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.

Dating during this whole mass extinction thing is wild.

We sit
Next to one
Another in bed
Skin pressed to skin
You smile while you knit
And I’m drunk
On the delight of it

With a baseball game
On the radio
The window open
To the last strains
Of summer drifting in
From a skyline I never thought
I would come to love
Looming concrete and steel above
Not indestructible
But close enough
For now

I scribble in my journal
Trying to give my words
The bloodsoaked weight
Of a Lydia Lunch or
Any other horror adjacent

I Let the pen rest
With a breath
And your head
On my chest

Try as I might
I don’t got the heart
For wringing the wrath
Out of my body tonight
I wore that shit out
Of me last year
And the year before that
And the year before that one too.

Talking about being born
Like a burn ward
Skin always too thin
Too sensitive to exist
Over and over and over
How your bones can ache
And age, slamming small hands
Against a lifetime’s weight
Of storm clouds begging to break

Drive home
Across down
Real late at night
Sailing across an
Asphalt sea and blinking lights
The windows down
Fingers curl around the wheel
Freshly dipped in the afterglow

All the cold songs
Written for cold hearts
I used to love
About never falling in love
And tears flowing
To help the flowers grow
Play real loud on the stereo
Singing me all the way home

Those songs seem so silly now
Or at least like the sounds
Ears would be grateful to outgrow
Waiting
Not in love, but kind of in love, or
Making our way to that graceful falling
Or close enough
Waiting
for the curtain to fall
And the war to come home.

3.14.4.18

One.

The first time I saw you:
You were magnetic
With your cracked tooth grin
Tattoos gracing your skin
Your steel toe boot
Stomp across a scuffed
Hardwood floor painted
The color of one hundred
Midnight hours passed
In delicious summer stillness
Your eyes
Catch mine
You smile
And I smiled back
The humidity hanging
Thick in the air
Turned electric, sending
My skin tinging
For a moment
Like an alien
Sensing a kindred spirit

Two.

Two hours later
Dancing at the show
Sweaty and smiling
On the precipice
Of “punk for life”
I wonder
Just when we get
Too old for this
Fifteen years after
I screamed the words
“Young until I die!”
For the first time
The band
Right on the cusp
Of stardom, or what passes
For it down here
On this dirty living room floor
Is giving it their
Absolute all
You introduce yourself
In the sweaty afterglow
Wild hair stuffed
In a knit black beanie
Despite the summer heat.

Three.

Two years on
All fucked up
On sleeplessness and loss
And expensive liquor
Twenty-one days since
A single shotgun shell
Shattered the world
Of almost every person I know
Back home

So I came out here alone
Breaking in steel toe boots of my own
Praying to stomp my way down
Enough strange streets
Turn down enough blind curves
Walk up enough steep hills
To outrun this
Sadness swallowing sadness

We share a drink
And a fierce affinity
For one another
Intelligent eyes
Growing harder
And harder
I look at you
And see a mirror.

Four.

You are my friend
And one of the
Best and brightest
I know
Sitting in your parking spot
Making the most
Of our small hours
Before the dawn

I wouldn’t go back now
To visit those hours
Inhabit those shed skins
But I wish
I could visit
To hear the grace
Of your laugh
And the light
Behind your eyes
One more time

Five.

The sharpness in
Your words matches
The razor glint
In your eyes
I’ve seen that malevolent
Glow pouring out of my
Own skull, tasted that venom
Dripping out of my mouth
So many times before

Blessed as we are
With this curse
Brilliant minds, that move too fast
And suspicion to match it
Paranoid thoughts pushing
A soul past the red line
Like the time
Our friend kissed
That boy who
Wasn’t your boyfriend
But you wanted him to be
Even though you claimed
It was all no big deal
Later.

You sent a text
To our other friend
Telling her you hoped
Her clit shriveled
And fell off

“Goddamn, girl.
I wish you hadn’t said that.”

