A sadness spell.

Close the blinds in my room
Blackout curtains drawn against the gray
Morning light greeting the world outside
Last night, the hands of the clock hovered at 2 AM
For four hours straight
I’m on my lonely bedroom bullshit again
Spirit whispers scratch pen to paper
A poem written to no-one and nothing
Save for the safety of locked doors
Shelter found behind four walls
A monument to empty rooms

A recurring theme, for sure
I just need the quiet tonight
With the sound of East Carson
Ringing in my ears for hours
After I punch the clock

The smell of smog and exhaust
Coats my throat
Sticks to the inside of my lungs
I love this city, or I don’t
Or I like it as much as anything else
That passes for home these days

I fear the cold hand of death reaching down to collect
This tired body, sending it on its way
To greet the heart I long ago discarded
Visions of the end
Out here on the pavement, alone
Crushed under under the tread
Of indifferent wheels running
The race to nowhere fast
A casualty cast to concrete canyons
With those mountains so beloved
So far gone to shadow
Of memory and time running low

Pedal to the pavement, anyways
Playing the odds
It’s the end of days
Or so they say
And nobody can think
Of anything better to do.

Falling Asleep to 1990’s marketing Extravaganza Dick Tracy

The plot isn’t much to speak of
Scattered and hard to follow, but the colorful and garish
Sets, they just soothe the edges of my soul
Eyes adjusting to the darkness ahead of rest

I might always live like
A faceless wraith stalking my way
Through the avenues and alleyways
And haunted spots of anytown, USA

I liked that about the movie
How those obviously painted hulking
Concrete and steel monstrosities
Static and frozen, yet still somehow in motion

Could be a metaphor for the underbelly
Of any city, the concrete canyons of New York
The cold labyrinthine streets
Carving the wastes of Chicago

Okay, those are actually the only
Two cities that come to mind
When I think about just where
“The City” might have been based on

Not nearly enough sunshine
For the soulless sun soaked streets of LA
But I’ve always been such a sucker
For a hardboiled detective anyway

I love the two-dimensional villains
Out to get theirs at any cost
All physically deformed and amoral
Impeccably dressed in tailored suits all the same

After a day’s worth of eating shit and air pollution
Cutting two wheels across cold pavement
For a hundred bucks and some exercise
Knees that creak and wrists that ache

I think I understand
Just how busted hands
Could reach for a gun
Trading the violence wrought

On aging bones
Through toil and exhaustion
At the end of every workday
For the violence of

Striking out into the cold
Of this heartless world
To take what’s rightfully yours
Instead of what those hogs at the top say you deserve

So meet me tonight at the docks
Underneath a yellow moon peering
Indifferently though the smog
Down at streets seeped in soul and sorrow below

I’m a sultry songstress
Bruised but unbroken, just like you
Always on the same side
With a loaded .45

Pressed against my thigh
Sticking to circles of streetlight
Until the hour arrives
To slink back into the shadows

Of The City and strike
Out at its black heart
Because in this life
There are hard truths they teach us

Before we can even grow
First and foremost
We come to know
That only suckers fight fair

Divination I

Tonight I’m a screaming skull
Filled with racing thoughts
Sheltered in the silence
Of these four walls
Hidden, always hidden
From the world outside the window

The gray and the rain
Remind me too much today
Of the that place
Home, never quite a home
But close enough for half a decade

I left it all behind
With no small amount
Of shadow songs and regret
The great loves
The half-friends
The gossip, pettiness, the cruelty
An insular (cult)ure
Of curated disposability

Back against the wall
Turning away from the crowd
Never knowing just
Who to trust
Waiting by the phone
For calls that never come
In the company of
That damp cold that
Seeps into your bones
The nights spent
Hungry, paranoid and alone

The world revolving around
That tiny town
Feels such scripted
Pageantry now
All the young rebels
Marching up and down
4th Avenue playing their roles
Under careful control
The cops crack skulls
The kids slink home
Sedate for now
While the wars
(all of them) Rage on

My first day of driving
I pulled off the highway
Somewhere outside of Spokane
I cried for an hour like that
While semis sped past
Letting the last five years
Pour out of me like a hard rain
Washing over the rumble and roar
Of that long road forward, searching for safety
Then I drove to a motel
And cried the night through

I thought about turning around then
Maybe this was all a mistake
I thought to myself
With a motel room television flickering
Soundtrack for panic upon panic piling
Up to the ceiling

Wondering how to make
A city born without a heart work
Maybe I didn’t swing hard enough
Dig in, stay long enough
Carve a place to belong
In hell’s gray mouth
While the years bled from one into another

Maybe if I had just found
A room that had ever let me rest
Found a way to escape the circle chase
Of low-intensity class warfare
Finally thrive instead of just survive

Our goodbye was tedious, at best
Going through the tired motions
Of burning love I’d long since
Grown cold towards
A kiss goodbye
The words “you’re killing me”
Pressed sadly against my lips
The hard as nails awareness
Of just how softly love
Melts into cold indifference
Or mere curiosity

I read in another poem once
That the recipe for murdering
Someone is as follows:
Kiss that person
Then never speak to them again
It wasn’t the intention
But it was the outcome nonetheless

You made a joke years ago:
“I can’t wait to see what
You write about me when we’re done.”

