Daily Archives: February 20, 2017

I End Up Talking

I will end up talking.
I always end up talking.
I end up talking when I shouldn’t.
I talk like I’m going to die if I don’t talk.
I’m going to die anyway but not silently.
I’d like a listener but talking to myself is ok.
I don’t listen to myself when I talk.
I don’t expect anyone else to listen. 
I’ve never been afraid to slow down and stop when unheard.
I keep talking in my head.
I keep a talk or two in my head like I’d keep extra bullets.
If my mouth were a gun I’d be locked on full rock and roll all the time.
I have a gun as well as a mouth but I don’t know where it is.
I left it in my parents’ house when I moved out.
I should have left my mouth there too.
I should have swapped gun for mouth or both for two more ears.
It’s been said that you have two ears and one mouth to show you should listen more than you speak.
It’s never been proven.
If someone really said that it was someone who never saw or heard my mouth.
I told you I would end up talking.
I always end up talking.
I tell you so much when I talk.
I tell you so much I never intended to tell you.
I tell you again and again it doesn’t matter if you are listening.
I only do this because I’m trying to bail away what’s always rising inside me.
I only talk to keep my lungs from filling.
I only talk to inflate myself.
I only talk to keep afloat.
I only talk so as not to drown.


A note from the poet

I’ve said this before, but I will say it again.

Over the years, I’ve been very open about having bipolar disorder (bipolar II, for you detail-oriented folks). I’ve been treated, had therapy for years, been on meds, spent a little time in-patient, etc.  I’ve had suicidal ideation since I was a kid, and have made a few attempts. I’m open about it, and I do on occasion deal with the subject in my poetry.  It’s a chronic condition that has played a large part in defining the parameters of my life and my world view.

However, taking any poem I write as a sign that I am at that moment in some kind of distress is really, really not conducive to understanding how I work, and is in fact pretty reductive of my work as an artist.  Something you can be sure of is that if I’m writing, I’m NOT suicidal, and I’m likely not at that moment in any self-destructive mood at all.  

I can’t write when I’m ill.  I may write about illness, but it’s ALWAYS in retrospect, or to illuminate something I may have thought about when I was in the middle of an episode.  I try to be upfront about how scary that sometimes is, and I hope that now and then someone in a similar state looks at my work and sees someone who “gets it,” but I do not write as therapy for myself.  I don’t write when I’m that disordered.

If you typically read poems thinking of them as autobiography, as impassioned outbursts of a tortured or ecstatic soul, I’m asking you to suspend that mindset when you read mine.  I’m a professional creative writer who’s been at this for close to 50 years now. I don’t write when inspiration hits or when I need to “let it out.”  

Last point:  I am not a Christian.  I don’t share the source of my personal spiritual belief system with the public; maybe you can discern something of it here and there in the poems, but I don’t make my personal practices and beliefs explicit. 

While I appreciate and accept with genuine humility your blessings and prayers when they are offered — gifts are gifts and always welcome — I am uncomfortable with the occasional bit of specifically Christian proselytizing and Bible-based advice that I sometimes receive, especially when people perceive me to be in some distress.  (I’d be similarly uncomfortable with anything from the big monotheistic religions, to be honest, but I only ever see this done by Christians, for some reason).  Just needed to let you know.

Thanks for listening.

Tony


Tracker

What they thought
was benediction
in solidarity with all
was in fact
valediction, a farewell
to the march as it
moved past.

When it had passed
he stepped into the dust
that still mumbled of all
who’d just been there.

He bent to the carpet
of tracks and looked 
and listened and even
touched his finger to it
then put it on his tongue
as he’d seen trackers do
in old Westerns.

He had no idea 
what he was supposed to learn
from any of that, except

that there was no trace
of himself there in that relic trail.

He’d known that before
he made that elaborate show

of seeking knowledge there.

So: here it was revealed.
A misinterpreted show,
all of it: the speech, the life,
the effect he’d had. They 
were gone, he was left 
standing in the dust behind.

Squaring his shoulders.
Wiping his eyes.

Picking a direction
other than theirs.