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.

Take back

I step forward with right foot

Monkey brain chatter

Eyes darting to and fro

Buzzing in ears

Need to center

Calm

Replaying of conversations

What if I’d said

Now I’m 16 again

Telling my younger self

Just take the chance

Face flush

Sweat forming at hairline

The color red

Pulsing

The perceived evils I committed

Am I a bad person

Work tomorrow

Am I a fake

Will I be found out

This isn’t my dream

My son looks up to me

Am I there enough for him

Am I preparing him

Did I curse him with my psychosis

Hide the tics

Slow the stutter

Be normal

Send it out to the universe

Manifest

I’ve cocooned myself

In layers of antisocial avoidance

My metamorphosis

Will I gain wings

Where would I fly

Shut up and write

Turn off the 65” pacifier

Write the truest thing you know

Okay…I’m scared

Be that kid carving FTW into a desk

Do it for myself

Not for likes

Pink Floyd’s The Wall

My soundtrack for adolescent depression

When it’s too quiet I can still hear it

Mother, should I build the wall?

Breaking bottles

Piss into the void

Why does she always push away

Where’d that moment go

When we wanted to stay forever

Embraced under covers

Solace found in isolation

But this monkey brain

Tap the microphone

Adjust the levels

Ear piercing feedback

Echoes from missteps

Tiled hallways in cold institutions

Where is my place

My assigned seating

Switch the name card

To a seat near the window

Daydream your way out

Think of being encapsulated

Beneath the branches

Of a weeping willow

The wind shifting everything I know

Did I lock the door

Turn off the coffee pot

Did I do enough

Concentrate on breathing

Silence the chatter

Those words slipped out

Rewind the tape

Press record and do take 2

No matter what fork

The path leads here

The only thing you can take back

Is control

My mantra

Left foot steps forward

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…

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

Park Bench

Where’ve you gone?

The sun’s arc

Has traced my decline

Splintered thoughts

Paint worn reveals grain

Rusting wrought iron

The tears you shed

Long evaporated

Are now replaced

With frost’s steely touch

The part of me

That still holds chin high

Is patinated with jogger sweat

But the words stand testament

People still wondering to this day

What cornerstone of a community

What deeds did you do

To be immortalized on this bench

Looking out over this lake

But you were no luminary

You didn’t found any company

You were so much more than that

You were my father

You were my friend

And someday I’ll pass on

But it’ll still be you they think of

In moments of well needed rest

Grass brushing at ankles

Dragonflies darting to and fro

In loving memory

What can I say about Love?

What can I say about love

That hasn’t already been written

On the walls of gas station bathrooms?

Dispense with the regalities

Drop the pomp and window dressing

Love is nothing more than transactional

We trade time for promises of happiness

We give up pieces of ourselves

Hoping reciprocity makes us whole

All of this we do at great peril

There are no fucking guarantees

We diminish with every dance

We are decaying isotopes

You can calculate my age within seconds

Simply by measuring the holes in my heart

Love is just a painkiller

Heart holes grow larger

Euphoric you press ever onward

You’d think the dance would be aerobic

But there you’re farthest from the truth

Asphyxiating cells scream and die

Your lungs burn as if on fire

You claw at your throat

Hoping to taste youth’s freedoms

How far back do we need to go

To be before death stood at horizon?

When the time we could give was endless

It’s here where marrow no longer hums

Your body a tuning fork looking

For harmonic resonance in others

I know for certain that we die alone

This tragedy pervades everything we do

We hold hands just so there’s a letting go

But at least we don’t walk alone

The cadence of time marching

In lockstep with our decay

I know the gift of time is unrivaled

Except for the moments you are given

It’s not continuous but a string of tableaus

Those times you said you could die

Die in their arms, and you’d be happy

Or, when wishing a moment was infinite

These moments are the last to flicker out

The brain performing a fireworks finale

Fingers intertwined blazing in inky skies

Then denouement

And that is something

Perhaps everything

Charmed, I’m sure

Do you ever remember bits and pieces of books, movies or poems?

Not enough to string together an effective google search

But enough to feel the faint outlines of an emotion

Maybe it was a book you had to read in 5th grade

Something you skimmed just enough to barely pass a quiz

But had changed you in some unknown, imperceptible way

A pall you carried from a long forgotten poem

Which still shades the world a color, a tint 

One you’ve so long gotten used to, that you don’t even see it anymore

Having lived so long in a home that was licked by fire, that you no longer smell the ash

A pall you refuse to part with, because you find comfort hiding beneath it

You hold onto these pieces, like charms that once hung from a now broken bracelet 

Charms that symbolize something, a connection no longer made

A handwritten letter that references or alludes to things you know nothing of

A letter meant for the person who lived there before you, with no return address 

If you knew the sender of the letters, the purchaser of the charms

Maybe you could divine meaning from them

Like dream interpretation, but foolishly forgetting that you are all the participants in your dream

You are that book, that film, that poem…those letters. Those charms. One day I’ll have you figured out.