the art piece was
grotesque in its
simple presentation;
an ostentatious gift to
yourself as I fumbled
openly with decisions

and we moved right next to
a bar that was closed the
day I planned my relapse.
I wanted the burn of rum
mixed with lukewarm Coke.
maybe Mr. Boston’s.


it was a dark copper
albatross
and it stayed at the top of
the stairs.
I think I was under a deep dehydration.
I needed limits and
boundaries but I also needed to
tear the art piece off the wall
and file each side into a lithe
pocket knife that I could
wear around my neck
as a signal
of masculinity, but only I
know
I have taped one to each arm
as well and to each thigh,
and to each ankle
which is the joke about masculinity.
it’s supposed to contain
a dark wild feminine
but abhors any force.

the fourth wave is
more insidious.
I didn’t notice the change
at first but I did gaze up
at the top and wonder
what it’d be like to
leap to bottom step
and if you’d notice that first
or that a piece of
the sculpture was missing,
hidden somewhere else.

“the black book”

“when your nemesis gives you the superlative:
sexual predator, accept it
and try not to think too much about
it.”

“veruca salt #1”

in Colorado,
his name was (redacted).
I am passing 3rd street unaware
of my hands withering,
clutching my phone.
another bad habit of mine,
not wearing gloves and never
placing my hands in
my jeans or coat pocket
or any warmth.


he was very young and
wide eyed and used to doodle
through meetings,
watching the layers of people
shift in their seats, gathering
outlines with his pencil.
I would try to peek
to see how he made them and
who he most favored
knowing my cheekbones were perfect
but some things are more discreet and I
said hi to him only if I passed
him but mostly enjoyed the thrill
of picking a home group full
of freshman in college,
the perversion of me
unfolding like that,
so uninhibited in my quest
for sobriety and undivided
attention

spreading my
legs in the chair
in my turtleneck dress and
brown tights betting they could
smell my fever from here.
three children catch me muttering
and smile.      they watch
my fingers curve around an object,
then divide as I tap each tip
with my thumb like
I’m counting.
they are thinking
I have secrets,
not that I am crazy
because children see parallel
lines.

one time,
he kept his eyes closed as everyone
in the circle shared.
when it was my turn, he popped
them back open and stared
the length of my story
like he had come here for this.
I was too confused to make
direct contact with him;
this being so flagrant
and sudden, I fluster
with bold advances
preferring to be the aggressor
not the pursued;
not the doe in the reticle
but the bear from behind.
I spent one whole year fantasizing
about him.

not lured by his youth
which makes him easy to command
but the way he was clearly taken
by me, his obvious insouciance,
and his right to be that way,
being only eighteen and
forced here to survive
among such alphas.
such witches with prowess
and skill and eight years
of drowning, emerging.

the children notice my
mouth moving as I walk down the
street, reviewing.
they all think I am writing about
them. I am writing about a cloud
I passed once.
cry cry cry and then
just start fucking laughing,
I say out loud
so the ten year old widens
her eyes
as she passes
not alarmed at the way
I keep touching things,
but the way I say fuck
in front of them so
unabashedly and in the
middle of the story like
we’d been talking this
whole time.

“xxx #1”

this is the blue book. it’s the closest you ever came to suicide. be humble. it only takes one terrible day to go from ideation to leap.

when you came home
with the giant brass
industrial art piece to hang
on the wall at the top
of the stairs, first I noticed
it had no smooth
edges like a pinwheel
fringed with daggers.
in fact I was afraid
it might cut me in the middle
of the night and the second thing
I noticed was
you were a libertarian
but I had the grace to not even
ask how much it cost.
I had bought us an entire chocolate
cake using food stamps
so I cannot judge and I
have learned
life is meaningless.

the third is ennui.
you become overcome
with a sudden fatigue.
almost as if you are floating
through it all
but not as happy or light
as that. like you’re being
controlled by a beam.
it’s more terrifying the
grip this new surrender has.
your arched back,
your upward gaze,
some kind of nothing
and the laughter is braying:

so deep and directed
at you.

