Twenty-Eight

Ugly people
Haunt you
Just enough
To remind You
The day you left them
Felt
Like a first breath
Back
From the shadow
Of the valley of death

There is magic
Living
Breathing in
In this world
I know this much
Is true
Too bad
There’s none left
Living in you.

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.

Untitled

12:42 AM
Drunk, but not too drunk
Just marveling at
The taste of alcohol on my tongue
After five years of
World crushing panic
Every time I tipped a bottle back

Lying in bed
With candles lit
My last great love’s
Scent lingers on the pillow
Long after the echo
Of their laughter
Exited the room

Lingering on
Like cigarette smoke
Permeating hair
Painfully aware
Of toil dragging a body down
Taste the weight of age
Gravity gripping my face
Fear the grave
Lick my lips
Taste a long kiss goodnight
With all the beauty and bitterness
Of mortality on my lips, still

For fucking fearless queer love.

queer bootyI wanted to send my sweetheart a cute selfie tonight.  We will not be seeing one another for a few days, and this is literally what I look like in bed, so I figured why not?  I look fucking good.  I’ve been feeling myself hard lately, and not ashamed to admit it.  I wore a ton of make up to the gym the other night, and chuckled internally just a little bit at the bros giving me a wide berth as I made my way to the squat rack with Black Sabbath’s Paranoid blaring in my headphones.

I’ve hit a wall with my writing the last few weeks.  I have two larger pieces in progress, and I just don’t know how to land the first one, and the second one, well some of the subject matter just feels so raw somehow to dive into fully.  So instead I write short poems, and read a lot.  I don’t do enough work revising pieces intended to submit to journals.  I keep meaning to, and I keep running out of time in the day.

I’ve been playing with gender expression regularly lately for the first time in a long time.  In so many ways it’s still such a strange and terrifying journey.  I grew up effeminate and sensitive in your slightly more homophobic and right wing than average family.  My lack of masculinity and sensitivity quickly made me a target for bullying, and soon after it made me a target for sexual violence when a few of the older kids in the neighborhood got me alone.

By the time I was seven, I was well on my way to learning to keep parts of myself cold and buried forever.

And those pieces of myself refused to stay buried.  For that, I am so, so lucky.  This isn’t to say I didn’t grow into one hell of a vicious streak, and that I don’t still have plenty of ruins to undo, but still.  I’m so blessed to not have a head that is entirely filled with bad memories and broken glass.  I’m lucky enough that I figured out how to not let my trauma define me.

I have spent my life surrounded by some of the most courageous and loving people on the face of this battered earth.  I don’t know how any of us could have made it through this burning nightmare that is the modern world without one another.

Middle school in the 90’s, and tough girls in combat boots taught me how to wear raccoon eyeliner like my idol Robert Smith.  When I was in high school, I played in bands with boys who cried, and crusty punk girls who punched nazi skinheads at shows.  I hit my early twenties and came out as genderqueer.  I wanted my gender to be total negation.  I didn’t want a gender at all.  I would wear all black everything, and keep my face shaved a smoothly as possible.  I learned to only share my body with those who I could actually be intimate with.  Nobody else deserved it, or could even understand this strange and distorted reflection I saw myself in.

When it was time to drop out of the rat race we’re expected to inherit when we get out of college as soon as I fucking could.  I hopped freight trains and into speeding vans with fearlessly criminal trans women who survived and braved lives that I could scarcely imagine on and off the streets while I was still dreaming of running away from Southern York County.

In my late twenties and early thirties, still trying so hard to live bravely through trauma and mental illness, I allowed black and white thinking to cloud my vision.  In this world supposedly without boundaries and binaries, I still found myself feeling as if the world held no place for me.  Maybe if I tried harder to squeeze into a binary, it would.  I would identify solely as a transwoman.

That part, I don’t really want to talk about, aside from noting that my exploration of this identity led to the worst mental health crisis I have ever faced in a life that has been well, kinda filled with mental health crises.  It took years to pick up the pieces and get back to where I am right now; which is living relatively comfortably in my occasionally made up and lace adorned skin.  While existing in this gender fluid space with relative ease, I also I live in awe of all the courageous, creative, and criminal queers that came before me.  The trans women, the gender benders, the fags, and the dykes that fought and died so I could be right here.  I think about the QTPOC who threw bricks at cops a decade before I was even born, and live with a lack of privilege that I can scarcely comprehend.

Thank you.

I’ve rambled enough, and it’s time to sleep.

All this to explain one cute selfie.

Written in the dairy Aisle, 8:08 PM.

I love you and
I hate you and
I don’t hate you
At all.

We were both just
So fucking mad
And I’m so sorry for that.

I hear nowadays
You are hurting real bad.

How seizures keep
You shivering in your bed
Gasping for breath
And clutching for your CBD pens

I heard it at the grocery store
My first thought
Was to shoplift
As many of those
Little fuckers as
I could possibly push
Into my pockets.

Seal them safely in a package
Sent with no return address
To your last known residence.

With love,
Your favorite ex-friend.

11/15/16

11/15/16

Oh, holy darkness
I ask you to reach down
From the vast night above

Oh, holy darkness
Wrap this burdened body
In the warmth of your ebony arms

You are not the most tender
Lover I’ve ever known
But tonight you suffice

Tonight your shadows
Carry me all the way home
And tuck me away into safety known

Oh, Holy darkness
My night is long
And dark, and full of dread

Save for the refuge you offer

Late night panic blues.

The things you think of, late at night when the hours have stretched long past the point of no return.  You are just trying to calm your mind down You just want to let it all go and surrender to the mercy of sleep.

