in the quiet after all

i kept getting asked at work
are you okay? of course i
said well it’s just that you
are sighing a lot they told me
oh i said then a manager saw
my cv and asked what i was
doing working at a coffee shop
and if i still spoke languages
and i thought of everything
i had lost when someone
asked why i don’t drink
and i said substance abuse
cost me my only friend
and a house and a kitten
in east africa but even then
i knew it was only a symptom
not a cause i can’t remember
ever truly being happy
except with her and that
was over before it ended
in madness i wouldn’t let go
until it soured and we died
utterly exhaling as i poured
a woman’s coffee and asking
if she needed space i wanted
to die then i think and i sighed
and it was raining outside
and a lone drop went running
down a leaf by the window
falling perfect to the pavement
to explode as all the pressure
was suddenly unbearable
i breathed it in and held it
there behind the coffee counter
looking out the window hoping
this storm would slow and pass
and in the quiet after all
that helpless pain a sunset
would hug the evening sky.

on waking up to barren trees

so it’s been feeling a bit
out here in the woods
like some kind of pact
was enacted in secret
against me for reasons
i was never informed

not so much a conspiracy
really more like a carelessness
in common everyone forgot
to tell me they didn’t care
anymore because they didn’t

but what if it was a mistake
and suddenly it’s all
oh shit!  you’re that guy!
where have you been hiding?
here’s your money let’s go
get coffee and find arts let’s go
to shows and eat brunch and
fuck and be friends these times
are cyclical you survived
it you’re back!
welcome back!

well anyways
i’ll make my arts
and hug them tight
when it gets cold again
out here in the woods
i tell them everything
my arts my little lies
my little friends.

alternating sips

i will be cold
as a village housewife
who knows winter
who knows what to do
when her bitch has babies
i will stuff my memories
of us in a sack and drown
them like too many mouths
to feed i will drown them
myself in pussy and alcohol
alternating sips
i will be cold
cold as winter
cold as a village housewife.

even gentlemen have a heart

what makes that thing swing
to and fro up there?
_____the wind, that’s all
but what is it, hanging there?
an officer, a gentleman,
a doctor, a lawyer,
a professor, an engineer?
and why did he do it?
_____it’s our fault, all our fault
we humbled him
belittled him
we…
_____MADE HIM UNDERSTAND
that he was just a man
like us
like them
like you
like me!
but how’d ya do it, mister? hey mister!
how’d ya get up on
that flagpole there?
with a ladder?
through ambition?
or was it a bank loan
that got you there?
no, you’re wrong
_____it was love
even gentlemen have a heart.

lyrics from Poem Strip,

a graphic novel by Dino Buzzati

my people are full of light

when at last it starts to break
you my people the cracks
make it easy to find you
my people my broken things
i think you are not my people
because you are broken i think
you are broken because you are
my people because you saw
what a life could be because
people are always failing
you my people the breaking
makes it easy to find you
fading finally as the night
takes you in its smooth arms
leaving only the colors
in your widening pattern of cracks.

a capital letter and a period

when you first summed up
all your past relationships
in single sentences
i cocked an eyebrow
that better never be me
i said don’t you dare
do that to me i am more
complex i said we are more
complicated than a single
sentence and a period
but of course you did
and of course i am
and i know it’s because
of the great bad thing
in your long ago i know
it’s survival summing up
to box away and put behind
the only way you can face
the present by boxing away
the past neatly in a sentence
a capital letter and a period
then putting it behind you
and i cocked an eyebrow
and i said that better never
be me but of course you have
a new guy and i’m boxed
away to forget and i wonder
if he cocks a brow at that
and i wonder what it was
you told people i wonder
what my sentence was
and i wonder if it’s different
when i slip off my period
escape my box in your bed
late at night when i wonder
if you know it’s a fiction.

you can have another

i don’t know what i became
but every day it felt the same
and every time my legs went lame
the only voice i heard was blame

shame had got me leaning over
puking out my guts a boulder
at my back to push it up a lonely hill
sisyphus don’t make a fist
just push it to the top and spill
my drink upon the burning bush
then drag my boy aloft to kill

 a sacrifice to vengeful gods
or angry priests at heads of mobs
and in the corner jesus sobs,
“lob your stones in my direction”
none believe since his rejection
of the fiction of human condition
wishing in one hand and shitting
in the other jesus, brother

i’ll sit down compose and grieve
wipe your nose upon my sleeve
and you can have another

jesus christ you best believe
that you can have another

the path above the stars

(ask the elders do the math
none return along the path)

land laid fallow moving on
to the brink and then beyond

pack your bags desert the base
set a hard line ‘cross your face

pass the oceans skip the earth
leave the land that lent you birth

walk the path above the stars
slip yourself between the bars

maybe there for all your talk
you’ll lose the track of what you stalk

and drift in darkness lost for good
reaping what you sowed and should

or maybe in that distant place
you’ll chance upon a lonely grace

and come triumphant from those lands
with something cupped between your hands.

