (but don’t let him see where it comes from)
and only then can he find true peace. To not experience anyone or anything at all. Only there, then, only in instances that are impossible, instances that take the man out of man, that take the humanity
out of the light bulbs and the conversations and the drab nothings
that make up any particular day can a man not go. We all go
mad with something. Some of us go in lieu of anything at all and
others go in virtue of it, but we all go. Some of us go mad with
drink and with smoke and with chemicals and with women and
men and cars and jobs and those people are the luckiest of the
lot because theirs is clearly defined. It’s the rest, the people
that go just to go, just to do, just to try something and see where
it takes them; what hope does one have when there is no thing
causing such and still causing such all the same? All of this, all
of it — the gallows, basketball, free drinks, potato chips, steak,
farmland, dental plans, small houses, long legs, endless amounts
of vaginal fluid, semen, thrusting, whiskey, game winners, crowds, clowns, interstate, peanut butter and eggs on toast: all of it a waste
if you don’t pay attention. And who can pay any mind at all
when you are mad with lust, with love, with human affection
and debt. All of it is such a chore, such a blessing,
such a chance coincidence.

Heaven

Wind blows in and the rain blows in and the
old dog takes refuge in a garage and the old
man watches from inside a house. There is a
dead car sitting park side and its tires rub against the
curb like failed lovers, there are birds still flying about
as if it is not raining at all. They sing. There is a family
of rabbits that take refuge in the shrubbery and the old
man can hear them rustling from the other side of plate glass.
They don’t sing, but there is music there, too, somehow. And
there is a man hanging in a basement somewhere. There are
bodies leaking blood in the desert. There are naked women
getting paid to fuck old men and there are old men with enough
money to spare. There are cupcakes and streetlights and rape
and there are billboards that somebody pays for. There are car
loans and mortgages and dead pets being buried in the warm
Iowa dirt. There are farmers concerned about corn famine and
coal miners concerned about black lung and then there is the
old man concerned about his own. He wonders how the last
decade would have played out if he’d have had all the available information. Would he have left for Michigan? Would he have
played domestic for the following several years thinking that there
was nothing else left to do? Would he have done things different?
He imagines that he would have. And there are cigarettes still unsmoked, there are stories still untold, and there are ten million people searching for something that is yet to be found. There is murder and love and hospital workers earning their keep with blood on their turquoise gloves. Somewhere, there is happiness. And it is raw and it is
real and it is as pure as filtered water. But it is not here, not
right now, not right here; even the rain has contaminants. Even
the dog has fleas. Even the old man in the window has regret.
As far as the eye can see, there is nothing but mud and
wet rabbits and disgust. And there is a bottle yet to be drank,
and a cigarette yet to be smoked, and the old man in the window
closes the blinds and sees them both. Finally, he thinks.
Something to do, and so
he does.

Somewhere, Sometime, Somehow, Sometimes

There are colors in the darkness of this room, but I can’t see them. Somehow, still, I know that they are there. And there are dead dogs scattered along the highway and some of them wear collars and there
is somebody looking for them. Somewhere. There is a little old lady
with a dead husband and a brain that remembers him not so, and she looks around an empty house and sets two cups on the kitchen counter for an arrival that is never going to happen again. And there are frogs
in the windowsill and a gentle rain in the distance, harmonious and beautiful and clean. There is a shotgun in the mouth of a young kid already with nothing left to lose. His parents will cry come morning.
And there are love letters written in freehand and young kids falling
in love for the first time. At one time, those young kids were me and some girl. At some point, I wonder if the timing will be right and I will
be the young kid with the metal in his mouth. So much about life is not about what you do, but where and when you do them. Buy the ticket, scratch the card, wait in line and place your bets. We are all equal
parts winner and loser. Somewhere, there is a person looking at you
and wishing that he could be so lucky (and you are looking at somebody else thinking the same damn thing). What a circus. What a parade of fools. All of this but a line of salt and a strong breeze coming from
up north. You are who you are when nobody is paying attention and
the scary thing is the moment that one realizes that there is nobody paying much mind to begin with. Freedom is a prison and knowledge
is a cemetery. Somewhere, there are two people fucking for the last
time and they don’t even know it yet. Somewhere, there are two
people fucking for the last time and they know it with absolute
certainty. Who has it better? Would you rather know for sure
or not at all? Is it better to plead the fifth, to be quiet, to be
unsure and unknown and misapplied? Or is it better to have
all the facts, to place your bets safely and earn that small cut
over and over again, always being right (even when it
pays more to be wrong or lucky)? Is it better to be
right or is it more fulfilling to be lucky (sometimes)?
Somewhere, there is a man cheating on his wife
and this is the happiest he will ever be. Somewhere,
there is a man delivering mail and a woman plucking
apples from apple trees and a cat eating a pigeon and
there are bears in the woods and peanut butter on
fresh toast. Is it better to be the big fish or the
sick fish that no predator dare eat? Is it better
to be right or is it better to be lucky
(sometimes)?

