The Game of [Loss of] Life

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I do not like to play games
Sometimes it’s a distaste for the rules
Or I’m immune to feeling
The wings of levity that comes with
A round table discussion about nothing
But mostly
I don’t like to lose
And I don’t like to give up
Because to give ground to either option
Is to give ground to defeat
And the feat of that I might concede
Is more than I’m willing to allow to proceed
Beyond the guarding gates of my ribcage

But I’ve
Lost so much it feels, so many times
That I have to pretend I’m made of matter
Just to prove I exist when I look to the mirror
So I can feel like I, y’know… matter.

And I will fight until the very last note
Tangled in my vocal cords to avoid it
Like the time I showed up at a friend’s apartment
Red-eyed and tear-cheeked
Trying to imagine that he was still alive

A bottle of this and a broken blister pack of that
Double double toil and  trouble
You should never chase death
With a bottle of No-Doz
Because he calls you in your sleep
So when expelled the contents of his stomach
You could hear the reaper unhook his scythe
From under those ribs
Where it was written, the name of the girl
Who had taken his heart
On his ribs which resonated empty
When his heart kept beating.
Dark room and dim lights painted ghosts
on his high cheekbones in the wake.
Loss of the will to survive
Is to hollow out your chest
And surrender its contents to the sun.
Cursing God for your dilemmas
Son, God grieves with you when you lose at losing, too.

And there’s the piece of me I lost
The I hope I never find again
And that’s the naïveté of thinking
Everything’s gonna be alright again.

You can learn to lose, or
better phrased
Learn what it feels like to lose
So you can sense it in every movement
Of every person you’ve ever
Wrapped your heart string around like a last
Ruffled the secrets woven
In the strands of your hair for
Made copies of keys to your hopes and dreams
But when things start bursting at the seams
You will feel its clarion call
Your balance will become shifted
And you will always let the words
“It’s all my fault” rest heavy across your shoulders
Even if you’ve written fiction
And the ghost you thought had crossed over
Is merely obstructed from view
If only everyone knew
How heavy the cross
Is to lose.

Like when I lost the person
Who taught me the literal meaning of the word
LOVE
She inscribed it upon my sleeve
With my broken heart they day she was gone
And now I can’t erase the three words
She’d force me to say
In her voice
And I can’t lose them. I can never lose them.

And then there are those who are still alive
Who chose to step away into a dusty country sunset
And left me pondering loss
The meaning, the weight, and the taste of it
The iron in the blood, the grit of sand
Wind tumbling lightly against my face
In painted stone valleys that burn red in the sun
I have lost you somewhere and I don’t know
When
or
Why
But I’m trying

And if I gain nothing
I’ll still count it all as loss.

The Crossing

Nighttime. Pitch black.

No light except a lone halogen bulb mounted on a hanging fixture above the door of a small storage shed. Its corrugated steel is dusty and slightly rusted, its single window, security glass with wire webbed between the panes. The grass rustles in the wind with the dark night back drop. No stars. They’ve been blacked out by the dust and clouds and the only sound left is the whistle of the wind and the grass being caught in its breath.

One hundred and eighty degrees from the shack and a few steps away are steel tracks. They create a crossroads here with the dirt road rarely traveled so the only warning for the oncoming engine are yellow signs on opposite sides of the tracks and road with their backs to each other. Like guards they man their post and only waiver slightly when they are blown upon by the mouth of the clouds. They are marked with dents from slugs and hollow point bullets from guns fired by the residents nowhere near here who find entertainment in destruction of property knowing they’ll never get caught in the country.

The gravel on the road opposite the shed crunches. Two feet in leather boots make strides in the direction of the tracks, purposeful but obviously in no hurry. The tops of the boots are covered by black work pants, up to a t-shirt covered by a black cloth jacket that covers him down to mid-thigh. His hands are in his pockets and his eyes are fixed on the tracks. His eyes are cold and analytical like that of a snake as he comes closer and closer to the tracks, leaving footprints in the dust which will be forgotten by the morning.

He stops with his toes against the rail and looks down for a moment. He can see the affect of steel upon steel in streaks of reflection against the long metal rail. He lightly kicks his toe against it just to feel that it was real, that it was solid. Then he bends down and puts his ear to the steel and listens for the vibrations of an oncoming engine, barreling its way towards him. All he hears is silence.

He rises to his knees and reaches inside his pocket. He produces a carpenter’s nail he’d pulled from a two by four surprisingly straight and holds it to the light. The tip creates a pinprick of light. He palms it and pulls a picture out of that same pocket. He looks at it for a moment with the same cold analysis that he did the crossing. There were memories there but they’d long since been rendered neutral if not turned to ice in his mind. The wind picks up momentarily, causing the tall grass to whisper unintelligible secrets to him and the picture flutters against his knuckles.

His brow furrows and he looks down at one of the wooden ties, then back at the picture and nail. He kneels down and holds the picture to the surface of the tie with the tip of the nail and produces a claw hammer from his pocket. He nails the picture to the tie with some effort as the wood is old and knotted. He stands up, observing his handiwork, tilting his head to the left and then to the right. He looks up to see a light in the distance and he stares at it as it gets closer.

Its horn blows.

He turns to face his accuser straight backed and solid like the signs to his left and to his right. His spine is made of steel and his eyes are floodlights.

In one fluid motion he hurls the hammer in the direction of the train. He takes a deep breath with his eyes closed and his head back, inhaling the smell of dust, steel and country grass as if it were the fragrance of a flower. His head levels out and his eyes look straight forward. It’s coming closer still and it blows its horn. He looks down to the picture nailed to the tie, breathes from his ribs, brings his eyes up, then back down again. The eyes in the picture look, unchanging, right back at him.

“Goodbye,” he said.

He steps off the tracks and into the night, the gravel crunching under his feet. He barely feels the wash of the train careening by.

In Bright Red

You must understand
I am not an artist
at least not in the
conventional sense or
as limited as my talent
gets.
The magic weaving of
a brush across an empty
canvas was never gripped
between my bony hands
and I could never
work well with
coordinating and
uncoordinating color
because of my
own sense
of blindness to the hues
that get planted
on yer pallet.
So, understand that I am
in awe of what people can do
with a simple stroke of a
brush to their chosen
medium.
My mind never really
worked that way.
Though I can see vivid
technicolor nightmares
that tear holes in the fabric
of my thoughts
I could never find the right
way to translate them to paper.
The old cliché is that a picture
is worth a thousand words.
I think I can honestly, and with humility
claim that I’ve gone far and beyond
that number and I don’t think
anyone really gets it.
You can’t get inside,
in between these temples
and see what neurons firing
violently can do.
The color red is most vivid
in my dreams.
A red so powerful and bright
you could say it was almost
ideal.
When it fell upon the shoulders
of a black dress it was
like a bomb exploding in my
retinas
even though I wasn’t
really seeing it.
And then again, the black
against the paleness of the walls
to where the skin of arms
almost fades into the skin of the wall.
And the color only becomes more striking
when surrounded by
gold, black and bronze clockwork
ticking away her steps as she
added the distance between us
and my hope was subtracted
from the moment but…
With such vivid colors,
my mind must have become preoccupied
because the thought never crossed my mind
whether the color would come back or not
and I woke before I could find out.
And when dream becomes reality
I realize it is time that I hold fast to
what I have and to the hope
that when colors are painted
on the inside of my brain
only to be let loose on the
white of a page in black characters
that while my nightmares may come true
the reality of the situation is,
I must maintain grip on hope
that my dreams may see the light
of the canvas yet.
In bright red.