venus once had a climate

it didn’t work out because
venus once had a climate
like ours because the sun
is dying and all will tend
to an isolated heat death
because we all die alone
and afraid in the end
because we got too heavy
into drugs because a bottle
by the bed and a bump
for breakfast meant sober
days waiting and fighting
because freak weather
events are occurring now
with increasing regularity
because cells that divide
too often will eventually
mutate and consume
us all in the end because
you didn’t love me enough
to be unhappy anymore.

my time with philipo

This video is a tiny slice of hundreds of hours, back and forth between Dar es Salaam and Vikindu. We made this trip over, and over, and over, and over again, the soundtrack to Drive on heavy rotation via headphones for a good chunk of it. As substance abuse and my relationship spiraled simultaneously out of control, existence in Tanzania took on an increasingly surreal and cinematic aspect. You’re getting an authentic taste here:  Me and Philipo, coming back from work.  We only ever spent time together like this, in transit for money, me speaking to the back of his nervous head.  In hindsight he was one of my best friends.

be kind, and i will tell you

Drunk as shit on rotgut whiskey on my rooftop in Taipei.  Drunk as shit and heartbroken and unable to cry.  Mired in dark things, doing dark things, being a bad person because I could, because it was available to me, hurting people who didn’t deserve it just to see how it felt.  Crying would’ve been such a relief.  Instead I recorded poems.

be kind, and i will tell you

meditations

“Remember how long thou hast been putting off these things, and how often thou hast received an opportunity from the gods, and yet dost not use it. Thou must now at last perceive of what universe thou art a part, and of what administrator of the universe thy existence is an efflux, and that a limit of time is fixed for thee, which if thou dost not use for clearing away the clouds from thy mind, it will go and thou wilt go, and it will never return.”

-Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus, Meditations

to make a morning

the little demons dance
their writhing orgiastic bodies
beating dark insistent drums
they rub their little bellies
sway suggestive little hips
faces red and ruddy in the flame

i made a flame

the wisps drifting tendrils
floating black and airy
light and airy banshees ever
screaming nightgowns
trailing skin of plaster
mouths a rictus screaming
screaming silent screaming

i made a scream

the fire is enormous
built of bone and love
and hope and fear
and death and pain
and lung and heart
and love and love
they exhort me, “jump”
they chant and, “jump”
they cry and, “jump”

it is my chant i made
a chant i smear the paint
i raise my spear i set my mouth
inhale and face my fear inhale
and i am brave and i am brave i run
and run i run and run and leap
lifting trailing streamers
clearing barely clearing flame
licking at my legs and landing
heaving burnt and smoking
still the other side alive

i made a hurt

and in silence then they wait
they wait for me to tend my burns
they wait for me to wrap my cuts
they wait in patience as i feed
the fire banking it still higher
until the smallest demon starts
again i see him mouthing,

“jump,”

he mouths and
“jump,” they say and
“jump,” i catch my breath
they beat the drums i roar
the fire roars my blisters

burn i am not ready
i try my little rituals
again i paint my face
slap my chest i try
and yet this time
it isn’t in me
and i just
stop

and look
it is no longer
night a warming light
has crept across the horizon
looking down i feel the grass
soft beneath bare feet

i wiggle my toes

i put down my spear
and a big demon comes
with a bucket of water i wash
the war paint slowly
deliberately
from my beaten body

and scarred and hardened
strong and melted somehow
inside i turn to the wisps
who silent grin at me
and the demons
they part for me to pass
and the fire of my 20s
settles into smoking ash
sending tendrils drifting
curling up into a pink
and orange morning

i made a morning

i am 30 and today
i will be sober.

well, it’s still good to see your face

it’s been over a year now
and i’ve had many lovers
since then that all together
can’t quite still the resonance
the severed synapses firing
memories blindly into blank
brain space echoes i thought
i was free but it came again
towards morning last night
it simply appeared
like the most natural thing
on a train in transit rushing
of course rushing but we found
time it was us we made time
to lean against each other
and though rushing as ever
we had time just to feel
our heads touching
so tender so sad you anxious
feeling trapped we understood
that it should not be here
anymore in my dreams

and like that
you were gone.

the last belief

It was nearly a decade ago at Bobwundaye, in its old location in Taipei, in the middle of a typhoon.  Katrina Ku dragged me up there, got up on a chair, and yelled at everyone to shut up and listen.  Then she offered me a shot, which I had to refuse because I was about to throw up.  When it was over I believed, if only for the night, that I was an artist.  Whatever bridge I end up under, whatever bottle I drown in, I’ll be forever grateful to her for that.

