in which i seriously consider vats

i can’t stop thinking
about compression;

about how when you’re standing
on your feet all day they swell
so you lay yourself down
because the idea of pressing
blood against meat against bone
of pressing against the bone
on the bottoms of your feet
is unbearable
so you stay down
and discover the pressure
has just shifted to your back
to your legs to your ass you get
fat you get bedsores and still
wherever you’re making contact
there it is, pressing, so you stand
and then you realize this is it:

i have to shift this weight — i will
always have to shift this weight;

there’s no avoiding it; it’s unbearable
if you think about it too much,
and what is too much? any much.
but you have to work you have to
press something against something
in this life this compression you have
to have a job you have to struggle
to eat you have to age you have to
watch people fall away you have to
shift that weight you have to
walk out into the world

you just have to.

but maybe if we were wealthy
we could commission a vat
full of special buoyant liquid:
a vat to suspend us
and we could live there and work
there and fuck there and eat
there and get out for tolerable
jaunts on our poor compressed
feet then run home and jump

(oh sweet freedom,
sweet airborn bliss)

back into the vat.

but my make-believe vats i know
are for make-believe people — rich
people — and we sick must stand
or lie down or squirm; we must
shift weight we must press meat
against blood against bone
we must press against the bone.

and let’s be honest:
even were we wealthy,
make-believe people,
we should not live in vats.

vats are not the solution.

wild with the okayness

Percy Wakes Me (Fourteen)

Percy wakes me and I am not ready.
He has slept all night under the covers.
Now he’s eager for action: a walk, then breakfast.
So I hasten up.  He is sitting on the kitchen counter
__where he is not supposed to be.
How wonderful you are, I say.  How clever, if you
 __needed me,
____to wake me.
He thought he would hear a lecture and deeply
__his eyes begin to shine.
He tumbles onto the couch for more compliments.
He squirms and squeals: he has done something
__that he needed
____and now he hears that it is okay.
I scratch his ears.  I turn him over
__and touch him everywhere.  He is
wild with the okayness of it.  Then we walk, then
__he has breakfast, and he is happy.
This is a poem about Percy.
This is a poem about more than Percy.
Think about it.

–Mary Oliver, Swan


comedown sunrise sickness

There was a decade when I only saw
the dawn (that livid blue sky those
pastel pinks and yellows that searing
fresh white sunlight) when I had
been a bad boy; when the drugs
had run their course and anxiety
had spread her wings to rise in full,
to whip and rule the comedown. Those
were bad nights, bad mornings, bad
signs in the maze of that wreckage.

Born blue-eyed and squinting,
I’d always been by nature
a sunset colors kind of boy —
a moon and stars, a fading out,
a darkening down to crispness,
starry night relief kind of boy.

Now that I’m sober I’m not quite
the night owl I was but neither
am I getting up early.  It’s hard to tell
when exactly it is that I live.  I know
it’s better; that I live without excuses
and without hangovers, with less guilt,
less waste, without comedowns —
But for all its saddening sickness, all
its anxiety and loathing,

I never see the sunrise anymore.

And guilty now I miss coming sick
out of the darkness on some empty
rooftop with fear on my mind, confusion
on my lips, throwing skinny arms wide
(fingers shaking in the spreading light)
in pain and rage and sudden stillness,
to embrace the fact of my life.

it touched and passed through

When I think back on Tanzania
(on us and you and me and that)
it grips me again the old feeling;
all my ribs crush inward, I feel
the pain squeeze tight and biting.

But I don’t live in that feeling
anymore I learned I had to pry
myself away or die of disfunction
and I’ve grown so far and fast
it’s been a reincarnation; I don’t live
in that feeling, not anymore,
but I can — all it takes is reaching
back for it, because it’s there.

I know it’s a myth, I know that;
and the pain was so fucking hard
to let go, it was everything
I had left. Now most days
are calm struggles, peaceful
strain, you know? Familiar.
Most days are good days;
yet the pain is always there,
when and if I reach for it,

and I do — Because, because,

Because although this love thing
is a myth it’s only actually a myth
in the specific in that now it’s gone
and gripping it was gripping death.

But love? Sweet sentimental love
is not at all a myth itself — once
it was not even a myth for me;
it was once a self-evident truth, real
as the soil is real as real as anything
has ever been real altering everything
it touched and passed through.

If I take the pain out now and then
you’ll have to forgive me, because
though I and everything have changed,
though you and everything are dust,
though our myth itself became death,
before that death it was joy and after
joy it was love and after that love
itself had faded to myth it became
this sweet old bite of pain again.

