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

Unremarkable

When you close your eyes

Do I disappear?

When I exit stage left

Is my part played out?

The weariness of awareness

The algorithm of I’ll go with him

Am I just an angsty teenager

Carving FTW in my desk?

Am I a Myers Briggs for misfits

A Rorschach for depressives?

I think that I am just an ant

Self-sacrificed to bridge a gap

Those ephemeral spaces

Between obligations

When Pavlovian notification tones pause

And subsequent serotonin dumps seize

My words might remind you

Like a Jerry Springer rerun

That things could always be worse

This wonderful contrast

Makes your avocado toast pic likes

All the better thanks to my bitter

Like craving sweet after salty

But I’m just a palate cleanse away

From oblivion

Or is it a colon cleanse?

So push the handle down

Watch me spin round

The afterthought is just a trickle

Until the tank is full

Now go wash your hands

And it’ll be like I never existed at all

But for the briefest of moment

Words held charge

And action potential was achieved

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

Sun Bleached

Driftwood dreams washed up on foreign shores.

Sun bleached white.

Dismembered ghost limbs bobbing at oblivious heavens.

Would a corked bottle have been kinder?

Tossed is tossed though hope remains.

Acknowledge that part of me.

Jetsam.

That piece I thought you cared for, and in the caring kept it alive.

Atrophied petals drifting away in the slightest breeze.

Not dandelion seeds that dream of fertile purchase, but something destined to decay.

A mere reminder of what was once beautiful.

The red bled away and left a translucent skin…a thumbprint.

But beachcombers sift for shells and I am here in the land you left behind—hollowed.

The pieces that remain, that were always only mine, bring me no joy.

I look at the voids my decay has left and I long to be whole, or to be wholly gone.

I am left with nothing but phantom itching and sun bleached, driftwood dreams, that dance at the periphery.

If you do happen across these pieces of me, these driftwood castaways, fashion them with sinew into an effigy and burn me into ash.

Then I can ascend and serve as a beacon…a cautionary tale.

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

Old

There’s a chill in my bones

That this springtime sun

Cannot reach

It’s a slowing of atoms

Approaching absolute zero

Of being 48 years old

Or whatever that means

The grass doesn’t shine

Like that from my youth

A fine layer of sediment

Has covered everything

Including myself

Something for the moss

To anchor to

Gravity is winning

As it always does

Will I rise from these ashes

Born anew

Or simply fertilize the thoughts

Of the next shift

The changing of guards

Over the hill sounds nice

Like the hard parts over

The struggle has ended

And momentum now carries me

But I must still take care

Each gravity assisted step

Could send me cartwheeling

When…how will I know that I’m enough

Roadside Memorial

You’ve seen them after the accident

Flowers, stuffed animals, solar lights

A memorial for someone taken too soon

The glitter of glass on black asphalt

As above, so below

At first these tragic displays overflow

Friends, family, coworkers

Leave crosses, notes, stuffed animals

As time passes it diminishes

Until only a dutiful loved one

Stands roadside with fresh flowers

And a new set of solar lights

The hum of the passing traffic

Raising the hairs on their necks

The precarious nature of life

The uncertainty of a vigil

So close to the very hurtling weapons

That caused the death

Creating the emptiness

Now filled with trips to Home Depot

And Hobby Lobby

Do we leave a bit of ourselves in passing

Like haunted houses

Grandma is gone

But the smell of her cooking

The lilt of her songs

The rocking of her chair

Move in and out

Like exclamation points

On moments of longing

Does this happen roadside

To those left behind

When grass sticks to shoes

When tears mix with rain

When the lights flicker on

At dusk

Headlights illuminating this tableau

Do they wonder who will carry on

When they pass

Or if someone will do the same for them

We all grieve in our own ways

I know this

I want to buy a bench and placard

At the nature trails my dad walked

Celebrate his love of wildlife

I even spread his ashes there

Maybe making the flora greener

Which is the best we can hope for

A positive change from our leaving

Every time I pass a roadside memorial

I feel myself standing there

The longing

Cursing, perhaps, the carelessness

Of the driver of the WMD

I feel the loneliness in my bones

Someday I’ll stop at a florist

Leave a bouquet

How happy that would make them

Those passed and those carrying on

When I go I hope it’s at home

Surrounded by friends and family

If it’s my weary and clogged heart

That gives out

Go ahead and lay flowers and lights

In front of the local fast food restaurants

Leave a stuffed animal

In my dent in the couch

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…