Tag Archives: depression

The Promise Of Risotto

On a sick whim, I lean in
to suck the hissing gas
instead of firing the burner,
just to see what that’s like. 
However, I stop quickly.
I’ve got good food to cook,
good enough for a last meal
in fact.  And if I get past that,
there’s decent dessert too.  So
I will stop.
I will not place my face so close
to death just yet.

It’s the little things that always,
always do the trick.  The cat
hovering nearby with sacred fur,
the promise of risotto, 
the desire not to leave a mess
for loved ones.  I take what I can get
from the bag of small miracles,
treat them as talismans.  Anticipation of dark chocolate,
pear cider, cool night air on open skin;

I try always to fill my hand with whatever makes it hard
to grip a razor.

 


What Needs To Be Said

You were right
to run
from

the mama and the papa
who learned far too slowly
how to right things born wrong

Old nuns
hunched in classrooms
spouting hydra teeth

Thick handed
bosses who offered
honor for slavery

She who was right
for a minute
and stayed for twenty years

The angels who
beat your moods
up and down

That was all long
ago
So many coats and bruises ago

You could stop but
you forget how to stop
They are all still behind you

How are you to blame
for there being no home
that could protect you

And you agree for a moment but then
you say
You could have built such a place

and should have
You knew how
Read enough and knew how

The sick is not excuse enough
The fear not prod enough, apparently
No pride enough to drive you to the effort

So now you are going to pay for this
Glad to pay off the shame of this
Only way to gladness after all of this

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The Lonelymaker

In front of him
there’s
a screen, always.
Sometimes,
a keyboard too.

He stares all day at Illusions of arrivals
and departures,
of everyone out there being somewhere close.

Calls the images friends.
Calls them by their false names.
Calls them Nazis when they’re disagreeable
and beloved when they’re not.

But above all,
from dark rooms,
from cafes, from stolen
work time, from deep
anonymity,
he calls them
through the screen
as if they could hear him.
The blank fields
on screen
encourage it.  
The soothing,
empty responses
encourage it.

He screams, sometimes;
cries on the couch sometimes;
wonders why he feels so tired
and so afraid to get out
into the cold world
where touching someone else
in the flesh
requires more than the simple use
of your fingers.

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Sanity

It rolls off my fingers.
I do not get a chance to get a grip
upon it.

When it falls,
it falls soft,
does not break,
rolls just out of reach.

I cannot bend to retrieve it,
have no strength to pick it up.

I can see it
right there, just out of reach.
Intact, clearly mine,
ready.

But it rolled off my fingers
like drops of water,
like a ball dropped
into clumsy hands
that I never learned to use.

I have no faith
that I’ll ever do this right.

I try and try again
with these broke,
broken hands
that will not grip
or hold on. 

Tired
as Job, tired as
Sisyphus, scabbed up
and pus-bloody —
it’s laughable, really,
from any other viewpoint
but this one:

watch the clown
stumble through the fumbled catch
and fall down like
a cautionary figure
from the oldest tales.
Watch me thrill
to my own failure

then watch me get up
and bow
and do it again.

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Working Man Blues

When I’m working

feather in hand
remarkable paintings in head
and squall in cheek

then I am
most myself

When I fail
and am idle

stuck to carpet
face dirty as an old bone
dog-torn under a sparse hedge

I become the bad doll
in the chest of forbidden toys
Unsafe sharp arms
and a missing topknot

No one wants to play with me

The hard part of all this
is that when I’m down
I can’t pull the together out of me

alone

but who wants to see me
like this

When I’m working
I’m magnet happy
I’m covered with faces smooching
and all the happy lips make me wet
and then I want to dry off

But dry and slow
stopped in my track
I’m not sweet

Smelly old man
stay home alone

and who wants me for a co-worker
when I’m so lazy it seems
I can do nothing

someone stick a feather in my hand
and open up my mouth
move the jaws around

or at least come over
and talk to me
while I’m down on the floor

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I’m Your Best Shot At Love, Baby

As thoughts go,
I was miniscule at first,
a germ of an idea
in one malignant synapse
firing wildly.

“There’s the bridge, there’s the abutment,
you’ve got the car, consider
the possibilities –”  And right away you tamped me down
like a piece of garbage just barely too large to fit
into the bag the rest of your garbage was in,
but like a paper cup that won’t stay crushed,
I forgave you, reshaped myself, and stuck around.

