Crossroads

2 hours a night; 14 a week; 60 hours a month

That’s 30 days a year we spend dreaming

I balanced stones in haphazard towers

On shores I knew I’d never see again

Over the average lifetime we’ve lived two lives

68 years bound by physics and 6 years a god

I’ve shown acts of kindness to strangers

Never knowing how deep into well the light digs

I’ve grown old and cast aside wonderment

Thinking a 401K is the single answer to all

I cast poems out into a world built of 1s and 0s

These mirrors in pitch black rooms reflect me

I’ve passed a baton to the next sorry soul

Pleading go farther and straighter than me

I’ve manned a lighthouse at the edge of reason

Guiding myself away from the siren’s call

Is lunacy the legacy?

We are all artists painting windows on cell walls

I’ve been a stone hoping for flat smoothness

That someone might skip me across dark lakes

I walk faster on this hamster wheel for a raise

So I can afford grease for ancient gears

I’ve danced to long forgotten songs

Wailing melodies buried marrow deep

Logos are your house’s sigil

A circle of protection made of blood-swishes

I dreamt of a family who welcomed me as kin

I understood home in the shine of their eyes

My brain is a blending stump

Softening the edge of mindless conscription

I think I need redemption

For some forgotten grievance

I think I need an apology

For a grievance I wish I could forget

I think that I think too much

And for that I owe myself an apology

The sun has set…a faint glow is what remains

I stand at a crossroads not knowing

Am I subject to physics, or am I a god…?

Sublingual

She’s the antidote

When the world’s getting to me

When the pressure has built

When I’m clawing at this birdcage chest

I tuck her love under tongue

So it’s hidden from the unclean world

So it dissolves slowly

Straight to the bloodstream

Unfiltered by the liver

Straight through the blood-brain-barrier

High as fuck I walk through my days

Hoping no one can tell

Knowing everyone can

This panacea is marrow deep now

Same place knowledge hides

That kind passed down over generations

Beneath ALL the bullshit

Predating language

Under the tongue

New glasses

She was, to me, a fresh pair of glasses

The sun readying to retire

Contrast of shadow and light

Eyes adjusting to a stronger prescription

Until now it was as if the world was flat

A projection on a yellowed screen

The blurring of edges

As if my depression had lulled my eyes

But now—now!

The world has sprung anew

Her love…these glasses…have me redefined

Where once a tree was a cloud of green

Now it’s 200,000 dancing leaves

Trunk bark a thumbprint

An oak across a field seems at arm’s length

Even for this nearsighted introvert

Everything seems within reach…even love

When the sun’s finally set

And dreams dance behind my eyes

My new glasses remain perched on nose

So even in my dreams I find clarity

There she sits beneath a tree with me

Backs against a familiar thumbprint

200,000 hands waving from above

Applauding

The light

The light in this room

Is bright

I furnish the room

With best intentions

A menagerie of dreams

Of aspirations

Memories framed and hung

From times almost forgotten

Or wished forgotten

But prayers persist

Scratched into flesh

Meant to fend off sins

But simply remind me

Of what I’ve done

Of what’s been done to me

I’d be more proud of track marks

Than these self inflicted wounds

At least busted veins

Would mean I loved something

Outside this godforsaken room

Even a real prison

Of concrete and metal

Would mean I had felt passionate

Enough to have crossed lines

Internal monologues so memorized

I mouth them soundlessly

Subconsciously

Unknown to me

I’m only reminded of their existence

By the indentation they leave

In the couch only I ever sit in

Behind the couch are curtains

I keep closed

The world is dark

My room is bright

So when I do peek

I’m always disappointed at my reflection

And immediately embarrassed

That someone might see inside

So only ever just a peek

Then back to the photos

The menagerie

Tracing the indents in the couch

With calloused fingers

And like a tic

I tug at sleeves too short

To cover these scrimshaw invocations

I can’t drive this reoccurring thought

Out of my mind

That this brightly lit room

Is nothing more

Than the bioluminescent underbelly

Of a firefly

That if I peek through the curtains

At just the right frequency

At the right time

I’ll see a semaphore

Flashing back

And the indents in their sofa

Will be near enough to mine

I’ll know I’m not entirely alone

Mutually Assured Destruction

You spend half your life with your hands covering your mouth, muffling your screams, regretting the things you’d said

