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

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 brilliant 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.

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