V. CANDY CIGARETTES

Amerika
I think the first time I noticed that something was awry in America
was around the sixth grade, some time after the 9/11 attacks, when every adult seemed so sullen and quiet, like they all knew we had witnessed tragedy and it wasn’t the surface level damage that many
of them believed was caused by aggressive music and violent video games. We were a generation of kids that saw human beings a
hundred stories above ground being forced to choose if they were
going to burn to death or jump. And we watched hundreds of them make their decision in an instant. We saw people falling to the
ground like refuse from the heavens and they would
never again suggest that it was the music or the video games that
were responsible for ruining us. There was something new, a monster that was bigger and scarier than anything we’d ever known. I
remember the lines to the gas station nine or ten blocks deep.
I remember the high-school jocks signing up for service, for their
civic duty, and I remember the lot of them being excited to go and,
“take out some fucking towel-heads.” It was all so despicable and dirty back then, and I thought about those jumpers, then about the people that didn’t, and I couldn’t help but think about those people and how they had done everything that our country told them to do.
There were businessmen and businesswomen that spent twelve
years studying in primary school. They were the top of their class.
And then they went to college and spent the next four to eight years earning a degree and that degree would eventually land them on the
81st or the 96th or the 102nd floor of World Trade Center One. There
was a group of homeless people outside of that tower and some of
them were high, some were drunk, and most of them were asking
for handouts and change (especially the folks that weren’t
high OR drunk). When the first plane hit, the people that did
everything right were the ones punished. The scourge of New York
City, conversely, could simply run away. And they did.
Some of them even had enough change for a pint.

I remember sitting in class and wondering how any of that made a damn bit of sense. If there is a God, I reasoned, his methods and operations were both confounding and cruel to me. I couldn’t get
on board with the idea after that morning and I never went back
to church or discussed the idea of a benevolent creator with
anything other than scorn and condescension.
But people kept going to work and I kept going to school (sometimes). The dead remained that way and the living carried on despite them. Something was off. I’m beginning to think, I thought, that our entire system doesn’t really work.

In seventh grade, we had a special event in the gymnasium where
suits and ties came in and explained how credit works in America. There was a woman with a long black dress and lips so red that
our mascot Cardinal seemed pink in comparison, and she told us
about the value of DEBT. She told us that our debt determines our worth and we would eventually grow up and have this thing called a
CREDIT SCORE and it would be very important to keep that number
as high as possible because it determined how trustworthy
you were for loans. If you want a nice car with a lower interest rate,
you need to have good credit. If you ever want your own house, you need credit. Everything, the lady with red lips told us, is influenced
by your credit score. But we could start building it that day if we chose, she said, by going to a local outlet store and applying for a retail
credit card. Buy yourself a nice pair of shoes or a dress shirt or
some khakis, she said, but spend a couple hundred there and pay
the principal every month until the debt is paid in full. This would,
she told us, help to build our credit score slowly before high school
was even over. It would potentially lower the interest rate on college loans. It could help us get a car when we passed driver’s ed.
I felt like I was being indoctrinated somehow, pandered to in a way,
and it seemed so crazy to me. My value, I thought, was solely determined by this arbitrary number and I’m not valuable to this system of thought
unless I am indebted to it. The more debt I had (in relation to my
ability to pay it), the more valuable I was to them. It seemed so backwards to me and then the bell rang and I walked home looking
at houses and seeing them in a different context. They were nothing more than symbols of debt and grief, and then when
I got home, my dad was on the phone with his bank.
He was trying to negotiate a refinancing plan for his own
symbol and that house never felt like a home to me again.
I felt more at peace in his car (that he owned outright) or
in the open air, and literally anywhere on earth that wasn’t a
symbol of our own collective hemorrhaging. Every building was
a prison to me now and when I went to school the next day, all the kids had new shoes and khakis and dress shirts, and they all had these silver credit cards that they were very proud of. They seemed more stupid than ever to me. Maybe, I thought,
the system just doesn’t work. I knew that it
would never work for me, anyway.

Some time later, when I was fresh out of high school, the entire nation’s economy crumbled in on itself. People had been duped by this
thing called a subprime mortgage. To my understanding, it was a kind
of loan given to poor people with bad credit (and granted to them
by greedy bankers that knew they’d eventually default). This lowered the value of houses and, when the timing was just right (when my generation was finally ready to make moves), the bubble burst with intensity. The suits and ties expected this to happen, of course, and
they would be bailed out by the same taxpayers that lost their homes and asses in the first place. What a circus!

I remember working with this older fellow named Gregory Fitzgerald around that time. And he worked harder than me, was always there before me, and was always there after I’d clocked out. Gregory worked nearly 80 hours a week (every week) and took overtime whenever it was offered and he was drowning in front of everybody. The irony, he said, was that his credit score had never been better. If he’d applied for a house loan now, he’d have been approved for a conventional mortgage. He thought he’d probably even have a nicer house and a nicer car and pay significantly less for both of them. What a shame, he said. When the bubble burst, his interest rate skyrocketed even higher and that 80-hour work week was no longer enough to keep
the vultures away. They’d finally picked him to the bone and, after
a certain amount of time, they foreclosed on his home and put a bright
FOR SALE, BANK OWNED sign on his god damn lawn. It was a new symbol, of course, and not for the debt and value of Gregory Fitzgerald, but for the shame that comes when the former overpowers the latter. But the banks wouldn’t get the best of him. He was a prideful man and couldn’t have that looming on his conscience forever. So his exit strategy was simple. Gregory Fitzgerald would put a pistol in his mouth and paint that red sign with a blood so vibrant it would look pink in comparison. My coworkers brought in a cake the day of his funeral and the frosting was red, too. The woman in the gymnasium conjured in my mind and so did Gregory. Maybe, I thought,
this system just doesn’t work. I knew that it would never work
for Gregory Fitzgerald, anyway, and he was ten times the
worker than I could ever dream to be.