Well, love
Here you are
This is your poem
An afterthought to an epilogue
For something else
A shadow of a shadow

An ode to cities that
Never quite lived up
To the promise they held
Communities that care forgot
and love left to rot.

Divination II

Back then
I took my sheets
And my blanket
To the laundromat
Washed them
Clean on heavy soil
With a handful of salt
To dissolve
A summer’s troubled sleep
Seeped in sorrow
And restless ghosts
Getting this tiny room
Ready to welcome you into my home.

I loved you
The way a
masochist loves the wound
They feed and feed, never
Feeling like the world would be enough

Within six months
I threw all those sheets away
Scoured my room of anything you ever touched
Burned all the photos
Tore out every page
Sometimes it’s just best
To let the memories fade
Like some loves are better born to early deaths.

Said a long goodbye
To hollow lives
And nonchalant lies
Dropped out of playing
Audience to your one-way race from this life

I wish I could say
There weren’t times
Where the vicious games you played
Didn’t have me throwing my arms
In the air and succumbing to hate

Goodbyes are hard like that
Closing chapters
For stories that never
Knew quite where to end
I mean
They all end in death
Eventually, anyway.

It’s the slow hours
Out in the cold
The weeks, months
And years that end up
Passing in a flash
Before that fearful
Leap into the dark

That I don’t know how
To make sense of
Digging years’ worth rot out
Of a heart, stalled out
At the crossroads somewhere
Between calloused and careworn

I don’t hate you
Not really
It just got to a point
Where kindness and patience
Felt like trying to offer
Comfort to a creature
Addicted
To the sound of their own death throes
Trying to claw my insides
Out on the way down
All the while

Love is easy
To leave
Lying bleeding
This time around at least
A sad song played on repeat
Dancing to the beat
Our parents moved their feet
To before we were born

I knew in a sense
That we would be parting ways for good
Dropping you off at the airport that day
I merged back onto the highway
Headed south in the sun
And didn’t look back
Off to better things, I guess
Or at least different ones.

I don’t know
Where you are now
And I can’t say
I really even want to know
But I hope you’re well enough
And have found a comfortable
Place to wait
For that long shadow to fall
I hear you calling sometimes
From across a void of soul
And I will never answer

Someone who knew you once told me:
“I don’t believe in evil, but if I did
Well, she’d fit the goddamn description”
Maybe she was right
Maybe she was wrong
Maybe you were just playing the part
Always the star of your own
Resounding contrived tragedies
Falling to your knees
At the center of the stage
Sickness and suffering, the best of your offerings
To every person who ever loved
You and tried to help you back from the abyss

My hands scarred to the bone
From holding on
Trying to offer a lifeline
For far too long

We will not meet again
Except maybe in dreams
Even that much contact
I think I could go without

I opted out of
Tender tomorrow mornings
And the feel of
Your sleepy hand on my back
The breath of your
Want slipping sweetly
From your mouth
Down my neck

I was a sucker
For the sweetest lies
And the cheapest lives
Lived in the hollow heart
Of the woman I once knew
Or maybe never knew at all

But I know where now
Stories should end
Or at least where characters
Should gracefully bow out

Some shadows
You just gotta let
The people you love
Face alone
Lest they swallow you whole
As well

Saving yourself
Even when it feels
Like you lost
A part of your heart
In the process

I’m not mad
Not anymore
I miss you sometimes
But I’m glad you are gone

So I keep my candles lit
Tonight I’ll whisper
To kinder spirits
Speaking of holy forgiveness
All over again
Before slipping off to rest.

Highland Park, 7:29 PM

Molly texted me just as I was walking my deliveries into the Shadyside gym.  She heard that Keziah had passed away and wanted to know if I had heard anything.  I checked my social media and found the same sad news Molly had seen.  I didn’t get the chance to take a writing break while riding my routes, but I thought about Keziah for the rest of the day.  Molly filled me in on the details gradually.  Keziah died alone in her room from a heroin overdose.  Not an unfamiliar ending, as far as punks go.