It’s been fun and games since then, hasn’t it?
I wouldn’t have missed it for the end of the world.
You tell yourself I’m just a product of chemical tilt
and I tell you how you could right that in a second.
We tango, we party, we bullshit, we know each other
very well.  I push your eyes to the knife
in the nightstand, you slip me a drink or a pill
and I settle down for a little while until
the storm or the money or the latest fight with family
gives me an opening to suggest that a gun
isn’t that hard to get, you know the right people
for that, and if all else fails there’s always the roof,
or the car, there’s always the car and a bridge — I’ve got a list
of them, how you could make the skid look accidental,
which rails look the most rusted and ready to break,
how the long fall to the river below would guarantee
a minimum of lingering pain. 

But you stubbornly stick around and treat me like dirt.
I can’t blame you. I’m a terrible flirt
and I know I drive you crazy — but still,
there’s something in the way you always come back to listen…

so take me into your ruined confidence for real tonight.  Let me whisper
the good things I can do for you — how I’ll buck you up
and cuddle you as we finally do what I want for a change.
You know I was born to love you, all those years ago
in the moment I told you it was OK to listen to me
and you did.  If only for a second, listen to me again
and then show me how you love me.  I’ve only ever had
your best interests at heart, and when I say “it’ll be over
in moments and whoever’s left to clean it up
will get over it eventually,” I’m not being selfish.
I’m just telling the truth.  They’ll forget you after a while
in a way I never have, never could, never will,
at least not until you forget me for good
the minute you let me all the way in.

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The Last Lecture (Revised; was “The Last Talk”)

It was around seven at night
when I finally got out of my mother. 
I started talking at once. 
The family was astounded. 
“Keep it up,” they urged,
and I struggled to think of things to say. 

There was a time when I considered
myself
the best talker in a family of talkers. 
Whatever.  It was a means to an end. 
That end was that I talked
myself
out of everything. 

Myself.
I used that word a lot.
It was a ratchet handle,
could be switched
from install to extract
with one motion.
Slap any socket,
any word on it,
and I’d make it work.

Myself,

I don’t care for legumes.
Myself,
I’m indifferent to rockets.
Myself,
I’m a big fan of radicchio
dipped in sea salt.

One evening
I made a mistake
and stopped talking for a moment.
It didn’t bother me
but a lot of the family thought I was nuts
and I ended up in a bare room
with a cheese grater wall to lean on,
in a pleasant sense of dislocation
without my usual tools at hand.
There was sand under my tongue.
My breath smelled of comic books
and colorfield theory
and it was so nice,
for once, to not speak
unless I was spoken to.

I got out and found a living
that made the talking
not so much a tool but a brace. 
The ratchet handle
slipped in my hand as easily as ever,
and I could talk about
myself
endlessly,
even when I used borrowed sockets to make
myself
seem like a chokehold. 

The family soon fell asleep —
why listen to things
that didn’t concern a fact at all?
I found new families to bore. 
I found new nuts to turn
and kept using
myself
to gain leverage.

Over time, I lost the urgent sense
of sand and blood in my palm.

Over time there was
too much wolf,
not enough sea snake.
Too much noose,
not enough bowtie.
Too much pistol,
not enough summer squash.
Too much fuck,
not enough no touch at all.
Too much rain of monkeys,
not enough snow of shillings.

This was so easy.

The alley girls,
the backstage boys,
those who called
from the shadows for the opportunity
to hear my disturbances,
they all wanted to eat the same things
every night, and I let them.

It was so easy.
Who was I to say I was not what they thought?

I though I could talk my way back to
myself.
I tried, but now the power’s off
at seven at night
and I’m sitting in the heat
of a small room
built from smooth, sweating walls. 
There’s no money
to speak of. 
Every dollar is a laugh
giggling good bye
and the cat is barely moving without the AC. 

I’m barely moving.

The wrench called
myself
is splintering, the receiver for the socket
worn, the switch that changes direction
finally swinging free and no longer engaging.
I talk more and more, trying to gain purchase,
work the bolts on what I need to construct or destruct
in one slippery increment at a time. 

Right here, on the desktop of this old computer
is a document named
“Everything I’ve Learned.”

The lessons themselves are scattered
around a lot of places
that exist in public and only in public.
I didn’t have a private thing to put in there.
This is what I get for a career in talking

The family would get a chuckle out of this if they could see me,
but I keep
myself
a little far from them these days. 

They don’t want to see
or hear me like this, the wrench rattling useless and repetitive
on steel. I can respect that. 

I sit here at seven every night
and strip my threads trying to make
myself
so useless
it’ll be understood and even appreciated
when at last I choose silence,
and throw myself away.

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My Daughters

After a hiatus of several years
my daughters,
my favorite poetic conceits,
come back
to see me.

They look for themselves
in the poems I write,
the place they’ve always lived,
and are shocked to find no trace.

“I never had you,”
I protest. “I made you up.
You lived only in the poems,
I brought you out when I needed you,
and I don’t know why you’re here now.”