The odd thing is that popular music seemed to get a lot happier after 9/11. People really seemed to enjoy the escapism of it all. And the movies got more patriotic and the prejudices became darker and
louder and more accepted than ever before. And we would get a progressive president some time later, but only in his rhetoric. That man would airstrike more third-world countries than the regressive president before him. The statistics said that a bomb was dropped by American troops every twelve minutes. 121 bombs every single day.
But the music was happier. The films were worse.
The smiles were bigger and the tongues were sharper.

Then some time after that, we would elect an incompetent orange blob of a man and he would have legions of sycophants clinging to his
every word like the gospel of Jesus Christ himself. There was a crack
in the fabric of American culture and the same people that lost their homes a decade earlier were suddenly in full support of a man that benefited from their loss. Nobody seemed to notice all that much.
I thought about those jumpers and the people that decided to stay
inside and I thought about seeing the orange blob on TV boasting
about the attacks making his building the tallest in the area, and I thought about the fat-cat bankers and their yachts and the billions of dollars they’d swindled from poor people and I thought about Gregory Fitzgerald and how the banks robbed him blind, and I thought about
my own credit score. It sat the same way, at the exact same number,
ever since that big bubble burst. I wondered who was the luckiest of all. Was it the people drowning with nice yards or was it the guy that
would never have to mow a lawn? Maybe, I thought, this system
just doesn’t work. And you know what?
I really don’t think it does.

There’s A Family Of Rabbits In The Sewage Grate

The bedroom is dark and my mouth is a desert, I get up and
I get dressed and I pour myself a large cup of coffee, light a
cigarette (still damp from the walk in the rain the night before),
but luck is on my side and it sparks up. I smoke it to the
filter. There is a loneliness that washes over me, but I don’t know
where it comes from or why it’s attracted to me.
I figure I’m being melodramatic, I’m being ungrateful, that if
I stop focusing on it then it won’t bother me as much, and then
I rip the cherry from the filter, discard the remains in a
repurposed dog bowl, and I sit there on the back deck for
some time. Not so much meditative as stuck and
not so much for clarity as a general malaise (and for what,
I also have no idea). There is melancholy in my
bloodstream and there are grass stains on the bottoms of
my feet. I have two cigarettes left and no money for a
new pack. This is Saturday. I wonder if I can snag a couple
gigs and then I wonder if all of life is going to be this way,
as it has always been, and somebody will ask me tonight
how business is going and I will smile, shake their hand,
and say something like, “Oh, you know. It’s going.”
But it isn’t going.
It never seems to go
anywhere.

Cortizone 10

There is a dull ache ringing from the very front of my head and
there is a thick dab of cotton on my tongue and the bed is
quicksand and my eyelids are like tree stumps (to establish
age, you simply count the rings). Sometimes I think about
her and it makes me sick to my stomach and I drink my anger
away (and it occasionally works). Other times I don’t think
about anybody at all and I drink the emptiness away (and
it occasionally works). All of my existence at present can be
attributed to the bottle. These are my friends and I met them
drunk and I have stayed that way, more or less, ever since then.
They dance and fuck and fight each other with regularity.
Another weekend comes to be, birthed from the canals of raw
banality and there never seems to be enough of anything
anymore. Shot after shot after shot after shot and still, the
grime doesn’t wash from the inside. The alcohol doesn’t
kill the bacteria. The stomach acids do their job too
damn well. I think even the things that one loves
the most will grow burdensome with enough regularity
and there’s a hard line in the sand between fun and
blacking out and sometimes I find myself crossing over
without ever touching the left side. I look up from my
drink and I see a room full of young, unfamiliar faces.
They are dancing and singing and some of them will
fight one another and some of them will inevitably fuck, too,
and I realize that I don’t have an attachment to any of
them. Depending on how one looks at it, this is a very
pleasant scenario. I am free to turn chameleon and be
anybody that I want to be. I could be a doctor or a prize
fighter or a womanizer or a nazi or a plumber with thick
callouses on his hands. I can be anybody that I want
and they can be anybody that I choose to make them,
but this isn’t how my vision works (it’s far beyond blurry
come midnight) and instead I’m too drunk to be anything
else at all. And I’m too drunk to give a shit about who
these kids are, too. I can’t ever tell where that dark
feeling comes from, if it’s born from the self or from
experience or maybe some twisted combination of
the two. I decide that it’s probably just me, that
even though I could be a plumber or a nazi or
really good at advanced mathematics, I’m just
another old drunk at the bar. And I’m broke
in almost every capacity worth looking at and
that is the only decision I ever seem to make
and I’m beginning to think that that is why
the rest is made for me.

There’s Nothing Left For Me To Do

I’m just really tired. The bar fights have turned so routine
that my Saturday nights feel like reruns of some bad
television show. Even the faces that aren’t affected
have become part of some obnoxiously drab tapestry
stapled to the wall in every building I’ve ever been in.
I’m just really tired. Just really tired. I no longer have
much interest in late night sex or early morning recollection
in the form of poetry. I don’t have much interest in traveling
or seeing the world or meeting new people or changing
or staying the same. Sometimes it feels as if
I am just sitting here biding my time and
waiting for the next awful thing and
the only difference between then
and now is that, when that time
comes, I will probably not
mind even a little bit
because I’m
just really
damn
tired.