You spend the the other half kneading your knuckles into doughy temples wishing you had said the things you didn’t

We define ourselves in these moments of action or inaction and let those moments of blissful silence pass by unnoticed

We are hurricanes turned inside out, where the storm rages most on the inside and the calm is all around us within reach

Still pushed by high pressure and drawn to low, hoping the decisions we make steer the ship, but they’re ripples in slack sails

What you think is instinct is just the past echoing into the now, the eyes of a bully from school making distrust of a stranger

She spoke an uncommon and long forgotten phrase that the girl who broke your heart once used and flight wins over fight

Your favorite movie is a mystery that you can’t solve, as to why it haunts you, and it’s simply because it makes you feel at home

Your need to make sense of it all, the storm within, instead of just letting the peace inside, is your undoing

Your actions define you less in how you faced the storm and more in how you made every attempt to be the calm

This tug of war has no happy ending, as the very idea of reconciling the out with the in is a fallacy

The mighty ship you think you’re at the helm of is just a leaf set afloat by a summer rainstorm

The best you can hope for from your decisions, those ripples, that they are guided by love

That the inquisitive eyes of a newborn will see beauty in the way your leaf danced just before being sucked into a drain

Hopefully, this creates an indiscernible echo, a future instinct, where they choose love, as well

This dance isn’t self-sacrifice, it’s mutually assured destruction…between the world as you see it and the one you wish to make, but the dance is still beautiful

Of course the world continues on after the leaf enters the storm drain, but it’s changed, and the world as uniquely seen from your perspective, that world…dies with you