But Martha comes close and whispers
that she’s missed me, while Emily
stands off to the side
and sniffs her insolent disappointment
at her absence.

“I don’t know what to say about you
anymore,” I admit.  “It’s so hard to explain.
I’m not the same as I used to be, so trying to place you
in anything seems to be futile.  I can’t feel you.
It’s like you’re butterflies in tall grass
going the other way, and I catch a glimpse
of you now and then, rising, falling,
disappearing behind the yellow stems,
and I don’t know sometimes if I’m seeing the wind
moving, or if it’s still you out there
at the edge of my vision.”

Martha flickers, Emily flickers,
I am flickering,
trying to remember
the days when they populated
every other poem I wrote,
how I loved them for how
they made me seem human,
and possible, and capable
of connection to something
without regret.

The living room becomes
a meadow on fire,
and the smoke and flame
fill the air.  I choke on it,
my eyes spilling over.

If there are daughters here,
if there were ever daughters here,
I do not think they will come back

for the cover that let me pretend
they were always just out of reach is gone,
all gone; I can see for miles
across the char, no whisper of Martha
is in my ears,
and what I would give to hear Emily
disapprove of my distance,

I have already long ago given.

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The Last Talk

It was around seven at night when I finally got out of my mother.

I started talking at once.  The family was astounded.
“Keep it up,” they urged, and I started to think of things to say.

There was a time when I considered
myself
the best talker in a family of talkers.
Whatever.  It was a means to an end.
That end was that I talked
myself
out of everything.

Myself.

I used that word a lot.
It was a ratchet handle, could be switched
from install to extract with one motion.
Slap any socket, any word on it, and I’d make it work.
Myself,
I don’t care for legumes.
Myself,
I’m indifferent to rockets.
Myself,
I’m a big fan of radicchio dipped in sea salt.

One evening, at seven again,
I made a mistake and stopped talking for a moment.
It didn’t bother me but a lot of the family thought I was nuts
and I ended up in a bare room with a cheese grater wall to lean on
and a pleasant sense of dislocation without my usual tools
at hand.  There was sand under my tongue.
My breath smelled of comic books and colorfield theory
and it was so nice, for once, to not speak
unless I was spoken to.

I got out and found a living that made the talking
not so much a tool but a brace.  The ratchet handle
slipped in my hand as easily as ever, and I could talk about
myself
endlessly, even when I used borrowed sockets
to make
myself
seem like a different chokehold.  The family soon fell asleep —
why listen to things that didn’t concern a fact at all?
I found new families to bore.  I found new nuts to turn
and kept using
myself
to gain leverage.

Over time, I lost the urgent sense of sand and blood in my palm.
Over time there was
too much wolf,
not enough sea snake.
Too much noose,
not enough bowtie.
Too much pistol,
not enough summer squash.
Too much fuck,
not enough no touch at all.
Too much rain of monkeys,
not enough snow of shillings;
it was so easy.

The alley girls, the backstage boys,
those who called
from the shadows for the opportunity
to hear my disturbances,
they all wanted to eat the same things
every night, and I let them,
it was so easy.

What I said was
myself
was theirs to think on
and misinterpret,
and I let them,
it was so easy.

Who was I to say I was not what they thought?

I though I could talk my way back to
myself.
I tried, but now the power’s off at seven at night
and I’m sitting in the hot darkness of a small room
built from smooth, sweating walls.  There’s no money
to speak of.  Every dollar is a laugh giggling good bye
and the cat is barely moving without the AC.  I’m barely moving.

The wrench called
myself
is splintering, the receiver for the socket
worn, the switch that changes direction
finally swinging free and no longer engaging
and I talk more and more, trying to gain purchase,
work the bolts in what I need to construct or destruct,
in one slippery increment at a time.

On the desktop of this old computer
is a document named “Everything I’ve Learned.”
It’s empty, save for the names of the lessons.
The lessons themselves are scattered around a lot of places
that exist in public and only in public.
I didn’t have a private thing to put in there.
This is what I get for a career in talking
The family would get a chuckle out of this if they could see me,
but I keep
myself
a little far from them these days.  They don’t want to see
or hear me like this, the wrench rattling useless and repetitive
on steel.  I get it, so I respect it.  I sit here at seven every night
and strip my threads trying to make
myself
so useless
it’ll be understood and even appreciated
when at last I choose silence
and throw myself away.

Seven at night,
still light for now.
But not for long:
the U-turn that has loomed from the beginning,
that has been implied in every turn of every screw,
waits there in the bitter, salty summer night.

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Dance Hall Days

You dance with perfection
now and then.