Resignation

Rows of marigolds line the sidewalk and the air is
thick with drunken replete. There is a loud dog that barks in
the distance and a gentle spattering of cars endlessly make their
way up and down the street (all going to a place or coming from
one, but this distinction is impossible to make through headlights
alone). The words have been stuck in my teeth for several weeks
now and I worry if I’ve spit out enough of them. There are only
so many ways to describe the rabbit hole, the alcoholism, the
women, the drugs, the scenery surrounding them in a town I have written about so many times already. Keokuk, Iowa. Muddy river
banks and rats the size of house cats. Pretty girls with cocaine residue on their noses, with vodka on their breath, with lust in my eyes and
a voice coming from depths below the floorboards. I don’t hear what
it’s saying, but I can definitely tell that it’s saying something. We’re
all resigned here. Resigned to factory work. Resigned to drug abuse. Resigned to repeating the same night over and over and over again,
ad nauseam, and filling in the blanks of possible newness with other faces. Resigned to the fact that new faces won’t equal new experience, but doing it anyway because the stillness is so palpable that one will
do damn near anything to move it. There is a woman
out back and she is crying, says it’s her last night out and she’s
planning to go drink a cocktail of bleach and Valium and,
for some reason, she says these words to me. I tell her that she has
an eternity to be dead and that there is no need to rush
a finality you’ll eventually meet, but I strongly suspect
her to be lying outright. I lose interest in the conversation
very quickly. If you’re resigned to that kind of thing, I don’t
imagine that there are many tears left to shed. She has suffering
still to go. And so do I. I’m resigned to that. I wonder,
where are the words?
Where are the girls?
Where is the…

There’s Nothing Left To Get, No Apples In The Tree

When somebody says, “if you don’t like your life, then it’s your
personal responsibility to change it”, I always wonder if they’ve considered the possibility that maybe it’s not a singular life that
they don’t like and that it is just the idea and reality of life itself.
They probably don’t. That’s probably why it’s so easy for them
to make simple changes and improve existence. Critical thought
is red death to the heart, it’s the gentle trickling of time turning to floodwater. It’s a rock stuck in your shoe. It’s a lot of things and
none of them make it any better to trudge through. If anything,
I think, sometimes I would rather sleep the whole day away than participate in the daylight. I like the idea of that, how it’s
a small sample of death and it’s beautiful and black and
that’s the only time that life doesn’t feel so rotten and
bleak. Unfortunately, I tend to feel guilty when I do
this and I find myself awake at nine in the morning,
chugging coffee and smoking cigarettes and daring
something to come get me. So far, nothing has, but
I am consoled by the idea that there is something
terrible and wonderful and perfect
right around
the bend.

Screaming Like You Don’t Know

Sometimes I think in ratios, like
how many cigarettes have I given to people in relation
to the amount of cigarettes that have been given
to me? How many random swigs from a bottle
have I sipped from in relation to the amount
of random swigs I have taken? How many
orgasms have I delivered in relation to the
amount that I have brought myself to (I
am quite sure that this statistic is quite
lopsided). How many women have I
kissed that felt something and how
many have I felt myself? How many
conversations have been had in
my name versus how much
I’ve talked about somebody
else? How many nights have
I stayed up unable to sleep
wondering about somebody
and how many nights has
somebody been left awake
thinking about where the
fuck I have been (this one
I am certain is about even).

As somebody that thinks an eye for an eye is
rudimentary, I sure do hold myself to
a strange standard as if I’m
already going
blind.

Nothing Ever Did Make Sense After That

We were just kids and I didn’t know anything about sex yet.
I didn’t know what I liked about sex or what didn’t work for
me yet, I was still fresh-faced and doe-eyed and still optimistic
that things would eventually make sense with enough time.
We were just kids, but I just knew that sex with you felt right.
It felt like magic to come at the same time, to grip your little body
with a fervent, frenetic, youthful energy as the rain turned monsoon. You were the first woman with whiskey on her breath. You were the
first woman I ever loved at all and, in some way, the only woman I
ever loved without reservation. I saw a photograph of us from back
then and it reminded me of Butterfinger candy bars and long walks
to nowhere and shouting from the rooftops that we were in love.
It would have been saccharine if it didn’t end, probably too much so,
and in that way, it makes for a better poem that the timing never
did work for us. And in that way, it feels like it happened just
the way it should have and that is far more than I can say
for much of what happened
after that.

Tripping And Triumph

The night is stale like bread left out on the counter
and it’s barely even started to mold. There are
spores in the air, black cancer spots in the
peripheral, and dead dogs in the street. I am
no longer running on fumes, I am siphoning fuel
from other cars, swallowing gasoline and empathy
and spinning against the grain of the earth’s rotation,
I am a vulture among bluebirds and a dead car
parked in the alleyway. I am a drunk and a
philanderer and a real bad guy with real
pretty ways of making people believe
otherwise. There is no light left, no
bright neon, no loud voices among
the quiet of evening. There is just me
and there is everybody else and a
gulf between us so deep that every
dead dog would howl at the moon,
chew on the worn tread of tires and,
at the worst possible time, realize
that the worst possible time is
always where you are and
where you have been is
a symbol of where you
will never get a chance
to go. Lucky for the hounds,
they will stay in the street and
lucky for me, the gas and empathy
has given me quite a fucking
buzz. Goodnight.