First and foremost:  You are absolutely certain that there have been roughly seven thousand, seven hundred and sixty nights that you have spent just like you are spending this one.  That’s twenty-one years.  Twenty-one years of sleeplessness and dread coming for you at night.  Twenty-one years of late night hours passing in crawling flesh.

If your feel like being honest, or melodramatic (you can’t always tell the difference.) you could call it an even ten thousand.  Ten thousand, nine hundred and fifty-seven point twenty-seven.  That’s roughly thirty years.  You did the math.  You remember being six years old watching the crack of light from the hallway in your childhood room, waiting for the radio to lull you to sleep.

“This is Power 96!  Greater Miami’s party station giving you greater South Florida’s dance hits all night long.”

The red lights on the clock radio change almost imperceptibly.  2:27, 2:28.  It’s a school night, even.  You wonder how you will pay attention to you lessons tomorrow.  You wonder how all the other people up this late at night are occupying their time.  You wonder what the streets of quiet neighborhood are like this late at night.  You get a sinking feeling that the clock might as well read 2:28 AM for the rest of your goddamn life.

You think of all the time passed since your childhood room.  You think of all the nights, in all the rooms that led to this one.  Childhood, childhood’s end, and adolescence and onto the rigors and ruins of adulthood.  Each year, you swear is gonna be different.  Each year you find yourself right here; in another empty feeling room, late at night holding court with your own ruined nerves.

You think about them.  Oh, how you hate thinking about them.  Really, you just hate thinking about love.  You loathe thinking about anyone you’ve ever thought you loved, or said you loved, convinced yourself you loved.  You convince yourself that love is just some bullshit word lesser humans say.  Something we say to justify our appetites, or fill our cavernous voids. The thought of being vulnerable right now makes you shudder.

The hours crawl, and you convince yourself you’re so above it all.  You find a certain sickness in being soft.  You hate yourself only a little bit for letting them in.  You marvel at how we reach into each other and sink our teeth into the most tender parts.  We get a taste of forever.  We sate those hungers.  We come and go.

The minutes pass like pouring rain flooding gutters outside the window.  You are absolutely sure now, that you have never been loved, and have maybe never loved anyone in return.  You know you have been everyone’s favorite maladjusted mutant since the day you rode your skateboard to the cemetery in eighth grade.  Rumbling wheels rolling past crumbling civil war graves, she’s standing there beneath the graveyard trees.  You make out in the summer breeze.  Her mouth tastes like cigarettes and lip smackers.  You finish kissing.  She makes a joke about your dick, and you skate home.

“My friends will never know.”

“Oh, I know.”

You laugh to yourself as you skate home, because it’s all so fucking hysterical.  It’s all so fucking cheap.

You wonder what that girl grew up to be.  While you’re at it, you wonder about the boy who called you a faggot every day, but then asked you to suck his dick in the locker room when no one was around.  You wonder if they grew up bruised and without hope just like you.  You could look them up on facebook if you wanted and make fun of their ugly kids and shitty tattoos.  It’s not that late.  You remind yourself that you don’t actually care, and when was the last time you went to Pennsylvania anyway?  You certainly fucking write about it enough though.  Six years in a place that felt like it was too small raised by people who wouldn’t let you stand tall, and motherfuckers wonder how you got so hostile.

Like you could ever stop.  You know some things they’ll never know.

The hours crawl behind four walls.  You’re spiraling now, remembering it all.  You remember every last step and misstep, stumble and fall, all the time hard spent with so little to show at all.  You are absolutely sure that the world you knew is gone, and everyone else has moved on.  You are absolutely sure that you are still staring out through alien eyes and the world never actually had a place for you at all.  The hour is late now, and no one is going to call.

You have now convinced yourself you can’t breathe, even though you can.  You worry you might just die in your sleep.  This is a familiar and funny dance you’ve danced before.  You think of it as a well-known, and much loved song.  Coughing black mold out of your lungs and clutching at a lover’s sheets for a bummer of a summer.  There’s no lover-comfort offered tonight.  You wouldn’t want it anyway.  You are alone and you ask for no quarter.

You smile.  Finding glory in the rasping pain of being alive.  A moment’s certainty creeps in.  Maybe death is still stalking you, but you are pretty sure it’s neither heaven or oblivion waiting for you in the sky above.  You thank your blessed and still breathing body for pushing through the night.  You give thanks for all the nights before this one that could never hope to swallow you whole.

You think about your reckless and not so reckless youth rusted and left long behind.  In the morning the light will creep ever so slightly through the blinds.  You think about your excuses.  You think about your failure to thrive.  You think about your failure.  You still worry there might be no future, even though you’re living in it.  You still think dying young is stupid.  You still feel too obstinate to do anything other than die of old age.  So you push through, like always. Most of all; you soften and think about love, and how you are luck to have loved and been loved so much.

Or if we truly are in the end times, you could at least go home and die with your friends when the hammer fucking drops and it’s lights out on the world one last time.  That doesn’t sound like the worst option either.  You always had a feeling you and your one friend were going to die in a hail of bullets together anyway.

You think about the hidden and holy world you inhabit.  The world of fucked up noise filling crowded rooms made by mutants bruised and never quite broken, just like you.  You decide there’s time for one more song.  One more song to calm your nerves before the mercy of sleep, better make it a good one.  You flip the record over.  In the silenced that fills the air, you wonder if you’ve ever been home at all.  The needle drops and a hiss, and the spirit of sound rushing to fill the void.

Of course.  You don’t know where else you ever would have gone.