And I suppose I’m sentimental
(and more than a little self-destructive)
but every once in a while I take it out
and set it on the floor of my mind
and stretch my hand out towards it —

— and when it bites me how I smile,
just happy that it lives.

dear broken friend

Publicly fund your elections.  Alpha children wear grey.  Publicly fund your elections.  They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever.  Publicly fund your elections.  I’m awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard.  Publicly fund your elections.  Most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and never consider revolution.  Publicly fund your elections.  Think different.  Publicly your elections fund.  What’s in your wallet?  Wait, hold on.  And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas.  Elections your publicly fund.  Gammas are stupid.  Publicly your fund elections.  Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children.   Your elections publicly fund.  It melts in your mouth.  Epsilons are still worse.  Not in your hand.  Your fund publicly fund.  One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.  Have it your way.  Fund publicly your fund.  Can you hear me now?  Elections fund elections.  A diamond is forever.  Don’t leave home without it.  Fund your fund.  Fair and balanced.  Like a good neighbor.  Wait.  All the news that’s fit to print.  Impossible is nothing.  Don’t be evil.  Please wait.  No more tears.  The best a man can get.  I’m sorry.  I’m loving it.  It’s everywhere you want to be.  Just do it.

a dream within a dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow:
You are not wrong who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand–
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep–while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

-Edgar Allen Poe

i went fishing with my family when i was five

I can tell you what good art isn’t:

It’s nothing pro-forma.  It’s nothing rote, or trite, or usual.  It’s not hollow, or false, and good god, it isn’t easy.  Is it this?  I don’t know.  He’s obnoxious, I’ll say that.  Also weirdly compelling.  It took some nuts to stand up there and continue droning into the silence after the last wave of nervous laughter had passed.  After a while you have to accept that the message isn’t in the words.  Have a gander, I’ll wait:

So, then, what is the message?  Maybe something is wrong, hidden beneath the drone, something that can’t be said.  Maybe it’s a zen koan, a repetition that breaks the words down to their component nonsense, which is important, here, because…?  I mean, it’s effective, playing on discomfort in an Andy Kaufman manner, but after the novelty fades, is there anything behind it?  Form trickery without substance is a hallmark of onanistic academic poetry, and it really fucking bothers me.  Was this poem successful art? Was it good?  Man, I don’t know.

Did it make everyone there uncomfortable?  Yes.  Does it have value beyond that one-off discomfort?  Eh.  Is bald discomfort, in and of itself, interesting?  No.  Yes.  Shit, I don’t know.  Would I enjoy seeing it live?  Not particularly.  Did I post it on the bindle and write about it?  Yes.  Does something generating discussion mean it has worth or merit?  Not necessarily.  Did it make me think about the meaning and definition of art?  Sure.

But hell, look, here’s the point:  It’s okay to giggle!  It’s okay to smile!  It’s okay to not be so gravely serious and competitive about art all the time!  Art exists solely and exclusively to explain and enrich our lives.  That’s it.  It’s not about money, or fame, or critical acclaim; it’s about solace, and the thousand roads to joy.  This entire droning poem, more than anything else, is a joke.  It’s a very silly joke.  Just because they stopped laughing doesn’t mean it’s not funny.

Was it a good poem?  God no, it was an awful poem.

Was it successful?

Oh, art.  You make my head hurt so good.

Next Time Let’s All be Landscape Architects or Something

Being a poet has nothing to do
with writing poetry. To be a poet
you just write poems, any poems
and there you go. All that’s left
is finding your adjective: Trite
or amateurish or pathetic or sad
successful or forgotten or unknown
or vain or desperate or the best
poets know this is subjective
and irrelevant but also too that
there is something objective here.
First you must write, that’s true.
Second you must fail (in public
repeatedly, I know, I’m sorry).
Third you must quit and live again
with new eyes. Now I wonder
if she still gets out of the shower
without drying off and leaves a trail
of wet footprints — Who can follow
such vanishing points? All I know
is being a poet has nothing


to do with writing poetry.

the dancing of the lumps

In all the wends and winding ways
(the castles of our pride)
we used to bend and bind the days
the past we sent won’t stay away
__and coming home it sighed.

When we the lumps who want & dwell
(within the sad inside)
upon the stumps of trunks that fell
dance and sing again we tell
__the fire that we lied.

