Oklahoma

there was a fire in my belly like bloody gold
the day Oklahoma receded into memory
like barbed wire to soldiers and prisoners both
like flaming whips of fire to speed me on
with Saturn as my guide –
and the moon shining overhead like a bloated queen
culling the sky and calling me through
burning tiny towns away in my wake
I traveled through desert
shrub
mountain
vale.
My boots moved one thousand miles from
chill to heat to chill again
as I lay my head in a mountain town
while the singer on the radio keeps singing-
“am I strong enough to start again?
all will be forgiven.”
And I sing along with perfect cadence
to serenade that bitter, bloated queen
to chase the better one that waits for me.

I hate you, Oklahoma.
I hate you for the friends you took from me
for the mentor that died in your arms
for the truth that I wanted to find
at the bottom of every whiskey bottle
but instead found vomit and piss as my bedsheets
head aching like a freight train rumbling through –
ribs aching like I fought a hundred men –
and I hate you for the pills –
all that valium, vicodin, xanax, oxycodin and worse.
But I love you, Oklahoma.
For the family you gave me unthinking
the ones you didn’t take away
that showed me a better way than a revolver
pressed straight above my ear
to paint the wall Navajo orange.
Am I strong enough to start again?
All will be forgiven.
I’ll sing it and believe it –

Because when that family who bears you
and the family you choose later
lifts you up to the sky and pushes you on
to better things
life isn’t going to let me down again.

Post-Ictal Blues

I’d sleep but I can’t sleep.
Racing thoughts ache to wrench me
from restful slumber
from dreams of
…what?
Probably best that I don’t remember.
If I took my Xanax could I sleep?
If I took my Xanax…
If I, if I, if I,
“Why do you think you had a seizure?”
I don’t know, Doc.
Probably because you loaded me up
with enough tramadol to
kill
a
horse.

Or at least tranquilize one.
After all – that’s what it’s used for. Right? Right.
So, maybe you should feel like
your body is on fire
every fucking day.
Or you can’t think of one thing without
thinking
that same thought over and over and over and over and over.
Let’s trade for a day.
Then you might give me something
so I can go back to sleep.

Bukowski said:
“waiting is depression. We spend our lives waiting
to sleep, waiting to wake up
waiting to eat and then eat again.”
Well, Chuck. My body sings that intrinsic.
Because every night
from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.,
I’m waiting to sleep
and from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m,
I’m waiting to wake back up;
it would be rest if I could
feel it.

At least when I was drinking
I never had this problem.
It was always the morning after
that caused the most trouble.
I’ve decided that this is God’s way
of telling me that I need to get back on the bottle;
it’s a good thing I never
believed in God.

Right?

Right.

Addiction Dirge

Summer has closed her eyes
and Autumn’s drawn a wicked scar
across her throat and left me
to count five hundred days
with five hundred pictures to show my progress
or lack thereof.

The building collapses, the heat shakes the windows
as Winter dreams herself into a seizure coma
that rattles every glass in every cabinet
built inside of the head of every god
wrapped up in man-made packaging
and sold on the covers of magazines
while I count away five hundred days
times sixty divided by every time
that dark voice comes to sing inside my head.

Where are you going, what are you doing
who are you, what will you say next
and the whisper comes fast and slow and
there’s no day left to count.
Every day turns to night that bypasses
the slow decline of Winter into Spring
with bloodloss and a lack of inspiration
that doesn’t dwindle past the bleak desperate
concocted careful lies that live behind my eyes.

As I count each picture of every day
five hundred times in shadow withdrawal
speechless and breathless and timeless
and I run with my hands bound behind my back
and my legs tethered close together
my skin a Pollock, my face a Rembrandt smile
that never seems to fall off the face of
every angel and every angle I’ve ever cut
to reach the destination that leads to ruin
discarded packs of cigarettes and empty bottles
five hundred days wasted on five hundred
pills broken down to bear me to
five hundred and one.

Sediment

Never again but always ever is never enough.
There’s three crosses in a pattern on the wall
broken up by empty space and
in that space between are sixteen pieces
of sixteen stars
naked and cold and frostbitten.
It hasn’t lasted a day since August
came and went, came and went.
Heads or tails drove me west and east and west again
which brought me down a broken highway
bloodless and calm
with the rest of myself scattered to the winds —
cherry on a cigarette.
Each nightmare driven deeper like a passage
long since left alone to filter
and burn like scraps of paper caught in a marching breeze.
In a symphony of empty space
calls the clarion wild clarity that escapes
each quickened vein that pulses
with both agony and ecstasy
through sickness and in health
till death makes me part.

Aside

Lethe

I drove down to the river one day to watch it
and think those sullen thoughts
that seemed so outdated and made for yesterday.
Each varied attempt to disappear
makes it that much more difficult to return.
I waited for the water to trail past me
and imagined the water,
close enough to reach,
but too far out to see.

I waited there: alone, watching, silent, hiding.
There had been a time when I had attempted
so desperately to save my own soul
by professing a quiet prayer to a noble calling.
And from this, I received such congratulations
that perhaps were not my due;
why congratulate someone for saving themselves?
The world keeps spinning dizzy in the dark.
The only difference was
I wasn’t spinning along with it.

That river kept on, kept on, kept on.
It twisted and arched and turned and sighed
and I felt like a voyeur;
I watched something that I had no right to see.
Each unbidden, unwanted thought surged up
enough to make me wish that the Willamette
was the Lethe.

Expectations

The tide rose
and was a bloated harvest moon.
It swept in to push and ebb
at the quiet rock
seeking to etch its way in
inch by inch
foot by foot
until it dug a hole so deep
that it could live inside;
larva eating away
at the walls
that strained and struggled
to ignore the tide
and carry on.

Stolen Memories Rarely Make Good Anecdotes

I rarely conferred with the devil regarding the times.
Perhaps out of fear of my own mortality,
as I could see the slow twist and turn
that age would make on my own body
I tried to take the crown as best I could
and had failed, miserable and defeated
left in the mid-autumn mud
that had spread out under my feet.
I could have asked; I could have gotten advice
and refused.
No more stale cigarettes in rotting cars
that sat in dilapidated parking garages
while the devil dispensed wisdom
whether it was all a lie or some observation
made from personal or fabricated history.
I had no time for that, or so I told myself;
maybe I had no desire to hear it any longer.
most likely, I had no more reason to prove myself
now that the obligation
that made me prove myself in the first place
had been cast aside
with little more than derision and scorn.
Confiding emotion in the devil
is like throwing cards into a hat–
and about as fucking useful.

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