complications in the country my blood and the nerves of the hand have led me to distrust my senses and be flush with anger perpetually others think I should let this flow into my art and thus be cured jackass thoughts if my poems were ever therapeutic I’d have never gotten to this point think of them instead as efflorescence on the hide of a flimsy house of rotten brick that I have shaken off and let fall outside the house you think it’s beautiful there on the ground but the house is still rotten and I am still sick in this country where I am trying to nurse my syrupy blood and my dead nerves to something like an ending all can stomach I gave up on storybook happy a long time ago and nothing I write could change that
Tag Archives: death
In his head, loud
had always meant final
and had been the sound
of closing. It briefly surprised him
to find that his staggering in silence
after the loud was closer to the mark.
The bullets screwed through him
noiselessly on their trajectories.
The sweep of pain throughout his body
did not make a sound
all the rest.
Death did it all
with a long white finger to his lips.
Here are my books.
They have mattered
through most of my time;
right now, I’m not sure how
they continue to fit into me.
Here are guitars, drums,
cuatros, basses, more;
they have mattered as much
as the books, although now
they hang and sit dusty and ask
why they are still here.
The downward slide
of my aging hands and eyes
sweeps me away from
how I have self-defined.
I can’t make things work
as they always have worked.
It terrifies me daily
that I wake up
with no sense
of what will be gone in daylight
that I could see and grip
in the dark of the night before.
Here is my body.
The shadow behind it isn’t talking right now,
but no book or song can keep it silent forever.
This has always been true,
but at dawn each day now
I hear it clearing its throat.
I didn’t read about this in any book
and the music I swear
I can hear now and then
isn’t anything I want to learn to play.
Red stroke by the window.
A cardinal is here.
who’s been around
in short bursts
for most of the day.
Under the feeders, also
present from first light,
a mourning dove.
Can’t recall the last time
one came and stayed
like this, although
we hear them often
The cardinal holds court
from the shepherd’s crook
that holds the suet cage.
The dove holds the humble ground
Red stroke by the window again.
The cardinal is gone — stayed long enough
for cardinal purposes, although
gone too fast, left too soon for us;
the mourning dove remains —
peace in its voice
along with tears
and a promise of return.
I have ended my world
countless times in my head,
so often and so completely
that to walk into the sunshine
of a November day
feels the same as crawling
through the heat of July:
the former is the aftermath,
the world become a table
swept clean in anger;
the latter is a memory of
a solo holocaust,
and of how I burned.
In my head I’ve ended my world
so many times in so many ways
that I can tell you how to use
any of fifteen easily acquired items
from kitchen or bath to bring about
your personal apocalypse
without even consulting a list.
It has become so normal,
I barely bother with being alive any more.
So when the world feels like it does today,
when it feels like I needn’t work hard
to end my world –when it feels like
all I have to do is speak out loud
of who I am and what I believe,
or just silently be myself
while someone in anger and fear
puts the gun or knife
or bomb or fire to me
for that alone —
I see it as the next turn
in the game I’ve played
over and over for most of my life
and I can say that
whatever the way forward,
whether it leaves me dead or alive
I’ve been there before,
and I can work with it.
Johnny loves tech,
say all of his work friends. Knows a
shitload about it. They ask him
to fix stuff all the time. Just a week ago
no one could print, Johnny
figured it out before the help desk
ever got here. They don’t even call the help desk
any more. They just ask Johnny.
Johnny says ah, it’s nothing. He learned
a while ago that all there is to tech
is sitting with it and thinking, asking
a question or two, following up, being patient.
He learned that from his mother. She knew nothing
about such things but would
solve everything else that needed solving
by asking a few questions
and then sitting with the answers, and it always
worked for her, so…
Johnny still lives in the house he grew up in.
His mother’s long gone. It’s still neat
and clean there, the way she kept it, would
have liked it. He sits at night and never
touches a keyboard at home. Sits and
asks questions, sits with no answers,
sits and sits and falls asleep sitting up
in her old chair.
Johnny loves tech, they say at work.
Johnny thinks that’s nothing, loving tech.
He sits at night and loves his mother
who didn’t love tech at the end, the beeping,
the steady pump of the machines, the knobs
on the consoles, the way it all looked so clean
and foreign to her body as she melted away.