It’s A Beautiful Life

There is a laundry list of traumas unresolved,
and they are both dead and alive, both vibrant
and dull, both paradoxical and mathematically sound.
They live in the spaces between the words
of my best stanzas and if you squint just right,
you will see them dancing there. They are kissing
and fighting and fucking and there is more life to them
in the blank than there ever was while it actively
festered in that glowing hot red. And I drink to the quell
the monsters and I drink to wake them up and I drink
because there is nothing else left to do. Sometimes,
the gods smile down on me and sometimes they piss
rainwater on my snake tongue and sometimes (the best
of them all), they are paying attention to something
else and I can sneak out through the back of the
bar or the bedroom or wherever else I am that
I have no business being. That’s where life
happens, I suppose, and the rest is just some
test in futility and everybody is consistently
getting good marks. There is a laundry list
of traumas unresolved, and there is just
enough time to accept that there
is no cure beyond your own
reach and boy, are my
arms tired.

Goodbyes

Another obituary for a failed romance,
plastic friends with fake teeth that throw
drinks on me. Oh hell. The well is deep
enough that I cannot tell if it is yet dry and
I hope that, if it is not, that it is at least
coated with a layer of whiskey or
even mouthwash, just something
to get the wretched taste
off of my
tongue.

VI. SOUTH 15TH

Been Hurt

My little white trash hole in the ground. The beauty
is defined by the lack thereof and the lack thereof
is only valid in spite of itself. I look at it like this:
For $200 a month (plus utilities), I get to use these
wall outlets and they sizzle. They hang out of the wall
like young drunk women in convertibles and there are
ceiling lights that hang from exposed wires. They are covered
in dust that is too dangerous to clean (and I have yet to find
the circuit breaker in the event of an odd inspiration that
probably won’t ever come anyway.) And I look at it like:
There’s something about living this way to me and
it feels more genuine than anything else I can muster.
I feel closer to the drywall, the aged insulation
that peaks through it and shows age. I like that I can
be alive without any pretension or reservation. Finally,
I think. After several years of trying to impress ghosts,
I can finally breathe and spite those that don’t. Fuck you.
There are no frills to a house like this one, no bullshit,
what you see is exactly what you get and there is nothing
more, nothing less, and nothing else to say about it.
I look at it like this:
Dozens of families have made my room
their nest and now I will do the same
and I am thankful and I am excited to
revel in my own
white trash
hole in the
ground.

And now I’m
off to the bar.

Bumping Uglies

I believe that she’s ugly when she’s fucked up.
Not in a visual sense, not necessarily, more like:
the way she speaks is dulled. I find myself bored
in her presence. And I am never surprised when
she ends up half-naked or with her tongue down
the throat of some random person. Look at me.
Look at me. Look at me. I believe that she’s
somebody else about half of the time. And that’s
a hard contrast to live between, to really enjoy
somebody half of the time and find myself
repelled by their mere presence at the experience
of the rest. I believe that she’s ugly when she’s
fucked up. Not in a visual sense, not necessarily,
though her eyes lose their fire when the lids snuff
the flame and you can only make out the remnants
from the very bottom of her irises. And how her
strong shoulders slump over and she keeps
drinking, keeps smoking, keeps snorting, keeps
whatever flame that’s inside alive and the heat isn’t
too much to bear as much as the idea itself that
it might be too hot to have a flame to begin with.
And other than that, I just find myself so alone,
so often, especially when I’m around a group of
people telling me how lucky I am while she pulls
her tits out and gets free drinks from any
idiot still too susceptible to the shallow attention
to notice her game. And I guess that’s one less
drink that I have to buy. It’s one less conversation
that I have to have and maybe I should be more
grateful than I am anything else, more grateful
than bored, more grateful than repelled, more
something than nothing. But no. Instead, I
live somewhere in the middle of that contrast
and it is especially tiresome, especially bleak
when I think I’m tenfold a more interesting,
more empathetic, more fun human being
when I myself am fucked up. And perhaps
this is a bridge burning. And maybe it’s
not the fire itself, just that it’s not necessary
when the rest of the world is
on fire.

Bug Guts And Big Ruts

The night draws in like a coloring book
all black on black paper, save the faint
glint of navy blue arched in the distance
and there are cockroach guts smeared
on the sidewalk and there are smaller
cockroaches waiting to be squished,
but they don’t know that yet and
perhaps the real joys in life
come to you through that process;
not knowing what is to come
when what comes is bound
to be unpleasant and
painful. The big cockroach
found out what the small
ones soon will and he is
worse off for knowing it.
All is well, though, I think,
and I walk that sidewalk
with real gusto, like I have
something figured out that
nobody else does. I take
the three steps up to the
front door, open it, breeze
in through and I wonder
how much longer I will
be the small cockroach
hiding in the grass and
waiting for some idiot’s
passing stride.

Waiting Around To Die

A pile of nothing.
great big meat sack
with life in
it when
out of.

Betsy

For Sale: 2006 Ford Taurus
$600 firm, don’t come to me with
some lowball offer for the old girl
because I know what she’s given me
and it feels criminal to accept a dollar
less (and it also feels criminal to
accept even a penny more; funny
how that works).