Because at last we had to look
(when hope at last had died)
into our glass with hands that shook
(with eyes that hadn’t cried)
we saw the love she came and took
__and somehow
we survived.

sometimes i get so tired of staying home

so i went and stood out
there under a streetlight
by the graveyard wearing
my blue shirt and khakis
as i said i would

he pulled up and idled
i got in and we drove
aimlessly for a while
talking to be honest
i was having a hard time
making eye contact

eventually he parked
in collegetown and said,
“alright, now i’m going
to walk you just walk
behind me.”

and so we walked
like that weirdly
far apart and silent

it was collegetown at night
so we passed a lot of people
and he stopped a few times
and just stood there all crazy
waiting for them to pass

then again at his house
he froze all fucking crazy
as a housemate appeared
at the front door he ran
instead around back
motioning me to follow
to a door to the basement

and it was a fine offer
but i dunno it just
didn’t feel right

so i said, “psst, hey!
psst, hey! i’m going
to keep walking.”

and i kept walking
past his house
down the hill
and home

all in all somehow
it was a pretty good night.

princess and the pea

“Upward, but not

-Edwin Abbot, Flatland

something’s not right
princess and the pea
it keeps me up nights
something’s bothering me

please turn off the lights
please close your eyes
find me with your hands
we’ll climb the night sky

i don’t care if it’s real
’cause i got to love you
but sometimes it feels
nothing human is true

something’s not right
it’s not what it seems
this life in the light
is too pretty to be

 the weight of each day
waking up to the dread
all my awful mistakes
i’m alone in my head

in this beautiful world
i only want to be kind
you can lean on me girl
i’m not losing my mind

but something’s not right
princess and the pea
it keeps me up nights
something’s staring at me

please turn off the lights
please close your eyes
find me with your hands
we’ll climb the night sky.

on remembering to look up

So the bindle is two years old today.  How about that?  When it was born I was living on wasabi peas, drinking myself to sleep every night on a mattress on the floor of a bare room.  These words and sounds and images were a desperate attempt to communicate with a world that didn’t particularly care.

But life is a wild thing.  Perpetually shifting and uncertain, each fading sunset could be replaced by literally anything.  It’s so god damn beautiful — casually, constantly, like it’s nothing.  Whenever I remember to pick my head up out of myself, there it is:  so vivid, so bright, so saturated with light and sound and sensation.

Sandwiched between billions of years of darkness and endless nothing, this tiny riot of existence is unbelievable.  Some days it’s so much I can’t stand it.

Some days it’s hard to be a cynic.

Joshua Clark Orkin

Listen, Please Listen — It’s In There With You

Oh little one, locked away
with such lovely distractions,
in the bone box you built
by yourself. You’re not safe
in there anymore, can’t you
understand that? You can’t
hide from the world inside
your own head, it doesn’t work
like that. There’s still time, love,
and light, love — Come outside
yourself, please.  It’s not safe.

“The devil said, ‘I’m a dream, and you’re alone…'”

to my wife – with a copy of my poems

I can write no stately proem
As a prelude to my lay;
From a poet to a poem
I would dare to say.

For if of these fallen petals
One to you seem fair,
Love will waft it till it settles
On your hair.

And when wind and winter harden
All the loveless land,
It will whisper of the garden,
You will understand.

Oscar Wilde


[…]Secondly, I come to the more painful part of this letter—your intimacy with this man Wilde. It must either cease or I will disown you and stop all money supplies. I am not going to try and analyze this intimacy, and I make no charge; but to my mind to pose as a thing is as bad as to be it. With my own eyes I saw you both in the most loathsome and disgusting relationship as expressed by your manner and expression. Never in my experience have I ever seen such a sight as that in your horrible features. No wonder people are talking as they are. Also I now hear on good authority, but this may be false, that his wife is petitioning to divorce him for sodomy and other crimes. Is this true, or do you not know of it? If I thought the actual thing was true, and it became public property, I should be quite justified in shooting him at sight. These Christian English cowards and men, as they call themselves, want waking up.

Your disgusted so-called father,





sometimes life is a sad mess

she left him and met me
when i was trying it alone
freshly sober and healthy
badly needing a friend

she loved him but actions
told her he was addiction
and she needed to escape
what he was and she did

how could she have known
hard drugs and his cancer
as we kissed would agree
to at last stop his heart?


Question and Answer on the Mountain

You ask me why I stay on the green mountain;
My heart at leisure, I smile and make no reply.
As peach blossoms drift down into oblivion,
I have a world apart that is not among men.