The packed bar was silent, the typhoon raged outside.  Everyone looked at me.  I said this:

the bene gesserit litany against fear

“I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.”

43. Poor little heart

____POOR little heart!
____Did they forget thee?
Then dinna care! Then dinna care!

____Proud little heart!
____Did they forsake thee?
Be debonair! Be debonair!

____Frail little heart!
____I would not break thee:
Could’st credit me? Could’st credit me?

____Gay little heart!
____Like morning glory
Thou’ll wilted be; though’ll wilted be!

Emily Dickinson

from mud, dandelions rise towards the sun

i once saw a little kid running
down the road with a saxophone
it was little, little kid sized
what a wonderful thing i thought
and i smoked as he ran on by
later i heard a little girl reading
a poem i wrote and it too
was little, little kid sized
what a wonderful thing i thought
and i drank as her little voice lilted
born pure up out of this world.

dream a sweet dream

living is a dream state dying
is waking in one awesome gasp
to that old endless place
of nothing and nothingness
forever but fuck it forget that
just remember that once
you knew it keep it hidden keep it
secret somewhere safe let it live
somewhere in you as the truth
we believe is the foundation
we tie ourselves to as we toss
in the stormclouds the line
that stretches back way back
all the way back to the truth
we believe in the bedrock
and up there freedom is slack
in the line and trouble is when
it goes taut but know that it snaps
if you’re not careful with the truth
we believe the foundation let it live
inside you for without it we’re lost
to reality lost in the end to the storm
to ourselves to what matters but hush
now forget it forget it i’m sorry go back
to sleep go to sleep go to sleep
and dream a sweet dream.

The Sun, Wind, Waves and Sand

big and fat with a floppy hat
obscuring squinty eyes
and a bulbous nose but not
the giant ears the sun is shining

unnoticed in big smears running
down his moley back un-rubbed
sunscreen the wind
is light and refreshing

ambling duck-footed
down the beach kneeling to inspect
something in the sand the sound
of waves is soothing

the belly folding many times
as he kneels the flabby chest
on display the sand
is soft and warming

and he came to this beach alone
and he laid out his towel alone
and now he is standing alone with
a spiral shell in his hand looking
out over the sparkling ocean

and God almighty,

what a Beautiful smile.

you know when you wake

you know when you wake
with that aimless drunk
you did something bad
guilt and your nose
hurts and you wonder
did i do drugs?
did i get hit?
did i hit myself
on something again?
there’s blood in my snot
in the shower though i think
this time it wasn’t drugs
i’m pretty sure i shamed
myself squinting i get hazy
memories of making out
with a married girl-woman
on the floor by her passed
out boy-husband hugging
a tub of wine i’m a mess
without you my nose hurts
and i don’t know why
my self-esteem ebbs and pulses
and swells and flutters
like a shaky heartbeat.

waking on the shore of some distant place

it’s all very simple to begin
you realize you’re floating
in blue sky and so be it but this
soon devolves into drifting
without tether or mooring which
is all well and good until a rumbling
begins behind you and you know
this cannot be good all this rumbling
behind you is growing and gathering
strength and collecting the light
from a sky growing dark as a panic
flame flares in your brain as that
rumble now roars and of a sudden
you’re swept up inside and beset
by great winds you can’t see
the world in chaos just watching
your little feet churn at the air

mad girl’s love song

“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”

-Sylvia Plath

these poems are crying

the fool road is one of such
rejection on rejection habit
can’t help but form to flinch
to withdraw not submit
to exposure i don’t submit
for publication anymore
and the full ride graduate
MFAs told me no, and no,
———-and no
and my ex-girlfriend
my lost love i reached
out for her in despair
despite knowing full well
what lay in that direction
i reached out in pain
and hope pleading for
something some solace
———-and no, and no,
and no, and no
and the shame from that
wasted weakness and work
a factotum at minimum wage
building other people’s slack
jawed commercial dreams
tried loving that work and no,
———-and no, and no, and
no these poems come out
to my horror not as i try
to live on a joke and a smile
for the beautiful absurdity
instead they come out
when i shatter as cathartic
lamentations when i think
other people would cry
i break and then leak
out this these terrible
poems are crying
my crying
forgive me.

to burn clean and shine

we were going out to buy drugs
walking hungover when a man
on the phone with two girls
skipping next to him said
off-hand, “hold hands
when you gallop,” and fuck
me they did they held hands
and galloped
and god
i thought exhaling smoke
that’s all i’ve ever wanted.

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