Used heavily, driven haphazardly
across the continental United States
to Detroit about a dozen times
where a family accepted me
more than the woman I went
there with. To Seattle for a
music video very few people
saw. To Pennsylvania about
sixteen hundred times for
another young girl that
couldn’t have cared less
about me, but god damn
did I really give it the old
college effort! Through
the southern United States
on a trip for nothing in
particular, I once ran
over a boulder and ripped
the exhaust clean from
the bottom of the car.
Another time, I was driving
through a blizzard, somewhere
in Ohio (near Dayton) and I
spun the old girl roughly
seven times through six
congested lanes of traffic
without hitting a single car
and I briefly considered that
God herself must have been
looking out for me (but then
I came to my senses) and
I kept driving all the way
through the night like that,
stone-faced and sober as
I’d ever been. That car
took me through some
seven-hundred towns
in Iowa, took me to
bars and to restaurants
and led me right into
fistfights and arguments
and guilt and shame and
joy and relief and it was
the first thing I saw early
in the morning when I’d
fucked up and went home
with people that I shouldn’t
have went home with and
the thing never judged me,
not even one time. Not
ever. She is a reliable
old girl like that.

Truth be told, I don’t want
to sell her at all. I view her
as a family member
or as an old friend
or as a companion that
got me to where I was
wanting to go, never
putting up a fit, always
ready and ready for
whatever may come.
I put her through the
ringer over the years,
and though I would
really love to keep
the old thing, there
are more pressing
matters (bills, debt
collectors, and the
like), so I can no
longer justify the
hunk of metal out
back.

For sale: 2006 Ford Taurus
Used heavily, loved heavily.
$600
firm.

Little Human

Life stays messy
and I no longer
wish to get
clean.

Allergies

Sometimes I think about the girl
that was allergic to semen and
how I could see the raised
skin in the exact shape of my
come as it rolled down her
chin and down her
neckline.

I foolishly thought that
that was
love.

Don’t Take It Too Bad

Imaginary lines and thick, white ones
more tangible than the former and much
more visible. I see the world like that;
thick girls with ripped pantyhose, thin
men that haven’t eaten in days, crying
babies and stray cats picking at the
scraps that the rest of us deem inedible.
Stop lights ran and green lights gone
undisputed, there is death in the air
and it clings to my lungs like cheap
pornography, bad actors and actresses
stepping into the limelight and in through
some circus mirror, distorted and clearer
than even imaginable. And this canvas
is painted with a dirty brush there are
sores on the genitals of the prettiest
women in the room and there is so
god damn much left to discover that
is better left to the shadows. Some
of us are equipped for such things
and then there are the rest, the
men like I am that place their bets
and spend the following days
checking for
bumps.

Spotlights and Sunspots

The head spins on a swivel
from daylight to moonlight and
from flask to glass to plastic cup
and back toward the beginning
racing toward infinity like a
shotgun through bruised lips,
the black draws in and the
smoke slips on out and there
is not a thing left on this earth
for anybody to discover. When
one realizes that everything has
already been done (and done
better than they themselves
could ever dream of doing),
there is no place left to go
except out back
behind the
tool shed, and
Thompson said that it
would not hurt. I wonder
if he was correct in
that assumption.

We Should Fuck On The Bathroom Floorboards

My bathroom is stained in cupcake frosting
and there are foot prints made of whiskey and
whip cream, they lead from the bathtub to the
edge of the room and there are flecks of crust
clinging to the carpet like a child on his mother’s
hip at the grocery store. I long for nights like these,
those irredeemable moments of oddity that make me
feel far less alone in the world and I am as blessed
as I am completely unaware of the fact, at least
most of the time. But there are small slivers
of time that I do realize it and, at least for a
little while, I am comforted by the warm blanket
of close friends being weird and
fucked up
together.

Black Doves

It’s the same handshakes. the same drunken gaze
across the same bars in the same part
of town and only to end up in the
nethers of the same people with the
same fingers and the same sounds that
escape from the familiar lips of
an old tired song that everybody
has heard (and nobody has ever
actually listened to). There is
a restlessness, a steady shaking
from under the floorboards, like
the dead are having a party
that the living can ever only
aspire to attend and then
there is a lonely ghost
a little human birthed from
the canals of defeat and
one begets the other until
there is no air to breathe
and no smoke to smoke
and no drinks to drink and
only the sameness, the
vanilla and the banal
sitting poolside and
they wait for you to
say hello.

Hello,
I say.

Waves

There is magic in my fingertips and
there is shame in the loins and there
is cancer in the lung and there is
a dead kid on the street corner,
there is a flower in a young girl’s
hair and there is whiskey, there
is too much whiskey and there
is, somehow, never enough
whiskey and I think there is
a metaphor there, somewhere,
but I am too far gone and far
too lazy to make the connection
and so I sit at a keyboard and
I am soothed by the old sound
of their clattering. And it’s
only when I pay attention to
them doing their thing, using
my body as a conduit to
something beyond me
that I realize, for a
few moments, that
there is nothing
else.

