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.

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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that seemed so outdated and made for yesterday.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.

Fugue

There was rain in the desert
when chattering thorns and crooked teeth
parted to talk about the last time
we went to see the ocean.
(Or that we never made it there in the first place.)
Too many cold days make up the stretch
between this world and that shadow;
that echo, that infernal, eternal ivory-stained edifice
where
going once, going twice,
three times,
soul-
(Or whatever we call it these days.)
all of those cold days are inchworms
just wriggling spendthrifts
digging through the guts of the world.

That rain turned to ice as it hit the sand
and the wheels turned and turned
digging deep, deep, deep
down into the aching flesh of soil
as we tried to pull ourselves out.
Maybe we did in our own separate ways,
going our own separate ways,
and spending our hard-won separate days
that neither of us
could imagine that we would have had
when we started driving through the ragged sand
(varying amounts based on state of sobriety, naturally)
a thousand years ago.

The car stalled somewhere south of nowhere.
We left the keys
and walked in opposite directions
looking for gas, a ride, a tow, whatever.
Did either notice how far we’d walked
away from vows and oaths and promises;
we would need passports to see how far
the other had gotten.
And the days had gotten too cold for travel
and the endless empty road had become
a vacant mole hill which was perceived a mountain
that made the slightest insurmountable.

Those wriggling inchworm days came digging down
and buried themselves in our skin,
knitting and stitching and twisting deeper
until we were tethered so tight
that there was little to be done to escape.
The car had stalled;
the days were too cold;
the excuses became too hard to break;
(as they often do)
and finally, there was little left
save our endless numbered days
marching away in unison
under those soft beats of rain
that chilled, shiver-skin, left void,
with no road left to follow back.

Roller

in my prison oranges, i’m shoved into an occupied cell.
two men are lying on the bunk.
the guard tells me to put my bed on the floor.
and closes the door.

the white guy in the bottom bunk rolls over.
he extends his hand.
i take it tentatively and shake it.
roller, he says, like holy roller.

i notice a bible on his bunk.
that up there is jose, he says.
the man in the top bunk says nothing.
don’t worry. we’re not going to rape you, says roller.

just stay out of my way and i’ll leave you alone, he says.
somehow this is possible in a room that’s ten feet square?
if you need to shit or piss, hang the sheet up, he says.
and if you have any extra food, it goes to me, he says.

sure. sure. i lie down on my bed. it takes up the remaining walking room.
if anyone needs to use the toilet they’ll walk over me.
the lights are always on the in the cell.
i can’t imagine what time it is.

maybe it’s morning? maybe it’s the middle of the night?
when the lights go off outside the cell
i hear someone distinctly
an unmistakeable sound that echoes down into my cell

screaming. screaming.

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