That’s what Johnny says to himself
while he’s sitting and sitting and sitting:
it all worked perfectly and still,
she melted away. Some tech
isn’t worth loving. Some tech never
answers a single question. Johnny
sits there in front of an error message
on a screen and screams inside
about how easy some people
must think this is for him.
If today were to be
it would be good
to close things out
as a white muzzled dog
lying on a couch
below a window full
of lemon light,
but if that’s not to be
for me, then I want
my own departure
to offer something
that makes such peace
available to all, to more
than those who had it
before I came here.
When I go I want
my eyes to shut
slowly as I release
the final breath and
let that air carry
my memory off
to the unknown.
If it is not to be
that I fall in such
serenity? Then let
the violence pull me
down, let me take it
with me, let it sink away
from view as I sink away
What I think I want
the most from my death
is that it should mean something
for the deaths that follow mine —
that it may ease passage,
end suffering, shut down
as much inflicted pain
as possible — that it may
offer in its finality
the same comfort as is found
in the thick fur of the old dog
sleeping deeply in the sun,
waiting for waiting to end.
Originally posted 3-23-2012.
Into the heat of the night to chase Lazarus.
I have something to learn from him:
how he got over his anger at his friend
for pulling him back into the struggle.
I want to ask him how long he held the grudge
and if he led with it whenever he and Jesus talked,
if indeed they ever spoke again after that day,
which seems likely though it’s unrecorded.
How do you have that conversation
about him not just saving your life, but pulling it
all the way back from bankruptcy and liquidation
to deposit it right back where it had been
as if nothing had happened at all and anything
that soul had seen while it was gone could be forgotten?
I know it can’t. Know it for a fact.
And I need to know how to speak to a friend
who brought me back like that, though
in my case I really wanted to go. I want to know
how I’m supposed to be his friend again.
I want to know if it’s even right to try. If anyone
should know, it’s Lazarus. How did he and Jesus
get past it, if they did at all?
They never tell that story in the Gospels.
They never made a sermon out of that.
in some new way
My main diseases?
Sugar sludge blood,
from death sludge
to joy stomp, sleep
a series of strangulations;
each of these a wee bomb
waiting to rend me.
as it always has.
My approach to life,
a recalibration loop
barely held together
at a weak seam.
gentle horror show
soft white bread.
Half worlds away from here
in two opposed directions,
the vacuum in my core strong enough
to suck at them, too weak to bring them
smashing together into a good
of that history?
Half book learning,
half frantic triage, all
of it guesswork when
push comes to shove
on the edge of the void.
An experiment in something.
Steal a medium and grow
a culture on it. Pretend
we don’t know
what it feeds on.
My future here?
I’m not alone in the game,
in the approach to it,
thank all the small stones
in the earth and sky
for that; thanks for
a hand to hold while I wait;
thanks for the hope that
I make it easier for them
in my own way;
but I know I will have to
run it in alone, diving down
a slip and slide built with
rust-fouled water and
I’m coming in too fast,
too hard, and in no shape
for the finish,
but I’m coming in. It’s
something to do, the only thing
to do; confusion and conviction
here I come
Spent this life sipping
warm salt water
in drops, only
warm salt water
and only in drips and
yet am expected
to taste sweetness
easily and reject
the only taste
I’ve ever known
at once, with no thought
as to how all those
dribs and drabs of salt
may have burned
my ability to taste
anything else. You do
not understand how
oceanic it is in here,
how such trickling
pleasantry and joy
that sea with no
warm salt comes
relentlessly, in bits and
blips, filling, spilling.
Spend a life sipping
those and see
what happens when
another flavor offers itself
to your tongue. See how
it feels to understand that
what you are meant to love
cannot touch you now.
See how you cry then:
it won’t even
feel like a loss as you
sip the drops,
as you shrug off
that there could be
anything else for you
but the sip and the
There are moments common to all of us
when we wake from sleep and do not know
the time or even the day, moments
when we decide not to find out right away.
I know that just as I do, you lie there disconnected
and think of all your firsts: first pet, crush, love, cigarette,
drink, blood, kiss, sex, death. All your recents:
current pet, crush, love, cigarette, drink, blood, kiss, sex.