K&R

I miss how sure of things I used to be.
Back when I saw the world in black and white
at least when it came to certain things, certain
places and certain times, exact moments when our
lips would touch and I would find myself equal parts
lost and found; like some kind of treasure chest at an
elementary school. A sign reading, “up for grabs!”
and I knew exactly what pieces were
mine and what pieces were never
fit to be. Back when fighting for
something showed you precisely
how much somebody cared and
I fired every fucking bullet possible
because it was worth it.
I have tried that exactly twice and
both times, somehow, I ended up
alone and drunk on a couch
feeling sorry for myself and
promising I would never
do it again.

And nowadays, people sometimes
ask me why the hell I am so cold
and calloused, and the truth
is easier than the explanation:
I no longer have it in me to
fight wars that no man
can ever
win.

They usually stop talking to me
after that.

Underneath

There is a longing
for something
unattainable,
and there is
laughing
that comes
from somewhere
up above.

Single Is Probably Better

The worst thing is when somebody does you wrong
and then immediately tries to return to the prior
after some half-assed apology and some grand
promise that they won’t ever do it again (especially
when it’s been done more than once already) and
one is left with two distinct options:
1.) Explode and punch holes in the wall
2.) Pretend that everything is okay and
wait until the moon shines just right and
you can take your revenge in some naive
hope that that will do the trick
and then you’ll be even,
but you won’t ever be
because they made their
mistake on their own accord
and you will make yours in
response. Sometimes,
most times, actually,
it seems as if it would
be easier to just
crawl in a hole
and be
alone.
At least then,
there would be
no walls to punch
and no new girls
to fuck.

Dirt In The Reflection

In 2010, my grandmother died of cancer
she died laying in a makeshift death bed in
the dining room and all her dolls and
knickknacks stared at her as she went.
Later that evening, my uncle approached
me in a somber embrace and said, “the last
thing I heard her say was that she
didn’t want to die alone. And I feel
like I could have helped, but she
was suffering.” And I couldn’t tell
if he was saying it to reassure me
that she didn’t die alone or if he
was trying to reassure himself
that he did the right thing by
not trying to resuscitate her.
The worst part of it all, I thought,
was that the dead was already
that way and the living was
in no way comforted by my
complete lack of solace.

In 2017, I was tasked with driving some
three hours to Ames, Iowa. And I was excited
about the opportunity to visit an old friend
and drag his ass back home to where it
all began. Our plan was to make a twelve
song record together, just like old times,
when we were kids and recording little
tunes on a four-track cassette recorder
from a thrift store. But Thursday night rolled
around and I found a really good deal for
a recreational vehicle in Nebraska, so I
asked my friend if we could postpone
for a week and then really hit it hard
after I’d made my purchase. He said
it was fine and then before Friday night
ended, he walked in front of a train and
killed himself. There is a residual guilt
that I have never been able to wash
off of me since then and all I can
see when I think about it is the dead
RV sitting on the highway as I drove
home defeated over a very
mistimed decision.

My whole life has been maimed by little tragedies
like these and I navigate through them today as
they pop up, like some kind of petty
apparition, a conglomerate of reasons
to feel bad and the worst part is that
there are still people living around me
that are in no way comforted by my
complete lack of
solace.

Take Everything

Sometimes it just feels so formulaic:
Get me flowers. Kiss my forehead before
you go to sleep, and I remember how
excited I was to meet that girl that
didn’t like flowers and how special it felt
to walk into the floral department and
ask if there was any dead ones in
the garbage that I could possibly
rummage through. And the girl
that asked me not to touch her
if she was falling asleep because
I enjoyed my solitude in that moment
as well and it felt good not to be forced
to justify that for one night (and the prospect
of many to follow). Those were all for naught,
though, and they usually fizzled quickly. And
I find myself in these situations where
I am blindsided with initial acceptance
and then mandated to change or
face the gnarly consequence of
complete isolation from them. And
sometimes it just feels so formulaic
to have to keep doing this, over and
over, like I’m caught in some kind of
perpetual loop of the same relationship
over and over and again. Difference faces,
different names, but the exact same
outcome time and again. The longer
that I live, the more it seems like love
is nothing more than some programmed
response to facing who you are and
humanity comes from the periods
caught in between the two.

11:29

The morning light washes in
covers the tapestries, the blankets,
tables, carpets, liquor bottles, and
finally the heavy lids of my eyes
as I put my feet to the ground and
wander in to the day. There is a
loud dog out in the cold and he
seems angry about it. The postman
drops more disconnect notices
in the mailbox and I’m ignoring
that as to avoid the same fate
and sometimes, I think, it’s
better to not know than
try to learn anything
at all.
Maybe the dog
knows something
I don’t.

I Haven’t Written In Three Months

Roleplaying without the roles
and sleeping without the sex, she
slides up against me and the nose is raw
and the gut is rot and the front desk
doesn’t seem to mind that we are
some forty-five minutes beyond checkout.
In fact, the person up front knows my name
by heart and she’s not the same person that
was there the night before and it momentarily
makes me feel like a famous person and
I realize that it’s probably better to be
a big fish in a small pond than
any others in the ocean.

She tells me that we should have stayed
a little longer for morning sex and
I think about that on my entire
brisk walk home, but I don’t
suppose it matters much.
The night itself was electric
as electric can possibly be,
just like several nights before
and she kept saying that
she didn’t like being on
the other side of the aisle
where I was the bad guy
and she was just the person
ruining something that
she didn’t particularly
give a shit about.

It didn’t really matter, though,
all things considered.
How far and how low the two of us
have come from then to now.