“ennui”

the first thing to go
is emotion.
you cannot survive harsh conditions
and also be struggling with
some kind of emotion,
trying to name the fluid
mood swing, you needed to 

think          snap out of it.
it was easier to manage the complicated
process via fable.
but
it was not easy to communicate
any needs, wants, or inner
desires.
the first thing to go is
emotion.
you cannot survive a gun attack
if you’re hysterical.

that’s what I think walking to the El.
picturing several different
ways it would look to be attacked
by a man with a gun.
I cannot pass up cravings.

I am on my fourth cup of coffee
running through all of the scenarios
in which I will die
and planning my escape route for
each one,
and having zero emotion
or hope.
the second is hope.
to go I mean.

the second thing to go is
hope.

“third wave (grief)”

how long has it taken you to complete this?

complete?

 

yeah.

 

oh, this isn’t completion. this is unearthing. this is nothing ever ends.

I learned to drift
young and
listened to my Papa’s
stories, my aunt’s stories,
the whole family telling stories
and I learned to joke
too. it’s about knowing
what people respond to
but also a dauntlessness.
everyone in my family
laughed big and loud,
smoking cigarettes sitting around
the picnic table,
a pretty red wood covered
with some tawdry pear-slathered
yellow and cream plastic cloth
made to absorb ketchup
and beer cans everywhere.
the empty ones there for butts.
and bottles of Coke in giant
two liters   their tan slender fingers
and the confidence of lighting up.
I perfected the flick of an ash
off the end of a burning cigarette
long before I held one.

it’s ninety percent the way
your neck looks when you’re listening
and ten percent what you say
when you finally move to
enter the game.
I learned to grift too.
there were many ways.
more about fun then–
just how to sneak out
at night to grab cigarettes
from the bowling alley cigarette
machine; a preposterous
thing but came in handy.
I would sometimes crawl out of
my bedroom window,
my bed right beneath it and
able to slide the screen right open
without breaking it,

it was easier then the back door.
I had to tiptoe.
we had thin walls.
I slept with my door shut,
pitch black and covered with
pillows scared of my closet.

sometimes we took beer from my friend’s
parents cooler,
or candy pocketed from 7-11
or lip gloss from Eckerd’s
or something from a man’s house,
anything really.
I liked to take photographs of them
and items of clothing to smell
before they leave me.
sometimes I would stare at the pictures
he left out on his dresser
suddenly. not sure if they were planted
or just forgotten as he
offered me a shot of tequila on
his barracks colored carpet;
that off-white every sailor had;
stained with Friday nights
and teenage vomit.
movie ticket stubs falling
out of my coat pocket.
I always took my shoes off
out of politeness even though
I could see the scrape of dirt
from welcome mat to
cot and today:


a picture of him and his wife
on the rocks on the coast
of San Diego,
a card she left him,
something in spanish.
I would listen to the CDs he played
on repeat to get over her, later
alone, more holding the sting
and the shattering way
it felt forced to be fucked
to music like that.
fascinated that grief can transcend
between two people, same song,
two different ways.
two different meanings.

where are you running to now?

I’m at Lehigh and 2nd
giving a man directions
to the 15 stop and he is asking
me where I am going.
I have no job or friends,.
but tons of antique wood
furniture and I kind of nod
to myself without answering him,
just keeping that buoyancy of
knowing that

acquiring objects is half the battle.
the other half is unearthing.


“walls #1”

what will you hold
in your old age?
me in the dark, feeling
the railing as I crawl
up the steps to my
king-sized bed
and the dogs that lie
there peacefully.

and feeling lucky:
the memory of a
southern thunderstorm;
it’s bristles of electricity
that made the hair stand up on
my forearms.

listen to the rain.
this house has no trinkets
but there are journals buried under
the floorboards and one
framed picture on the wall:
the four of us,
young  and laughing
like we had

promise.

“dementia #1”

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