You consider death separately, right before
the moment (common to all) when you choose
to look at the clock and remind yourself
what day of what week we are in. You consider
death separately as it means something different now
to contemplate the idea of the most recent death
in your world. You have to count on your fingers
and then get to know the calendar again, asking
if it was Todd or Joan or Aiden or Mike that was
the most recent. This is how we keep time now, how we
pull ourselves out of the blur. We fumble for glasses and phone,
asking: are we still here, still in recorded time?
I sat on the front porch with Death
and shared whisky.
Death has a rep for terrible taste
in booze but all things considered,
I took the glass and choked it down.
Not horrible, not great. Sometimes
mediocre is the worst option
but being the only one available makes it
the best option as well.
Afterwards we shared a joint. Mine, of course;
Death can’t roll to save a soul
and my reputation for that skill is known in Heaven and Hell.
Death settled into the chair
and took a larger pull than was strictly
polite, but arguing makes no sense
when you argue with Death. (Before this all
becomes “Princess Bride” parody,
understand how serious this was
underneath the smiles and proffered drugs:
I was drinking and toking with Death
as if it all hadn’t been that for my whole life,
as if I didn’t know what might be at stake, though I did.)
Buzzed and worried,
I asked Death for a momentary reprieve — not for myself,
but for some random person. I wanted to tell myself
that I’d made some difference for someone
without regard for who they were. When Death
nodded and said it was done, I swallowed the drink
and the burning, dragged deep, fell asleep.
Someone didn’t die because I’d had that drink,
I told myself. Such a wasted life as I’d had,
I had to justify it at least a bit, even if I’d been in a fog
the whole time. Even if I didn’t know
that the saved person was worthy. No one’s worthy
enough, really. It’s all a drunken plea
to stay alive for each of us. I didn’t do anything,
really, except hope it would work to my credit
to have done something not for myself. It’s what
every drink shared with Death is,
of course. A bargain. A deal, a commodified prayer
with indeterminate answers. Fire swallowed for heat,
chased with a hope for no scarring.
I haven’t been upright
in months. I feel
only head shots and body blows.
No blood in my liver, my limbs
cold and stiff with coagulate,
certainly none to be spared for anyone else.
Opening my eyes
through the spray of little cuts
on my face is too hard.
Each one’s a distraction
I can’t manage to disregard
while trying to get up or at least
trying to try for that.
I’m not much to look at either,
and forget being loved; no one loves
a slab of meat, soft marble chunk of
red and white, shaking tub
of bad decisions lying puddled on the mat.
Ground and pound it is for a wrap:
take it, fake it, don’t cave, don’t tap.
But it’s working. No denial here. Working
like a charm. No knockout blow
in this lifetime. From outside
it may look like I’m sleeping,
but from ringside you can’t know how
the roaring of my heart at my failure
keeps me awake for now.
are a few things
deep sunshine taste
of a particular Key West mango;
scent of eucalyptus trees
through the windows
of a hotel
in Rancho Santa Fe;
one sharp pang of disappointment
at gray night skies
on the hills above Albuquerque
on the night of
the Perseid shower;
voices of friends, lovers, and
overheard from strangers;
of an old Gibson
against my chest;
a slip of the tongue
that eventually made
for one magnificent line
in a mediocre bit of poetry;
a song in my head
that I never learned to play
or sing, but which gave me hope
every day I picked
at my strings
or my paper and pen.
In memory are things
and none of them
will be found
in my bones
when I pass;
so on that day
or soon after
when they set me
may my ashes
signal no sadness
at the release of
from my matter
flag its flight
as it is dragged
on the kindness
let it settle
wherever it wants,
in one or in many,
in new life
or aged lungs,
or soft ground;
let it be true
that I didn’t matter
in life as much
as I do in what
I carried within,
I leave behind:
I can’t sleep here
There was a hot iron and
a burned arm.
of infants. Death of
a wife and mother.
He’s like a stalker
his own house. He
lived here and
followed anyone who
I know the man killed
the girl. I think he
killed the dead girl.
She was a living person
he was acquitted.
He is dead and refuses
disowned and refuses
He suffered terribly
angry guy moved
to the basement.
It hurts here pretty bad.
I don’t really believe in ghosts
I don’t live in the basement
or go there
I lay my hands on the
and invite. I am
pretty private but
this needs to be
heard to be
believed. I don’t
want to live here.
pretty. I am
a living person.
All about the angry
All about it.
The angry guy,
like a tough guy.
He is always in
(leave me alone).
It’s a warning.
a living person.