I turned the tragedy of dying young, yet aged beyond your years over in my head, and felt that same anger I have felt so many times before at the news of so many other dead friends or acquaintances.  I forgot a pickup and had to race back out to South Hills and missed most of a work meeting.  I was embarrassed, but didn’t care much beyond that.  Now I’m home, and I’m trying to remember everything I thought about on my routes.

I know I saw Keziah for the first time in the fall of 2006, when Lizzie and I were traveling together and rolled through Denver.  This was back when Molly was a substitute at that weird charter school and Keziah was one of her students.  She had just left home and was set to ride trains with a dude I had encountered and got bad feelings from earlier that spring.  I remember Emil, Sean, and Teal were sketched out too.  Lizzie and I tried to talk her into not taking off alone with this dude, but Molly ended up giving them a ride out to the yard later that night and told Keziah to keep in touch, and call if she needed help or money to come home.

I can’t remember exactly how that story ended, but I don’t think it ended well.  That dude is dead now too.  I can’t remember his name, but I remember hearing he was shot to death in New Orleans a few years back.  I just counted.  I know five people who have been shot in New Orleans.  One who survived.  I still have never been to that city, and doubt I will ever go at this point.

I know I saw Keziah again, and if I’m placing the time right, it was 2008, the summer I was 27.  I was back in Denver for a month hanging with an old friend while she was pregnant and sleeping on a couch in the suburbs, in a sleeping bag that still smelled vaguely like diesel fuel from Lizzie’s and my previous trip, no matter how much I washed it.  I’d go downtown to hang with Molly and other friends when the suburbs got to stifling.  I think Keziah was dating that guy Sal by then, a charming and sociopathic seeming fuck up who rarely stopped talking.  I remember that summer was also the last time I ever saw Mike Brown alive and all of us hanging out at a sketchy ass crashpad across the street from the Wild Oats where I had worked for a few years, and then was later “banned for life” for allegedly shoplifting

Molly told me later how her and Dustin had let Keziah and Sal live in the basement of their house.  Their fights got too brutal (I’m putting it lightly here, and maybe skipping some details that aren’t mine to repeat anyway) after a fight that resulted in a bunch of broken windows in the house, they eventually left.  I don’t think Molly ever saw either one of them again.

I saw Keziah a few years later after I moved to Olympia  At a crust show at Crypt.  She was with Maria, who told me she had moved Keziah out to Port Townsend with her to get her away from Sal.  I meant to say hey, and then a fight started with some army dudes who had wandered into the bar and were getting too aggressive on the dancefloor.  I sucker punched one of them.  Shit popped off and I remember seeing him push Andreas against the wall in the dimly lit back room of the Crypt.  I saw distinctly his hands at Andreas’ throat.  I ran across the floor and aimed a punch square at his kidneys.  I remember everything moving in slow motion, running up and realizing how big this man was.  I felt my fist connect, and to be honest, I don’t even know if he felt it.

The trouble cleared out the door and they went across the street to McCoy’s.  I lost heart for the show and slunk back up the Puget Street hill to my basement room and my books and my dog and my cat.  I didn’t say goodbye to anyone.  I never saw Keziah again.  I saw Sal on 4th Avenue some weeks later.  I remember wondering with a slight distaste if he had followed Keziah out to Washington.  He said hey and I remained neutral and didn’t say much.  He handed me a zine and I took it, only to throw it away as soon as I had walked another block.

I never really liked that guy.

I listened to the news on my routes all day today.  So much intense rhetoric coming from the right about the coming civil war if Trump gets impeached.  Some people have been talking for a while now about how we’re in a cold civil war, waiting for the first shot to turn this shitstorm hot.  Trying to catch my breath n the Alley just on the other side of Negley Avenue today, it’s hard to not think those motherfuckers are right.  I guess I’ve been feeling that for so many people across the world, one war or another since before any of us were ever born.  There’s soldiers, there’s casualties, and there’s fucking profiteers.  Today, dodging in and out of traffic and ticking down miles until I could ride home to my old lady dog, I kept thinking about Keziah dying alone in her bedroom with a needle hanging out of her arm while the Sackler family are secure in whatever compound they call home to keep themselves safe from the rest of us.

And I want to hack these motherfuckers to pieces and set their bodies on fire and allot their fortunes to healing the epidemic they have profited mercilessly from, that has been decimating the poor for decades, and put so many people in my community in the ground.

I remember trying to help another friend kick junk, a few years back now.  I remember sitting in my too cold living room calling support line after support line, just trying to help find them resources.  The walls we kept hitting felt like some maggot’s idea of black humor.  Someone got it in their head to make the hellscapes we call cities and the drudgery and toil we call work so unlivable and impossible to extricate oneself from that so many people will be literally dying for a taste of escape, then to make sure they will never escape from the escape.

And I get it.  I can barely go an hour without looking at my stupid phone.  Not that these fucking cancer-making nightmare rectangles provide much escape nowadays.