I mourn those losses by bringing in the calm and by dancing in the rain

Icarus

Gifts are often more than we can bear

These connections

These sharings

These overlaps

This anchor hangs about my neck

We are now bound

And I am bound to regret it

Your honeyed breath

Your words of buoyancy

Where do I go with this

What do I owe to this

You give me a book

Now I must read, discuss and play fan

You give me a plant

Now I nurture/sustain and hide its decay

You encumber me and I feign gratitude

Gifted a hundred pictures of butterflies

And I just want to remain a caterpillar

Or if I do choose to metamorphose

I want it to be of my own volition

I want to owe no one—nothing

So when you fashion me wings

Of feathers and wax

I don’t fly high out of jubilation

I do it to gain control

I own my free fall

And I will build myself anew

From the ground up

Teach them

Children change everything

A complete shift in priorities

Someone is counting on you

Depending on you

Their very survival

Most parents take this on

With pride

With resolve

Others try to simply make it work

Like taking on another job

Another checkbox in a list

Some will reprioritize

Putting the child first in all things

But hold onto some part of the before

Drinking with the boys on Friday nights

Restoring that old car

Or getting the boat ready in the spring

But most often

This change

Kills dreams

Aspirations

How can I possibly

Who’s time am I wasting

What’s more important

These formative years

That’s right…formative

What foundations are we laying

Be a good soldier

Be a good consumer

Be a good student

Color in the lines

Fit into the cookie cutter

That dreams are transient

That they should

Should

Should

Should

Be a good dad or mom

Have their 2.3 kids

Balance their checkbook

Tuck some into a 401k

Perfect attendance

Buy the latest and greatest

Poetry is a phase and not a need

Be a creator of needs

A dutiful cog

In a widget factory

Who knows…maybe Disney

Next year

For now, practice assembling

A perfect child

Blindfolded

On a cot

You could bounce a quarter off of

Formative…

stsitra meht ekaM

Make them artists

Involve them in your dream

Teach them to love language

Form

Movement

Music

Teach them independence

Self-soothing

Self-entertaining

Self-reliance

Share your joy

Share your love

Of humanity

Of humanness

Trade WiFi connectivity

For soul to soul connectivity

Don’t feel bad

For spending time on expression

For asking for 5 more minutes

To finish that poem

Teach beauty is equal to duty

Maybe you’ll achieve your dream

Maybe they’ll learn to fight for theirs

Formative…

En Passant

In my youth I used to play chess

I never really took it all that seriously

Never joined a club

Didn’t think about competing

It was just a game

But it was a part of me

It was a distinction

Of mine and of that long ago era

A Queen’s Gambit resurrected it

A phantom limb I’d forgotten even existed

And now I feel a spectral itch

Where no appendage should be

This set my head on tilt

How many other limbs

Did I let atrophy along the away

How many withered from neglect

How many were purposefully elastrated

Is this pruning a part of growing up

Does getting rid of the weak ones

The distractions

Make the stronger ones even stronger

Or just give us more time to focus

On the ones that suit our faculties

Do we know the right choices were made

When drawing became difficult

When fingers ached from guitar chords

Did we opt for an easier route

One we felt we had a better chance with

Of obtaining fame and fortune

Or do they simply resonate with our souls

Maybe they worked best at catharsis

Who knows

Maybe they’re never really gone

Maybe these phantom limbs

Are nothing more than neural pathways

All laying dormant

Waiting for a spark

Which could be anything

A movie that has you feel a cigarette

Between index and middle finger

A habit you kicked years ago

A song that makes you weary

From pulling all night cramming

For a college course whose ideas faded

The sound of rain on a tent

And you look down at hands twitching

They’re twisting ropes into a clove hitch

When merit badges meant everything

But the fascinating thing of all this

Often this body memory is subconscious

And the electricity dances and fades

In a dusty area of the brain

Frog’s legs attached to electrodes

Dance a do-Sa-do and allemande

The smell of a gymnasium is faint

Like when she smiles at you

And you feel a pulse of warmth

Your body remembers being loved

And now you itch for more

Control

We fool ourselves

You’re either building sandcastles

Or your shoveling snow into a snow bank

Whether for fun or drudgery

The waves, the sun—time—takes all

The most indelible mark we make

Is our non-biodegradable flotsam

The little green, plastic shovel

Buried in the sand

The cigarette pack wrapper

Tossed while taking a shoveling break

This is the void that peers back at you

That nothing endures

That the space between

Between nucleus and electron cloud

Between the you, you are

And the you, you think should be

Between the moment we are born

And the lonely moment we pass

Their value is all the same

It is everything and nothing at once

We stand at the precipice of a black hole

Our thoughts trailing into a stretched line

Thinner and thinner

Mesmerized by our own gravity

Not unlike how chickens are hypnotized

Just before their heads are lopped off

That line drawn in dirt

Giving the chicken a sense of extension

That it never feels in the day to day

What comes first?

The numbing or the day to day

Do we anesthetize to handle

The doldrums of lather, rinse and repeat?

Or do we become number

With every shampooing we perform?

Does it even matter

If the end result is the same?

That long walk into the night

That sense of loneliness buffered

With bandaid purchases

A new phone for unmet career aspirations

A big screen TV for feelings of isolation

Consumerism is self-medication

The moments that matter

Are forgotten in the haze

Of the dopamine afterglow

Like pictures never printed

Digitally stored on devices

Password protected into oblivion

More flotsam

Our only sense of immortality

But…we fool ourselves

The Dream

Why do we hold on?

Why can’t we just…let…go?

It fucking defines us

We let it define us

We LIKE that it defines us

It means there’s more

More than your 9 to 5

More than your carpool lane

More than your social media likes

More than your Netflix suggested list

That with the right amount of light

The right amount of water

The right amount of bullshit

Of believing you can

Despite the odds

That we could succeed

At something truly worthwhile

To do what you love

To love what you do

To be remembered forever

Immortality

By finally letting people in

By opening yourself up

Exposing your truth

Your psychoses

Your vulnerabilities

Your humanness

And showing other wounded

That they’re not alone

But this dream takes a toll

The biggest of which

Is self belief

And why is that so…fucking…hard?

So many of us with a story to tell

But gagging on the first syllable

Afraid that once we do speak

We’ll realize we’re alone

And always will be

Listening to those words

Echoing off cold, brick walls

That a dream never achieved

Is better than the death of that dream

Even gagging on that syllable

We are trying and possibility exists

So why do we hold on?

Because we’re through sleepwalking

Now it’s time to wake up

Time to put in the work

Even if the gagging

Brings the taste of copper

We will swallow it down

And retch out the next syllable

Together we are a chorus