The presence of a certain person
Will misfilter and cross paths
With my senses and I see
Pigments of my imagination.
They call this synesthesia
And it happens to everyone
From one sense to another.
I guess I’m just blessed
With an unending pallet of colors
My mind uses to paint your presence
In an otherwise
Dull and grey canvas.
I can still place your
abstract brushstrokes behind
My emerald green to sky blue eyes
And they burn as brightly
As neon bar signs.
Not for the first time, probably
But for the first time I can remember
Your colors dulled and detached
Like someone scraped the paint
from the walls we all try to escape
From the confines imposed by life
to wide open spaces
Where freedom is mural of chances you took
And for a moment I couldn’t lay my hands down
to find the crack in this plaster cast memory
Until I saw the colors fade
As you flipped back your head
in an intimate kiss with glass
As you upended a temporary lover’s body
Mouth pressed against his
You spun the bottle ’til it landed on you
And you prayed with lips as saints do
Communion wine without the sacrament
Is just wine
As you took the blood down until
Your colors dulled as time and abuse make them.
I am not a teetotaler, a movement in temperance
My words are not that of judgement or prohibition
As my heart war drums my sternum
Snare strung with anxiety and sadness
Because this subject is not pen and paper
Because my heart is not dull to the pain that it senses
I wish my anhedonia would come with a side of numb
But it doesn’t and so I worry like I’m human
I sense the prickling of something beneath the haze
And I want to understand it but
I’m admittedly afraid to ask
But my family’s past is a lead weight underneath my brain
It reminds me it’s there every time I turned my head.
Let me tell you something.
My dad, a railroad man at the time
Made off and out too often with a bottle of whiskey
Drinking straight from the open container
Imbibing alcohol like life-giving water
Only this water went stagnant and poison
As it ate holes straight through his gut
Ulcerated and rotted, his stomach
bled from its protective lining
eaten away by time
As he exsanguinated whole bottles
Into his stomach
Sometimes, it seems, masking the pain
Is a genesis for more:
An equal reaction.
And then again,
My grandmother was a fan of 7-up
As long as it was coloring a glass
of Canadian Club Whiskey
Chased with pain killers, opioids
Pills she spilled into her hand to kill
Pain she claimed she had from knee replacement
And a metal rod fused to her spine
Sit up straight and the things you swallow
Will go down just fine, won’t they?
Her body took the abuse
like a clay pot buried under
years of past regret
The pressure of a husband who
Barely pretended to give a damn
And so she drank.
I remember one time I drank from a jug
Because I thought it had water in it
On a hot day in the sun, that was welcome
But when the liquid touched my tongue
I spat it out like words of disgust
I was not old enough then to draw up.
Candy is dandy if you like the taste
You’ll spit out liquor quicker
If you’re not expecting the burn.
Self-medication led to deterioration of her body
She couldn’t tap her body into a wall without
Blood oozing up to the surface of her skin
Dying her skin in patches of black
Hematomas look like leprosy
When you accumulate enough.
These are not scared straight stories
Just context of someone who’s worried
And while I realize I may be blowing things
Out of proportion or misconstruing the evidence
I cannot unsee the vibrant evidence
That you are more than what I see
When you absorb that bleach
And you fade like a sunset into the clouds
of the nighttime.
Truth be told,
Because I feel like I’m the only one who sees it
And I’m not here for guilt or shame
Just can’t be the one to enable any pain
And I want to ask you just one question
It’s stuck in my mind like a nail
Are you happy?
Because it feels like you aren’t you.
And it’s hard to miss someone
When they’re right there in front of you.