We would laugh at the night and role-play without
the roles and sleep without the sex and
sometimes it’s best that way.
But it didn’t really matter,
that was the one true fact
that both of us were
certain of some
eleven years
later.

There was still some kind of good in me,
and that was made apparent when we
read poems in bed and I didn’t try to
take it to some carnal place that I
would have had it been anybody else
and I guess that I still exist somewhere
even in small spurts, there is something
deep down that refuses to get out
and though it doesn’t really matter,
I think it kind of does
sometimes.

Orange

The fist meets the teeth and
the dust meets the tomb and
the mosquitoes meet the flesh
like old lovers crossed, their
blood splayed on a table for
any soul still paying attention
and it’s probably good that very
few ever do.

The gods laugh from somewhere
up north, but they, too, have
forgotten and that might
make all these little crimes
somewhat forgivable.

That will surely be the plea
once the sum of us actually
meet. If we
meet…

I digress.

Even if they aren’t, and they
probably aren’t, then
I suppose that the effect is largely
the same. I will react as if they are,
as if there is purpose to the chaos,
to connect dots that shouldn’t connect
and unveil my own outline that
will somehow, someday, hopefully
make a bit of sense and I will
stare into that familiar sun
the same way as I’ve stared
in to it all this time, all these years
worn and etched into the thin veil
of time like old lovers crossed because
the dots are being connected whether
the gods like them or not.

Fuck them all,
I would
think.

So, anyway…

The fist meets the teeth and the
bricks are always painted some
vibrant color that makes them
somehow less vibrant and there
are so many people, so many lives,
so much moving around for no reason
and at all times, so much so that
it’s hard to catch a breath
or a break, but…

That’s just the glut of it, isn’t it?
The meat and potatoes, the
grandmother cooking apple pie
on her windowsill and the
crackhead grabbing that
copper from some business
with good insurance (I will
always turn my head at
such endeavors).

Everything’s alright,
or at least everything will be…
everything could be…
maybe?

There has never been a dog on a porch
that didn’t long for a rabbit and there
has never been a man that didn’t
long for something more, and I think,
maybe that’s the cruel joke that
keeps the gods laughing.

And I think that (down here),
there has never been a bird without a cigarette butt
and there has never been a drink without a girl
in the ether that it was meant either for or toward
and it must have been a month since I saw a
single bird or a single girl or felt the ether
as it brushed against my skin like
old lovers, crossed, birthed and reborn
like Christ herself splayed upon a table
details poured out like rays of orange light
into the pupils and the corneas and the
flesh and the souls of lovers
still unborn, but
about to be…

Maybe, if the pulse pounds
like a drum line or if the
winds blows just right and
the smells reminds them of
someone that they could love, then
maybe, just maybe,
if the gods are ever
in their favor…
something will
just click.

And maybe there are no gods at all,
(this is what I suspect to be the case),
but that almost makes it better (at least)
if you have a sense of critical thinking and / or
some intrinsic knack for the verbose (as I’d
like to believe I do in both regards)
because if nobody is paying attention and
things occasionally line up for you
exactly how it is supposed to, then,
I suppose,

instead of the gods laughing at you,
instead of the universe prodding
and poking and draining you for
some eighty years if you’re lucky (or
unlucky, depending on how you
look at it):

you get to laugh at the gods and say,
motherfucker, I bested you and
even when it eventually fails (because
that’s the debt we all pay),

you will have still won
in this carnival
of souls at least
once

and that’s so much more than
so many ever get to
write about (and
most never

write a
damn
thing
anyway).

Fuck ’em all.
I’ll say.

Will you sing it
with me?

Yeah, Well…

Sound moves through the tunnels and there is
a bottle of the cheapest wine available,
I struggle to find a semblance of peace
in there. Everybody else seems so
happy. They pose for the camera and
they are all so sure of themselves, it’s
almost as if I’m not even there at all and
sometimes I think it’s better when life
plays out like that. I take their photos
and I pretend that history is not
historical and the whole world feels
so damn ugly and gray and they
won’t stop laughing. I suppose
that is an indication that
a good time is being had,
right?

You Made Me A Something

I had a thought tonight, around 3:51 AM
as I waltzed my way into the gas station
in this dead town with no cars up or
down the highway and lights flashing
a constant yellow like there was a risk
of somebody ever passing through that
the attendant there must see me
wholly different than the woman that
will see me tomorrow morning when I
inevitably blow through this
pack of cigarettes.

The man tonight sees me as I actually am,
a drunken derelict still awake way beyond his
means because he has nothing to wake up
for tomorrow (or ever again) anyway and
he rings my cigarettes up: $8.27 and I hand him
a crisp twenty and I’m sure he wonders where
I earned the damn thing to begin with (and there
are times that I wonder the same damn thing).

The woman tomorrow will see me hungover,
but still alive and ready to take the day on;
I will be brave and confident and robust and
she will ring another pack up at the same
price, but at a totally different cost: she will
see me as someone that I am merely
attempting to be and I think that
both realities are real and
neither of them are and
the roads are as dead
as any hope I still
have left.
I still have a few
swigs left and

that’s about
as far as I
can get
these
days.

--

--

--

Freelancer, Photographer, creator of ForgottenIowa.com

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Cody Weber

Cody Weber

Freelancer, Photographer, creator of ForgottenIowa.com

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