She tugs you forward, flirts you onto
the floor for a twirl, licks your earlobe
and says, “come with me.”

You beg off and she winks at you,
certain you’ll be back.

She knows that you know
that the only path
to loving her
means leaving this world permanently behind.

It does thrill you when perfection says,
Simply close your eyes and melt
into my sweet arms.  She smells of gardenias
and is soft as hollyhock pollen
on a bee’s leg.

It’s no wonder
you count pills into a ring box
and tie it a noose for a bow
after a turn around the floor with her.

But then you consider the impending poppies,
the fuschia regaining strength
after you brought it in from a blistering sun,
the cardinal couple on the feeder, the joy of
the three legged dog upon your arrival.

Last night’s mad music
fades.  Perfection blows you a kiss.
She’s the everlasting love of your life,
but she steps back to her table.

She’ll be there, her kiss as reliable
as a single shot shotgun
when you’re ready.  She’s on
your dance card and she’s sure of you
even as you fall to your knees
to bathe in the wind through your window.

You both know it will bring rain
eventually, a beat as smooth
as brushes on a cymbal,
that can’t be denied forever.

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Red Shade

Close my eyes
and once again
rolling gun-metal gray
spheres intersect seamlessly
rolling through each other
like a sea-surface
on a background of red shade

No meaning in the dream —
how welcome
that always is

Upon waking
though
the spheres become gun barrels
and the first thing I do
in the moment before full awareness
is shove them into my mouth

and again at random times during the day
it happens

unbidden, they appear
and I shove them into my mouth

I am exhausted from the effort
of pushing them away

but to close my eyes and try to rest
is just to begin once again

I do not keep a gun in the house
for this reason

but I’m thinking about it

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Delta Point

Each choice leads
to another.

First,
yes or
no?

Then,
today or tomorrow?

After which:
poison or gunshot?

From there:
where to do it?
Home, or motel?

Then:
note or not?

Pen,
or pencil?

Apologize,
or justify?

Signed or unsigned?

Yes or no?

A flowchart
of possibility
that ends at
yes, which is also
no.

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My Loyal Dog

My loyal dog,
the night, has no tail
to wag in welcome
when I approach.

You are laughing at me,
I can tell.  You say
the night’s not my dog
at all.  That dog belongs

to no one and you chide me
for presuming such a thing.
But you’re so wrong.  I’ve kept him
on a leash so long

he appears to be free,
but he’s my dog all right —
waits for me all day
until I come home and feed him.

Though there’s no tail on him,
I can tell my dog loves me.
How else to explain why I am licked
by darkness so often?

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Seeing Clearly

Sea change today,
if you can call it that
this far from the ocean.
Overcast, cooler;
all the notes struck
by recent sunshine
have turned minor.

Sunday, I heard voices inside.
They were bells tolling an ending.
Tuesday, today, I hear nothing
but the neighborhood,
quiet at last.  Everyone’s
at work or school.  I should be
working too.  I am working,
in fact, or so I say when I’m asked

because I’m glad not to be interacting
with anyone right now.  Too many
voices from outside still
the ones inside,
and I want to be able to hear.

They were silver, nugget-rough,
precious.  They cut me
when I pressed them.  They told me
what I already knew, so I trusted them
and feared them.

I don’t hear them now.
Maybe it was the sun
and warm earth, drying audibly
after days of rain,
that spoke to me
and suggested that I needed
to die.

I don’t know why light
would amplify sound,
but I do know I can taste
a terrible scent of ocean
on the wind today:
a dull flavor, lead dull,
no glint to it.

I await the return
of the sunshine
with my ears
cocked and afraid.

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Donkey

Weeks before Palm Sunday
I thought of the ride into Jerusalem

and the donkey who carried Jesus
on the road, how he stepped stolidly

into history, probably died a few years later
without knowing a thing

about momentous journeys
or the bearing of divine weight.

Now it’s Holy Week. Now begins
the rush of replication of past events

pushed from fact to memory
to ritual observance.  And this year,

I’m the burden on the donkey, or so it feels from here:
that sense of calm and celebration

is already turning to remembered dread
of pain and time in the dark to think

of all the sins I carry — except for three things:
these sins are my own, I can’t even save myself,

and resurrection’s
no certainty for me. So unlike that first donkey,

whose thoughts are unrecorded,
you get this braying, this hoarse and boring

(to everyone, I imagine) declaration
of fear and recognition that I’ve always been

the beast who bears hope for others without knowing it;
not salvation itself, nothing divine at all;

just another ass on the road with people cheering
because the story has a good ending for everyone

except the incidental being
that in every story dies unremarked

at some unimportant moment
outside the scope of the fable.

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