Coal Tar Blues

Revised, from June 2022.

As if to spite my being human, 
I’m rusting. 

Age, diabetes,
long lack of self-care —

I soak myself in coal tar
for flaking on the surface,

the scent filling every space
in all my rooms; then

take pills and talk for
my internal disrepair,

each breakdown with unlikely odds
for repair.

Nothing about any of this
is temporary or acute.

Chronic is my name,
now — we speak of conditions,

not illnesses; talk of status quo or
increase and not of progress.

Coal tar and skin creams —
odors of one failure

to treat myself
correctly, or so I tell myself.

Others say buck up, it’s not
a fault or a punishment, you

needn’t club yourself with that one,
no matter how good it feels

to feel that bad at times — 
and indeed, there is a sort of blessing

in the hours after
I step out of the shower

onto an apparent path
to normalcy;

but then I lose my way as I start
the day. I tell the others, 

you think so? Then come live in here
and tell me I’m not right

to feel such guilt for becoming hollowed.
I need something to come alive 

in my old center, to build
there as I fall apart.

Comes a point when everything done right
is still not enough, and hope

becomes not a right but
a privilege, just a way

of passing time before time laughs
and then kills; as the scent

of sulfur becomes so strong
you can’t tell

whether it is coming from inside, 
outside, or both. 

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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