Holding on

Unfulfilled dreams keep me marching on

The center is love, a heart, dangling before me

I am a donkey and it is the carrot

Only I have not aged as well as the dream

It’s keeps perfect time, pressing every step

Meanwhile my heart has cocooned itself for the long gulag trek

With years of self absorbed behaviors

Of buying into the “me”

Like a tree you could count the rings of fat surrounding my heart

To determine the age of my idiocy

This marching has given me strong calves and premature ventricular contractions

If only my dream was externally motivated

Something superficial

Swinging weights and drinking wheatgrass

Happiness measured in lean body mass

Fat is where the flavor is

A shark would spit out a fairly lean person

Perhaps muscle tastes like work

Fat tastes like leisure

A blubbery seal gives the shark an idea

Of what it must be like to stop swimming

I feel like I can’t stop swimming

I feel like Ice cream tastes a porch swing

What happens if I stopped swimming?

Like the shark I’d drown

Divining inspiration from dark waters

Making oxygen passing water across gills

But I’m a donkey chasing a carrot

I just don’t know if I have what it takes

The resolve

The skill

The talent

Am I enough for the dream

Is just having a dream enough for me

Is my heart cocooned for a reason?

Is it metamorphosing from yesterday

Into the heart of tomorrow

The one hanging from a string

My well worn heels synchronized

But will tomorrow ever arrive?

Or have I already drowned?

My march the simplest of actions

A living dead seeking the reminder

Of what warm, life’s blood still tastes like

Lean in

I’m so fucking happy

You’re not with me?

Here’s a joke to get you there

I’ll laugh the hardest

It makes it easier for you

But lean in

Listen hard

And watch my shifting eyes

I’ll laugh until I cry

I’m always envious

Of those who voice their pain

Who have no trouble bleeding

Each beat of heart

An arterial spray

But lean in

Listen hard

And watch hands limp at sides

This is just where they hide

I think—no…I know that if I start

I won’t stop until totally drained

Ready to be propped up

A formal way to hide

A much needed transfusion

Of formaldehyde

But lean in

Listen hard

Hands balled tight

I don’t even know how deep

The nails will go

I know there are limits

But is it a hardline?

Or does it shift by the moment?

Is it a mirage from heat off skin?

The glistening always moving away

With every step forward

But lean in

Listen hard

Capacity to reinvent identity

Means either all lies or nothing but truth

You can only describe the unknown

With commonplace words and terms

So I plumb this oubliette

With the span of your arms as rule

Because I could only ever trust mine

When I matched another’s tip to tip

But lean in

Listen hard

Because the mirrored fragments I steal

I give back with the only fingerprints

That truly promise identity

Lean in

Listen hard

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

Institutionalization

Institutionalization is the couch indent

It’s feeling so at home in our thoughts

We miss our depression when in remission

The stability of groundhogs day

The stability of groundhogs day

The stability of groundhogs day

It’s why so many of us finally give in

Just as the right medication kicks in

It’s too much too fast

It’s questioning it all from the cocoon

Then finally getting our wings

Only to fly high enough to plummet

Don’t get me wrong there are bars

But the day comes when they change

They no longer hold us in

But keep the world out

It’s that movie where prisoners are freed

Walking out into the sun they are blinded

The light actually causes physical pain

It’s more than just getting used to

It’s more like getting dependent on

We desperately need a sense of control

In this chaotic world

Whether we find it in bed in a dark room

In the bottom bunk in a 6 by 8 cell

At a mindless, unappreciative job

We know exactly what to expect

There are very few variables

We are the water that Bruce Lee speaks of

Desperately looking for a dusty cup

That’s rarely removed from the shelf

Maybe it’s all shades of grey

The varying degrees of sadness

Before we step out

Into the blinding light

We should take the trip slowly

From the depths of the pitch sea bottom

In a kind of decompression chamber

That trickles the light in, in degrees

So by the time we breathe fresh air

We won’t recoil in pain from the sun

This birthing in dimly lit room in a hot tub

Life is harsh…take it easy on yourself

And ease into it

Somnambulant Explorer

I’m investing in Tesla to test out my toughness

I divested in diaries to skip out on dowries

I spun all the muster and fuss of the spinster

I’m a mister who missed her so I could ration my minutes

Fingers outstretched I fetched the gold band from an old hand that lingers

Searching for answers I’m lurching at dancers

This middle earth dearth was worth all this curse

I’m resigned to decline the divine if it means less time with my kind

I try to master my mind faster, a spell caster lost in time, a bastard

I’m just a sleepwalker, a mumbling talker, who dreams of being spoiled, you see, living off book royalties

“Hey, beautiful!”

It’s all too easy to boil it all down

To take a lifetime of experiences

And throw it away like a grocery list

Not even the items anymore

Not bread, milk and eggs

Just a piece of crumpled paper

It’s easier to throw away like that

Junkie, tweaker, or drunk

All ways of seeing a person

Seeing them as crumpled paper

Ready for the trash can

I thought this way, like many

The path of least resistance

It hurts knowing I’d been that way

That I’d given up on people in need

My moment of awakening was gentle

At first

Then it hit like a hammer to the chest

We had become foster parents

A shirttail relative in need

We’d care for her little girl

While she worked on herself

How could she?

