The shapes keep shifting
You think you’ve found peace?
In your box, in your trench, in your preordained plot.
They call it a crisis
An expedited expiration
What about the end of everyone else?
What’s coming next? What do we want?
What do we crave? Who do we belong to?
Who owns this – who wins this – who claims this
Who brings something new into this rotten world with its sordid apathy
And its overtired tropes and its lists and its checks
And its spinning webs and its twisted paths
And its nebulous origin
It has nothing to do with the time
It has everything to do with this place
But the years passed and the dog’s gone
And it’s a long drive and I have to cross the bridge
And I don’t have money for tolls and I have to work in the morning
And I can just keep going on and on and on and on
And it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.
We stood in the wind while we buried a cop
And the bagpipes played and the gangsters drank nearby,
the future unraveled, the cars drove away, the day ended,
And I’m still waiting under the same sun.
The bulbs burst and fixtures fell out
And I knew he left even though he was there
He was breathing
He was heaving
Can I touch you? Can I talk to you?
I shook him I hugged him
I called out to him
I am here, we are all here,
And then we’re not
We’re blind, we’re measured,
We’re clubbed white hands and stilted airflow,
We’re the signs you said you’d send
Like sprouted seedlings, like buzzing dragonflies,
Like footprints, like canoes, like whipping winds
Where are the signs?
I asked for signs!
I’ve been standing guard, I’ve been open,
I’m receptive, I’m attentive,
I’m listening, I’m screaming,
You’re not going to die, you’re not going to die,
But you are going to die
And we’re all going to watch
And we’ll wake and we’ll bury and we’ll pray
And we’ll proceed, and we’ll toss flowers
And leave gloves and say words and
And you’ll still die
But I’ll meet you at the mailbox.
He told me I drank too much
And not to use a knife on his nonstick pan
And don’t put the cutlery in the dishwasher
He said he expected my family to be trashier
Like the time I kicked over the can
And flung its contents across the springy lawn
Or the time I shattered the window with my keys
And crushed the shards of glass with my fists
And I revved my engine
And I collided into the horn
But he still showed up
Pending my release
Following me out
Tracking me down
I’d drive to the ends of the earth for you.
He said in whispers and undertones
Like a secret’s only kept if
No one knows
Did you know?
I cried and I called and I pleaded,
I prayed, I longed, I ached, I drank,
I pounded my head with a hammer
No response is a response.
I like the way it seems
Railroad tracks, toy cars, and model trucks,
Blinking signs and crash landings
Why crawl out? Why unfurl the slide?
Why claw and climb and cling
To this kind of half life, not after, not during,
Just waiting, wilting,
Aim and shoot and stop fighting
There’s no contest to who dies slowest
You know it’s near
Why shouldn’t it be noble, with dignity,
Something to be admired,
Something to honor, to retire
I was a person
People knew me, knew of me, talked to me,
Not like this.
The way we coddle and coo and
You’ll get better
Or you’ll succumb
You’ll close your eyes
You’ll go to a better place
What a blessing it would be
To go anywhere
You’re not from the beach
You’re from Brooklyn
I saw everything, I wrote it down,
A diligent historian of our darkest hours,
Brightest moods, haunted hospital rooms, and
Woeful promises to do better
We’ll come out on the other side BETTER
Like weathered sailors abandoning the
Skeleton ship setting up new lives on
We defeated the doubts and the demons
And they fizzled out to bad dreams
Recurring themes buried in the subconscious
Buoyed up by the past
The story will follow you
The words will not dissipate, dissolve, disappear
You can’t keep hiding who you were
You’re still this selfish kid
Who stepped on feet
Who spilled drinks
Who didn’t care
Who never thought you’d survive
But you lived
It doesn’t make it stop hurting
It makes you think it’s stopped
O say can you see
It’s all unfolded right in front of you
Turn your head, drop your shield
Stop defending the losing army
Bad loans only get worse
You’re projecting, protecting, reflecting
On the glamour of staged photographs
This is happening right before your eyes
They will let us down
They will keep doing it
They will never surprise you
You can ignore the bodies, but the flies
Then the rats, then the vultures, then the pieces disappear,
and we’re left with puzzles, footprints, dental records, carbon dating, mythology
This all happened
Tomorrow’s not easier just because today worked
I miss you
I wrote to you
I reached out to the stars
And the dust burned my hands and I was left with stinging scars, singed cavities, tribal marks
Of the person you once were
My monster is dead
After all this, after all that
Begging, bath tubs, hanging on doors
Screaming, sirens, red lights, white walls
I wanted to be the one
You possessed me, that night,
Down the stairs, out in the street
Pooled out like leaded antifreeze
Poisoned and green
The balm of heat
The stink of sweat
The cathedral burned but the apostles were gone already
Was there glory? Was there pain?
Were you there?
I wanted to regrent, lament, sympathize,
Think of the family
Send flowers, release butterflies at your grave
But you did this
The keys, the cages, the letters, the lies
Falling for you, hiding with you
Raw blistered revenge
Do you think karmic retribution catches up?
What’s done in the darkness ever brightens up?
I hate to admit, I was relieved
To imagine your unbelted body hurtling from this realm
Taking your virulence and your violence
Your false charity
I only regret, that my monster is dead
And I didn’t get to watch
Forgive me, I wailed at the wall
I scrawled out my sentiment
Crammed it into the crevice
Believing this God may listen
Did he see me? Did I leave the door open?
You were listening but I wasn’t speaking
I never told anyone I never let on
I swallowed the secrets
Guilt corroded by throat
Did you taste acid in the morning?
Did you gasp for air in heavy heat?
What do I have to do to reach you?
Calling, writing, willing my thoughts
Kinetic cosmos of communication
Are you listening?
Will you answer me?
They say I’m demanding
I refuse to accept a background role
When you come in the night
And chill my soul
I’ll be waiting
I’ve been stewing
I’ll know exactly what to say
I’ve been writing it down for years
This must be the place
I go in, someone else comes out
Forgiveness, absolution, go with God
He won’t go with you
Why would anyone follow when they have the chance to lead?
I’ve been leaving, I’ve been left.
I’ve been looking for you and I think I’ll find you
I think you want to be found
I think you left breadcrumbs
I think you live in a gingerbread house
And no huffing, no puffing, will blow this slate clean
Cut the sad songs, hold your howling,
You already said everything
I’m looping, I’m livid, I’m lifted, I’m behind the wheel
And I can’t hold on, can’t steer straight,
Can’t pray for you, can’t concentrate
Do you believe it? Do you lie?
Are you ever alone? Like really alone?
Abandoned, isolated, disconnected, misdirected
Like there’s a chance
And all this fucking time
I’ve been training to capture you.
You think you know what it’s like to suffer?
Do you think the casual observer learns anything?
Feels anything? Feels this.
This rip. This wretch. This concrete throat.
This spinning sinking slopping swimming
When was the last time you surrendered to your own sick
Your own stratosphere
Do you know what that’s like
To really feel what no one else feels
To really be somewhere else
Be someone else
Suspended in constructed reality
Walking through your body
Submerged in the sidewalk
Because it’s hard
Because it’s solid
Because it’s something
To support your swaying ghost
To this practice of faking it
Moving on marching forward
The nicknames the code words the language
I turned addict
But you started it
And after all of this and all of that
A page of prose in a state school anthology
Reminds me I still hate you
And you don’t think about me at all.