Tag Archives: diabetes

Neuropathy, 4 AM

Obsessed with what I hope exists
but am too lazy to research:

a method for knowing when this water
was last opened and poured.

A method for determining 
when the bottle was last taken out

of the refrigerator,
how much was in it,

how much was consumed
before it was

put away. How many hours have passed
since the light last went on and then off

as the door was opened,
then closed. If it does not already exist

there must be someone in a lab
working on formulas, testing

hypothesis after hypothesis
for considering the movement of 

molecules, the conservation of energy,
how to know from the state of now

what the state of then was
and how long ago then was. 

It must be measurable. People
measure things. I measure things,

or wish I could: the progress 
of how my nerves are dying, for example.

How pain grew from a tingle
in my big left toe to that full blaze

in both feet as if I’m shoeless on asphalt 
in a beach parking lot

that comes pouring into me
at four AM when I’m just lying there

trying to sleep till the alarm.
There must be a measure of how much

that takes out of me as I lie there
already worrying about money and 

the limits of hope and how clumsy
I’ve become when I wash

a dish or a spoon; how difficult it is now
to pull a shimmer

out of my guitar
with my numbing fingers as I used to.

In the dark I can’t even recall
the state of then. All I have 

is the state of now. There must be
some way to measure the distance,

the decay, the way back to the core
of the memory of being whole.

What if I am the measure? What if 
it’s all been an experiment to see

how then becomes now? I want to talk to
the whoever in whatever dark lab

wherever it is to understand
why this is so. Wasn’t it enough

to see how I was already
damn near empty

before deciding
to change the parameters?

If not, I want to hear
what’s been learned from this;

people measure things
and someone has to know.

Coal Tar Blues

From age
and diabetes and its
attendant conditions
as well as a long term
mood disorder
and who knows what else,
I’ve fallen into 
a human sort
of slow rust,

I daily
soak myself
in coal tar
for what’s on
the surface,
my rotten skin,
take tinctures and talk
for what’s wrong
within, disrepair
with unlikely odds
for repair. 

Nothing about this
is temporary or
acute. Chronic
is my name,
now — speak of
not illnesses;
talk of status quo or
not 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.

Indeed, there is a sort of
blessing, a relief 
in the hours after
I step out of the shower
as though
I’ve found a path
to normalcy but then
I lose my way as I start
the day and I tell the others,
you think so? Then
come live in here
and tell me
I’m not right.

See, I’m being
hollowed. I need
something to take up
residency in
my old center, to build
upon the dust falling 
out of me until I’m
gone for good,
which could be soon
or so what’s left of me
assumes, based on
the way the air around me
smells whenever I feel
as good as it ever gets.

Comes a point
when everything done right
is still not enough, and hope
becomes not a right but
a privilege your mind
has never allowed you
to exercise before, and now
is just a way of passing time
before time laughs
and then kills. 

For The Days

I’m just here 
for the days when 
I don’t drop a cup or
a bowl into the sink,
for the days guitar strings
feel right again for even
a single song, for the days
the floor doesn’t yield
to my spongy feet and send me
staggering into a reach
for a wall, the fridge, 
a door jamb. I’m here
for the days coping with
bothersome skin,
psoriatic scalp, 
anxious pumping
of my thick blood by
my ever-strained heart.
I’m here for the hope
of touch yet to be given
and received, for peace and
finality; it’s too much to hope
for closure, too late for
resolution. I’m here for days
that feel more or less 
unremarkable — no peak
or valley experiences, nothing
unique, nothing to write home
about if I were any farther
from a place that feels like home
than I am right now, leaning lonely
on the door jamb, waiting for 
my feet to get firm enough
to take me where I need to go. 


The Telecaster
is in my hands
unplugged at 
11 PM so as
not to disturb
anyone but me.

Even in this
incomplete state
it does its best
to cry and
offer prayer
as I try

to make
my sick hands
move one iota
more like they did
six months
a year two years

ago. The doctor
calls this “diabetic 
neuropathy” and
people beyond
the doctor like to say
it’s my fault

or at least my fault
and my parents’
fault but what I know is
I was bad at this before
it happened and am
no better now that
my fingertips feel 

nothing. Meanwhile
the Telecaster is still
doing that transparent thing
where its voice becomes
my voice and my voice
becomes an insult

as well as a prayer
and together we do 
what a thousand thousand
teenagers with guitars
have been doing
forever: trying to

keep their pain silent
when the house is asleep
and all they want to do is
scream. Here I am though, 
old and numb, trying to pretend
that old and numb doesn’t lead

to the same
kind of pain, this
Telecaster pain,
this stumble-finger agony,
the discomfort

of knowing
that regardless of whose fault
all of this is,
I am failing this guitar,
and it is not
the other way around.


complications in the country 
my blood and the nerves of the hand
have led me

to distrust my senses
and be flush with anger

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

Type 2

If you can imagine a future for yourself
without, say, bread or beer, one

where your memory
will never fire into regret 

over a stray whiff of either of those,
count yourself among the lucky ones

who have the strength
to move on completely

into some blessed world of shrugging off
any nostalgia for past pleasure

in favor of a grim determination
to get better, to stay healthy, to not succumb

to that which will slay you in increments
thanks to your body’s insistence

upon acting up and doing the opposite
of what it was built to do; if you can imagine

giving up primary sensation in favor
of living in a more or less diminished way 

compared to the way you have always lived
and still finding it worth your time to live —

if you can do this, pull up a chair and speak to me
in low tones of how you do this, for indeed

I cannot entirely find my way clear to any future happiness
knowing that I have surrendered the things that gave me

such past happiness — the tough-into-tender mouth feel
of still-warm bread, crust yielding to cloud of earth and heaven

combined; the deep bitter-over-sweet chewiness of a fine stout
at the end of a bad day and the exhalation, eyes closed,

upon swallowing that first good gulp of stress-relief; Lord knows
I miss these, and if you say it’s a question of dying or staying alive

and it ought to be an easy choice, I say
yes, exactly, it is a difference between dying or staying alive

but as I barely live and barely breathe, 
I don’t know what to call this existence tonight.  Tomorrow

I will surely be OK, and the day after, and in the long term
I’ll figure out some moderation or accommodation; but tonight

I just want some excess of good bread and good beer again,
that good life that exalted me even as it was killing me.


It’s early and I’m at the stove
eating oatmeal cooked from scratch;
steeping good tea in a great big cup
while thinking about what I know:

that I am probably going to die
from self-inflicted wounds someday,
and it’s likely the bombs that will do it
are these that I know I’ve already set.

One of these days I’ll start exercising.
Maybe I’ll be good at it.  Maybe the diet and
activity will pay off. Maybe I’ll soon be smaller,
lighter on the earth.

None of it will change a thing.
I’ll die anyway.  I’ll die because
dying’s what we do.  I might do it tomorrow,
I might make it another twenty years

before I go, but I will go.
If I go today while standing at the stove,
spoonful of mush falling from my hand
and the tea spilling as I flail and drop?

I hope I look silly down there on the floor.
Not tragic; not resigned
to ending up a punchline in a poor man’s bed.
Let them say too little too late,

chuckle a little when they picture the scene.
Let them say whatever they want
as long as they include the phrase
he went down swinging, swinging to the end.