If Wishes Were Horses I’d Have a lot of Glue

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I have walked the right side of the tracks
For as long as I can remember,
Or at least I tried.
My virtues and convictions
I carried in a messenger bag
Draped across my chest and shoulder
I kept my head down
Eyes pinned to the eyes and edge of the rail
Stepping out the way of the trains
And other drifters along the way
Because it’s easier to keep everything to yourself
And wear it like a sash of honor
Even though it’s more like
The weight of a thousand fallen stars
I may have wished upon and caught as mementos
Along with eyelashes I caught midair
And a million timepieces
Stopped precisely at eleven past eleven.
I keep a tab of the money donated
To the water of the wishing well.

Yes, they are all mine
And they never came true.

I stared into the eyes of the moon
Reflecting its glow from my own
Sleep-deprived, night-dilated craters
Wondering if, at that moment,
You’re absorbing the same
Inverted face that’s casting spotlights
Against my retinas.

Even if you are
It’s not the same star we’re wishin’ on.
Reflections in rain puddles are distorted
From stepping on what I see
While someone is painting a clear
To the finest detail,
Maybe chiseled out of stone
While I fall apart like clay.

I am a coward of the worst kind;
The one who cradles his heart
With a death grip
Who fears that at any point letting
Anything slip
Feels like a breach of etiquette
And I avoid step aside for the head-on,
The heart-to-heart collisions
With eyes to the moon
Or down at my feet

It’s just easier to walk through life
Never knowing.
Even though I tell myself I do.
Either way I walk to the office
And sit down and listen
Avoiding what I’m really thinking
And then I go home screaming
This one was mine
And it never came true.

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 Chemical Process that Causes Colors to Fade

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Sometimes…
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.

Listen.
I am not a teetotaler, a movement in temperance
My words are not that of judgement or prohibition
Listen…
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
In anyone.
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
Then again
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
Hemorrhaging.
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
With handle
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.

Understand.
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,
I’m afraid.
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.

Bullets, Busted Glass, and Stones Thrown Dot the Question Mark.

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We have these questions we ask each other
Which should often have meaning
but have been relegated to nothing more than
Sympathy cards with signatures
A cause for which we don’t expect the effect
As almost on instinct we vomit niceties
And polite inquiries like,
“How are you?”
“How are things?”
“How have you been?”
Never really expecting an answer
beyond the mask of sincerity
Where our tongues tap
The polite hair trigger
Of insincere sincere questions
Never expecting that banal projectile
To strike a wound
Like we’re all bulletproof
With social norms and expectations
To keep aches and pains
staked to the ground and chained
Connected to the guard dog-eared pages
Of our heart-felt yearning for honesty

We all long for honesty
But it’s too difficult to put the phrase
“I’m fine,” or “I’m good”
under the microscope to see all the
Captured thoughts and injuries used
to draw up the letters
And strike up the percussion of
the lips, teeth, tip of the tongue
that construct the truth behind those
crammed into those loaded words, “I’m fine”.

The truth.
None of us is fine.
The crooks of our mouths
Illustrate the lie of levity fabricated
But our brows bend like bows
The kind that fire arrows
And so the question is begged from the corner
Where I’m standing watching your spirit
Fall crooked, face in hands
Buckle under the question
that I just gotta ask

“Are you happy?”
Answer me honestly.
Tell me why that face succumbs to gravity
When you think nobody’s looking?
Like you push so hard against the rocks
In that glass you’ve pressed to your lips
Kissing goodnight inhibition
So you can behave like the same animals
Who talk like humans with liquid giggles
Like bubbles floating to the surface
To barricade the way for your heartbeat
to make an exit.
Instead only letting the pulse of two words.
“I’M-fine… I’M-fine… I’M-fine… I’M-fine.”

This infrequency of transparency is a sin
Even I’m guilty of
So I understand better than most the reticence
To tell the truth in lieu of a two word lie
The inconvenience of laying yourself out on the table
Is someone will take a part and break it to shards
Like we were never made from anything other than glass.
So, I understand.
But I can’t watch this dance you do without sinking.

Time alters even the most solid of stone
I just happen to be most resistant to erosion
So, when I see pieces of people chipped away
When I don’t see them and then see them again
That distance creates an irreversible change
But then again I wonder if that’s true.
I once could say to someone, “Yes I knew you”
And perhaps that hasn’t changed entirely
But I wish I knew.
“Are you happy?”

I don’t know.

Parallels of Elmer’s Glue and Mortar

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Look and you will find.
What a lie.
Look for what you want
and you will find
an orchestrated assembly
of pinball machine parts
and others’ broken hearts
held together by the spit and dirt
They were dug up from.

Why is it so difficult for me to breathe?
Like when people think they’ve found the answer
they’re, somehow speaking for me,
Shuddering shoulder shrugs is all I see
when I look ’em through crosshair-covered pupils
And ask ’em what I look like
As one individual brain among these
All looking the bullet in the face
And me with my shattered teeth grin
from the collision of life
the smile I left behind with the shards of my teeth.

Sometimes the pieces are easy to find
And maybe broken things can be put on the mend
Maybe they can.

It doesn’t take reaching out far and wide
to open spaces, new places, new faces
with indecipherable tongues, or maybe just
patterns spit out thick enough to mortar
the bricks they’ve kicked against their own existence.
It doesn’t take a building collapse
to rip the breath from my lungs
It doesn’t take a ton of bricks to crush my chest
and shatter me into bone-dust and confetti

So, when I say self discovery is not always
a long distance journey
I mean it.
All it takes is a laser-guided strike to a vulnerability
to render you to so many pieces and fragments
And being reassembled by the turning hands of time.
And when that time is up, when the alarm
richter scales the walls
I hold my breath to see if the glue and pieces still hold
Sometimes it shakes loose pieces I forgot existed,
Struggling to find that one spot in the expanse
of my existence where it fits,
or doesn’t,
and I look at burning it down and tossing it to the wind
Over my right shoulder
Like it’s bad luck to spill yourself all over the floor
by accident or by someone else’s agency

But I don’t believe in luck
I believe I rebuilt myself from the ground up
but I am still busted up
The ceramic laced with gold
to make my imperfections glow.

This is the Facebook post that triggered this piece. I seem to only be able to write in the moment if I can write at all.

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“I am so lucky…”


I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across a graphic featuring Neil Hilborn and a line from his poem “Joey”. Button Poetry was featuring this piece it seems.

Some might recognize Hilborn from his bone rattling piece, “OCD“. If possible, this piece hits far closer to my chest. Because I’ve had my version of Joey. More than once.