-Li Bai (701-762, Tang Dynasty)





(it’s not that i don’t like
poetry, not really, it’s
just that i only like
a very few poets).

i only ever dreamed of you

how would this world appear
if human sexuality were only
an annoying itch to scratch?
what would we aspire to?
what would our incentives be?
would we have ever built
the pyramids? notre dame?
rome? would we have had
an inquisition? a holocaust?
an apollo program? a mozart?
how are these things related
to sex? how is this shitty poem
related to sex? will you fuck me?
do you want me yet? wait don’t
pick him please i’ll do better
than this i promise here i will
distinguish myself here look!
fancy plumage! there! can i stop?
for fuck’s sake i never dreamed
of building pyramids anyways.

for we are so clearly delicious

when the aliens land at last
to ask humanity honestly why
we deserve to exist here why
we shouldn’t just be removed
from our verdant kingdom why
we wouldn’t be better served
with wine for we are so clearly
delicious done correctly why
we shouldn’t be kept in cages
too small for bodies from birth
in darkness shot with steroids
genetically altered for growth
until we’re pressed to the walls
of our cages and our legs break
beneath great bulbous bodies
and we collapse but can’t fall
so we scream please release us
and pray waiting for the light
at last blinding then followed
by the slaughter sweet escape
into freedom from a life grown
worse than death when the aliens
land at last to ask honestly why?
what have we added to existence?
in our panic we’ll say compassion
and they’ll cross their squid arms
and we’ll show them efficiency
and they’ll eye the strip mine
we made of earth unimpressed
so in desperation we’ll come
to what’s beautiful and lacking
the means to explain it we’ll turn
to our artists help them up
brush the mud from their eyes
and say sorry we’re so sorry
and ask politely to be saved.

give it back

i remember my first question
at the eye doctor’s was,

“is there a chance
it could get better?”

and he looked at my mom
and they both looked at me

and then at 8 years old
they told me the truth.

this has something to do with capitalism

i was on your side so why weren’t you
on mine? oh we’re adversaries? fine
art will stay zero sum if there’s only
enough space in our people’s collective
wallet and attention for one i pick me
oh don’t give me that look that thing
to review that work of not-yet-rejected
-a-thousand-times freshness that gasp
for praise when what you need is bitter
medicine to swallow for me it’s a lose
lose either way if it’s terrible i become
the bad guy if it’s good i’ll resent you
your effort and dedication your talent
is a detriment really resting laurels
so often catch us staring it’s the doing
the failing and the doing and the dying
to do it until it happens there are zero
child prodigy writers get wise i worry
that we like being artists affecting art
more than actually making it markets
set our values ranking pieces against
pieces turning artists into rivals for
what? fame? praise? the prize is to live
this life like a dream like a fairy-tale
creature who’s not forced to concede
the summation of a life in market value
my value makes me eye all you assholes
with dreams with suspicion why is this
so complicated? why isn’t there space
in our people’s collective why don’t you
make your thing and i’ll make my thing
and then we’ll have two pretty things.

all my peers have careers

to be honest i’m terrified of life
slipping away while i’m hiding
from people the eyes the fear
the manic conversation my voice
saying love me! the same way
to new people love me!
projecting insecurity praying
that a life out here dying
on the front lines of refusal
to compromise with anxiety
is somehow worth it to try
to be great enough to make it
something more than a cycle
of base desires and fulfillments
to be more than a slave to a life
of least resistance frustration
becomes doubt becomes failure
to try–to be honest–i’m terrified.

Running in the Rye

“Get a job, you lazy piece of shit,” said one poor man to another.
“I have reservations about this system,” said the second poor man, “and I’m mentally ill.”
“Too bad. If you don’t grow the GDP, you don’t get to see a doctor,” said the first poor man.
“No, that can’t be right,” said the second poor man.
“Yeah,” said the first poor man, “It is.  Put your head down and quit asking questions. Grind it out like a man.”
“Who benefits from my doing that?”
“You know,” said the first poor man, “I’m not sure. Probably some rich guy.”
“So why are you yelling at me?”
The first poor man wasn’t sure. He remembered someone on TV…

Running in the Rye:

we focus on the shiny things
your girl she needs a diamond ring
get a job the caged bird sings
if you work hard you can be king
(throw it all away)

go to work and punch the clock
swing your pick and break the rocks
beat your chest and grab your cock
don’t ask why the doors are locked
(throw it all away)

we based our lives on older men
who worked and drank and had us then
spent their days wondering when
life would finally come for them
(throw it all away)

it’s quitting time you’d better go
home you married her you know
pop a beer and watch the snow
you’ve already seen this TV show
(throw it all away)

joshua clark orkin


i wish this story were different

“I wish it were more civilized. I wish it showed me in a better light, if not happier, then at least more active, less hesitant, less distracted by trivia. I wish it had more shape. I wish it were about love, or sudden realizations important to one’s life, or even about sunsets, birds, rainstorms or snow.”

-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Website Powered by

Up ↑