“What?
She fucked me over
And now she doesn’t
Deserve to ever
Feel pleasure again
I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Like it was the most rational thought in the world

I shuffled my feet nervously
Beneath the table
Reminding myself
To never get on your bad side
After all
We are so much alike
And I been on my own shit list
For most of my life.

Six.

I have been in bed
For four days now
The diagnosis came Monday
And with it a shattering
A feeling of never being
Able to trust myself again
I could stay here
In this room
Forever
Let heart starve out
Go to oblivion
Nobody calls on the phone
And I feel a loneliness
Like I’ve never known

And then you are at the door
Pulling me up into your arms
And into the world outside my window

“Come on, let’s get something to eat
Your brain may be trying to get the best of you
But this shit doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”

Seven.

Christmas comes.
And you, Josef
And I, are all alone.
Running from the worst
Goddamn heartbreak
I ever known
And the kind of cold
That cuts to the soul.
I made the three
Of us dinner
And we ate together
Thankful for the sanctuary
Found here in one another
From the heartless
Rain of this wretched city

I didn’t take any pictures
Of that night
But now I wish I had
You were too on edge
Looking out the windows
Over your shoulder
As if some unknown enemy
Would cross Eastside Street
And knock on the door

I mostly remember trying to play off the tension
And Josef hating the movie I pirated
And with good reason
That shit was way too violent
To watch on Christmas

And I see now
All the little red flags
I should have seen back then
The Storm getting ready to rage
Suspicion bordering on madness brewing
In the world behind your eyes

Eight.

New Year’s Eve
And We’re fighting
In earnest now
Outside a bar
That I didn’t even want
To be at anyway
Feeling like a thousand
Eyes are staring at me
In judgement
And condemnation
The beginning of
A long and painful
Process of separation
From this city

The same city
We both arrived in
With such cautious hope
Once upon a time
Like shaking hands
With something waiting
To gnaw at your insides

Struggle to comprehend
The reason and rationale
Behind your wrath
But the silence
And the evasive glances
Drive the final nail
In my new year.

Call it good
And leave the party
Before the countdown
To midnight even begins
Walk the tracks
Alone all the way home
In the bitter cold
Which I like
More than rain soaking to the bone
Ring in the new year
On the phone
Sitting at my desk
Staring out the window
Whispering nervously over
The phone to my best friend in this world
Because I got a feeling
That all hell
Might be coming home
For both of us
In the year to come

Nine.

I see you crossing the street
Through the fog
Walking home alone
The rumors been swirling
Around this lonely
Little town for weeks now

We all know
But don’t know
How to hold
Or how to even sit
In proximity to your pain
And the paranoia that follows
Praying to all the gods
Above and below
For your freedom
The best lover not a one
Of us ever got to know
From sorrow
Thirst
Hunger
Want
And loneliness
To wrap you in its arms
And bring you safely home.

Ten.

You are my friend
And still one of
The best I’ve known
Pacing around in the back yard
Pointing the finger of suspicion
In every direction
We’ve all known loss before
But goddamn,
It never came to me
Quite like this
There’s a first time
For everything, I guess.

Watching the mask of sanity
Slip away not with a whimper
But with a plaintive wail
And every accusation imagined

I drive home
And want to cry
I want a flood
To fall from my eyes
To wash this city clean
From all the bitterness
And all the fights
And all the plots contrived
That drove us to this point
That we may finally sleep
Through the night

Twelve.

We sit in the sun
In the bed of my truck
Outside the storage building
Where we both rent units now
You smoke a cigarette
And we soak
In that familiar
Feeling of defeat
Staring down the barrel
Of uncertainty and instability
For the hundredth
Time in this life

When you sold
Most of your stuff
I never told you
How I raced down to Rainy Day
And begged them to sell
Your records back to me
“Look, my friend is just
In a very dark place
I’ll pay double whatever
You gave her for all this stuff
So I can keep it safe for her
Until she’s well again.”