Was the question that burned in my head

I took the human away from her

With every thought

I boiled her down

Then, when I could throw her away

This little two-and-a-half-year-old

Beautiful, cheery, little girl

Upon meeting me for the first time

She reached up

Held my face in her hands

Her tiny little hands

Moving in little circles on my cheeks

She looked me in the eyes

A smile of beautiful acceptance

Beaming from her face

And in her tiny, cooing voice

She said, “Hey, beautiful!”

She said this three times.

After the third time I’d realized

She was telling me what she’d heard

Probably every day of her life

From her mother

That’s when the hammer hit my chest

Her mother wasn’t crumpled paper

She was more than I could imagine

Most important of all things

She was…is a loving mother

With this painful realization

I came to understand

All peoples with substance use disorders

Are worthy of our kindness

Of our acceptance

Of our love

It was a painful realization because

Because I had to look myself in the mirror

I had to weigh myself

To see how I’d come up short

I’m still working on me

Trying to be better than who I was

Day by day

I smiled and walked outside

After she chanted the incantation

The third time

And I cried

Just as I cry now

In the remembering

“Hey, beautiful!”

We’re the very words I needed to hear

Whether you’re fighting battles

That no one knows about

Or you’re following the easy path

Know that you are worthy of change

And that you’re beautiful

“Hey, beautiful!”

Am/Is/Are

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Masturbation is the frantic scratching of a phantom limb

Happiness is a momentary suspension of clear sighted realism

Unconditional love is antithetical to survival due to loss of self

Politics is a real life Plato’s cave and we are the prisoners

Money is the mortar we use to build walls out of our insecurities 

Kissing grew from chewing food and passing it by mouth to our babies 

Dilated pupils are attractive only because we see our attractiveness reflected

I’m a dog who only wants to be petted but was taught to smell cancer

And I’m just sitting here trying to figure out why I cry watching Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams’ character says, “It’s not your fault.  It’s not your fault.  It’s not your fault…”

Embolism

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Homeostasis is the yin yang of energy exchange

          The lighter goes out and the needle sucks up the amber

Equilibrium is a parasol in the hand of a tightrope walker 

          Through a cotton ball filter

A random number generator built from the algorithm of ginger ale bubbles 

          He was either new, careless or greedy

Two imperceptible bubbles combine and wink into existence 

          Maybe all the above

The paper thin walls allow the oxygen to pass into capillaries 

          When he drove that spike into his hungry vein

He said he knew frogs breathed through their skin

          He forgot to tap the syringe and plunger out the air

Because they died from the gasoline before he could get the lighter lit

          Before the high had time to hit he watched a clear section slide up his arm

He remembered a science experiment with celery and red food coloring 

          Frantically he hammered on his arm with his other hand

The celery looked like it had blood running through arteries 

          Hoping to break up the large bubble into much smaller less lethal ones

All the talk of good intentions were folly in his eyes—be the change

          Brain spinning like a top thinking death was nigh

He was steeped in class struggle and was an activist through osmosis 

          Two imperceptible bubbles combine and wink into existence 

Breadth of Existence

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It’s in the valleys and the coolness of the shadows that I’m held like an infant to breast, nestled in the crook of an arm. The colors are bled to grays but the air is thick and damp. The smell of decomposing leaves and pine needles is a long remembered lullaby that ushers me off to a torpor only found in the middle of a fairy ring. Don’t despair for me, though…my friend. As I do, on occasion, climb my way out of these valleys. And when I do summit the peak, surveying the landscape about me, I see the colors of the world in a depth of saturation few are privy to. The emerald green of the canopy and the azure of the midday sky taste like mint and saffron on the tongue, while the sunlit clouds hum an aria whispered by angels. Alas, I can’t exist long on the mountain’s thin air, having become accustomed to the valley floor, so even the most wondrous ascents come to an end with the setting sun. Even weeks after returning to my valley and it’s muted colors, I can taste the sky and canopy on the tip of my tongue. This carries me through. 

Why?

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Scrimshaw your pedantic lessons

On my bones

Repeat yourself until the cilia 

Of my inner ear

Lay flattened like clear cut forests

And I lose the frequency of you

Then teach me how to read lips

Use white chalk to outline

Those of use who question you

These cookie cutter outlines

That cleave away the useless bits

Leaving a homogenized army

Of trained test takers

Who have forgotten to ask why

Who believe our only choice

Is blue versus red and left versus right

But it’s really you versus us

Keep haves having and the nots nodding

I’ll admit I’m a square peg

My corners rounded off over the years

But know that the bits of my soul

I sold at the company store

Were just to fulfill Maslow

So my mind could break through

Your prime time television programming 

Your Monday night football frenzy 

Your rally to condemn the kneelers 

Your lack of televised coverage

Of Dakota Access pipeline 

Of #NeverAgain marches

Of the tear stained faces being deported

My rounded corners belying 

A sharp mind that looks

For shadow-dealers

Behind every choice I’m spoon-fed

That’s covered in KFC breading 

A mind that looks for subtext 

That questions everything

The mind…of a poet