I remember trying futilely to beat back my busted teeth at 23, before I lost a shit ton of them to car wrecks and rot (also a case of a lack of resources).  I went to the hospital in my city and told them I was homeless and had a tooth infection (both more or less true).  An overworked doctor gave me a bottle of antibiotics and a bottle of 30 hydrocodone, the number to the dental school across town, wished me luck, and sent me back into the snow.  I washed the pills down and walked back to the house where I was crashing.  I remember clearly the beautiful, washed out numbness that followed as the drug began to diffuse through my bloodstream.  I can almost taste it writing these words now.  I laid in a friend’s bed and listened to a tape of Amebix’s Arise LP and thought to myself:  “I get why people get hooked on this shit.”  I even remember recording notes of what I was feeling in my journal of what I was feeling.  I wondered if this was what so-called “normal” people, who live with the luxury of not feeling this world’s dizzying joys and crushing horrors, so hard and so fast, and just so relentlessly felt like.

And I think about the brutal unfairness of this world, what it’s done to my friends, and how we are among some of the luckier people making our way through this this thing we call late capitalism.

And I think my lifelong best friend Molly summed it up best, talking about Keziah:

“Keziah got handed a heap of shit in her short life and when she needed to, she gave it back. She was resilient, defiant and curious.  May she rest in peace.”

 

 

Brookline Avenue, 4:05 PM, 89 Degrees

Cut through a small, well-kept pedestrian alley at the end of my route, where I am sitting to write this now.  There’s a door in the middle of this alley and steps behind it that go down into some restaurant that isn’t open right now.  For whatever reason, I’m imagining it as some sort of jazz club, the kind that might have existed in the 30’s.  Did they have jazz out in the suburbs and small towns in the 30’s?  I really hope so.  I am still feeling waves of jittery energy from that hippy meth coffee and then the kombucha on top of that.

Right before I turned into this alley, an old man stopped in his tracks on the street to stare at me.  Like, full stop, turned his head to follow me with his eyes as I made my way down the street.  I stopped for a minute and held his stare without breaking eye contact or changing my facial expression.  All the sudden, I felt like I was fifteen, turning heads at the mall.  He eventually started walking again.  I walked into the tanning salon to change out their posters.  It smells heavily of what I imagine is chemical tanning lotion in there.  The strange, orange colored women behind the counter are always very friendly.  “Just change out whatever you need, hon.”  My next stop was the pizza place that always smells faintly like rotting cooking oil, the kind Lizzie and I used to dumpster when we drove around the country in that fucked up diesel/veggie oil truck/money pit that I couldn’t even keep running for longer than six months.  The contrast of smells from tanning salon to pizza shop is always nauseating.  I feel a headache coming on.  Too much coffee.  Not enough water.  Too much sweating the precious fluids in my body out in the sun.  As I was walking over here I heard a woman yelling at two kids on BMX’s.

“If there’s a problem here, we can call the cops!”  She said.

“No problem.  You don’t need to call the cops” said a scared looking boy who couldn’t have been older than 12.

What is it with middle age that makes someone so cop-happy?  Seeing that interaction reminded me of the time Mike Fleetwood and I were bored when we were 13 on a lonely small-town Saturday night and wandered into the Shrewsbury Family Restaurant – I think it has a different name now, but it was the closest thing to mom’s house where there might be other people. If I’m putting the time right, my father probably would have been dead for a month or two.  I know it was still cold out.  If I recall, we were lurking around behind the diner, just childishly wandering around.  Somewhere back around the front, a woman came out and confronted us:

“What are you two doing?”

“Uh.  Nothing.”  I remember saying, with my eyes directed towards the frigid pavement.

“Well, I’m calling the cops!”

I remember thinking what a rapid and unnecessary escalation that exclamatory statement was, and that the last thing my mother needed to deal with was my being driven home in a police car.  I turned and ran and Mike followed.  We cut through yards and made our way back to my mother’s house, where we hid in my room probably watching movies or whatever for the rest of the night.

Two short years later, a different Saturday night and Adam and I were bored and maybe high on dirt weed or Ritalin. We walked to the diner in the cold and empty night, smoking cigarettes and talking.  I had a mohawk and Adam had bright blue hair.  We sat down at the counter and asked for a cup of coffee.  The manager on duty told us no service.  The place was dead.  There weren’t even other customers to offend with our hair.  We got up to leave and the server behind the bar told us to sit back down and she would get our coffee.  She went back in the kitchen to get our coffee and we could hear voices raised, but never knew quite what they were saying.  We drank our coffee and left, tipping as graciously as two broke fifteen-year old’s could.

It’s weird what you think about.  I want to get home to my dog.