I threw my hands up
In exasperation when the
Guy behind the counter
Offered to sell me the
One of your records I
Could even identify
For seventy dollars.

You give me your bookshelf
Saying you might come back
For it someday
Even though I know you wouldn’t
And we carry it into my unit
And I padlock the door behind us
I see the resignation
Like set deep in your eyes
And feel a morbid sense
Of relief at what
That resignation replaced.

Thirteen.

You send a text message
To my phone right before
You get in your car and drive south
Straight out of my life

“I’m sorry.
I know you did your best
And you’ve been such a good friend
I just don’t know what’s real anymore
And I have to go.”

Fourteen.

Everyone hates what happens next
All the worry
And the wishing
Praying to the gray
Sky above us
Even though we
Are no longer certain
It even listens
For you
To just
Make it out
Of this.

Fifteen.

The last time I saw you
You were scared
And all alone
Smoking a cigarette
Flying a sign at a rest stop
Outside your busted car
Somewhere along the I-5.
When I stopped to piss
I had a feeling I would
See you standing there

I said hello
Gave you fifteen dollars
Told you I loved you
I didn’t try and argue
Or even address the demons
Taken up residence
In your head

I got back in my car
Drove and drove and drove
Away from Washington
Through Oregon
Straight to California
Luna and I didn’t stop
Until Los Angeles
Where the sun finally shone above us

Standing at the observatory
above the glittering ocean
Of electric starlight
I wished for a way
For the light
To wash away
The resignation
That comes with
The knowledge
That you can love
Your friends
As hard
And as true
And as purely
As anything you have
Ever loved in your life

But sometimes that love
Is not enough
To keep a flame alive.

The Only Hope I Never Abandoned

To the old man
Limping up the Lareda Street
Hill with the young dog
Spirited and playful
Barking, pulling at his leash
Champing with vigor
While you tried to keep up
I do not know either one of you
I don’t know your story.

But I love you
I love you
Like I know
The purity of love that accompanies
My very best friend
Friend curled up asleep
In the crease
Of my creaking knees
Every single night
For the past 14 years.

I wonder if you worry
Too, about how the cars speed
Up these narrow streets
If you pull too hard like I do
On my girl’s leash
Holding her nervously next to me
Until the taillights recede
Into the distance.
“I’m sorry”, you say
“She just wants to play”
“I’m the only other living thing
She sees all day”
And there is a pain
Languishing in the space
Between us on this street
In this city
That I wish more
Than anything
I had an answer for
In a moment, I remember the sinking sorrow
Of walking through the world alone
Certain every other inhabitant
Crashing across the surface of
This lonely planet
Has long left you behind.
I’ll see you out here
Sometime this summer
Making my way down the hill
With my girl as her graying year
Slow her down so that I worry
Which walk will be the last one

Walking in the same old circles
In a different city
And a different year
Haunted by the same
Burning questions
Maybe I’ll tell you a story
Of how one day fourteen years back
When I threw my journal off
The Burnside Bridge
Into the Willamette rushing below

Friend, I was tired
Just so tired
Of pouring the same poison
Out of my pens
Always reaching the same goddamn conclusions.

It was just one of those days
Where giving in to desolation and a darkness
Of soul seemed as good a choice to make
As any other with the shadow of the
Void breathing hell into my heart.

Do you know?
I think you know.
Maybe my story
Isn’t your own
But I’d bet you bottom dollar
It’s goddamn close enough

Just like I know
How a chance encounter
Maybe not so chance at all
Has a way of calling
A heart home back to a body
Running across the yard
With four paws
And a tail wagging
A hundred miles an hour

My girl, we basically grew up together
I was a kid
Living out of a backpack
Curled up in a sleeping bag
In an abandoned building
Walking with misanthropy for company
When she licked my face for the first time.

It was like a door opening
And the warmth
Of the purest love I ever did know
Rushing into a bitter heart
To drive out the cold.

When I count off all the strokes of good luck
That this life has offered
On my calloused fingers
This dog here
Is always the first.

 

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