Diagram of a busted mouth.

Fig. 1

Sitting in a chair at the dentist’s office
Steel toes tap together in nervousness
Dressed in bravest black, winter 1996
Drill bits scrape the mess
Growing in my mouth for the first
(of many) times in my young life
Stare out the window
Catch a lone small town
Punk rocker on their
Way somewhere else in the snow
Footprints sunk into the white
Show where they been
But offer no hint
Of where we’re going.

Fig. 2

First dentist trip in three
And a half years
Mental illness met poverty
Long enough for fifteen cavities
To carve their way in
To a mouth well on
Its way towards rotting
Digging in for the duration
As childhood ends
Sugar coated swath cut
Through enamel and dentine and pulp
Floss and rinse and dig
And brush and drill
Scrape plaque away
With a mad desperation
But never reach the
Source of the rot.

Fig. 3

Sipping black coffee
Burning belly filled:
One part all hell
Ready to break loose at any moment
One part bag of peanut butter pretzels for breakfeast
Bought with food stamps and pocket change
Basking in the glow of
Spring’s latest lover
One morning in the sun
Spinning
Blissed out on three hours
Of sleep weighing down
Eyelids pried open
By caffeine and lovesickness
Frantic need for connection
To fill every hour with
The sweetness and agony
Of feeling it all
Feel a sickening snap
Cracking in the back of my mouth
Reach a finger still warm from last
Night’s lust in and wriggle part of a molar out
Shrug like you can’t win ‘em all
Put the blackened tooth chip
In my pocket, like a keepsake.

Fig. 4

Oh, good. You’re awake.
Do you remember where you are?
You were crossing the street
When you walked into the path of an oncoming car
The good news is your spine isn’t broken
You are bleeding internally
But your organs did not rupture
And your shoulder will heal
And even retain most of its mobility
The bad news is what’s left
Of three of your teeth
Have to come out now
The force of the pavement
Rushing up to reshape your face
Left your teeth shattered
Rammed the remaining roots
Back into your jaw
You are in shock
And heavily sedated
You probably won’t
Even remember this
Or feel it.

Fig. 5

It becomes an identity
A way to laugh at the pain
Taking a mouth full of
Broken teeth as my name
Example:
The words
“busted teeth, broken heart”
Inked forever into my skin
Or it’s a cute party trick
Like the time I decided
To spit my new set
Of fake plastic teeth
Out of a mouth, healed
But still fresh enough with phantom pains
That come when the weather changes
Into my best friend’s
Glass of wine at
A fancy restaurant
Oh sorry. You were drinking that?
I guess I’ll just finish it.

Fig. 6

The nerve pain wakes me
Up one morning in summer
Shooting through my jaw
I call out of work
And spend the day at home
Part of it on the phone
With the same best friend
Seven summers later
Holding an icepack to
The side of my head
“I’m paying the price now
For never quite taking care
For always living with
A low intensity self-loathing.”

Fig. 7

Floss and feel
The very last piece
Of my very first root canal
Come loose from its molar mooring
Spit silver and blood and mercury
Into the sink
Pick up the piece
Bury it in an
Unmarked backyard grave
“Here lies my last self-destruction”

Fig. 8

A piece of my broken tooth hurts
So I do what any person would do
Reach into my mouth
Wiggle the last shard back and forth
With a single-minded determination
And pull it out on my gums
Throw it in the trash
Without ceremony
Or reverence
Having long since
Grown used to this
Saltwater. Rinse. Repeat
The hole closes up.

Fig. 9

You used to do meth, right?
No, why?
I don’t know. I just thought you did.
Did you think I used to do meth
Because I’m missing my three front teeth?
No! I swear! I just thought you used to do meth
Like, I thought you said something about it once
Fact: I’ve never done meth.

Fig. 10

I hate it when my friends
Call me “Creepteeth”
Except maybe I bestowed
That nickname on myself
Making an identity
Out of pain again
Or as a way to make peace with a
Self-conscious smile
I can’t remember now.
I just always knew something
About standing in the shadow
Of so much beauty
I could never ever know

Fig. 11

Morning routine of brushing
Serves as a reminder
Of roads to ruin raced
I have long since
Gotten used to the taste
Sour mouth, brown spit
Washed down the sink
Followed by the reprieve
Of toothpaste and blood-spit
Swirling down the drain.

Fig. 12

A dissolute pain
As company for
The past 8 days
With yesterday spent
Entirely within the confines
Of a borrowed twin bed
This isn’t even my room
And I’m tethered to it
Anyway
Every time I move
Nausea rushes in
Making the world
Sickeningly spin and spin…

Fig. 13

Not a single shred
Of solace to seek
Beneath a gray sky
Sighing with rain
While hours crawl
Into another lost day
Shuffled through in
A nauseated narcotic daze.

Fig. 14

I write from my sickbed
Good reasons to
Just stop feeling
Anything at all
The numb warmth
Creeps through my limbs
Like crawling skin
Filling the void
Ever writhing within
This tired body
Spreading outwards
Beneath my skin
I get why people get addicted
To this shit
There is an elusive beauty
Found within numbness
And I hate it all the same
Just like I hate that
Someone somewhere out there
Learned they could line their pockets
And the pockets of their children
And their children’s children
Selling the cure for pain
Then selling the cure
For addiction
Or the punishment
For those deemed unworthy
Or unable to afford
The cure
Somewhere
Someone owns all of this
And I wonder what it would
Be like to rip his throat
(Yeah, I’m making an assumption here)
Out with my jagged teeth
But then again
The thought of strange blood
And bacteria in my mouth
Fills me with an unquiet revulsion.

Fig. 15

I write a litany to numbness
To later be forgotten
In an overpriced notebook
That I paid $20 for
Instead of stealing
Somewhere along the
Road that always led nowhere.

Fig. 16

I listen to a tinny
Clash bootleg and feel
My spirits wanting
To soar like so many songs
Long since sent into unsuspecting airwaves
I write my way down
Every road back home
And write down reasons
To convince this body
To keep breathing
And greet another day
As a blessing
On the outside
Where the beautiful
People are ugly too
I want to live long and strong
With that invincible
Heartbeat as the backdrop
Sometimes I just think
That a set of invincible teeth
Would also be just the kind
Of company I would like to keep.

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Diagram of a busted mouth.

I don’t Know What To Say

I was six years old the first time I was sexually assaulted. I can recall the majority of the details with clarity and alacrity. This is a blessing and a curse, I guess because the memories have stayed strong and present with me all these for the past three decades. I have spent the majority of my adult life wrestling with them. Like many survivors, the memories often come bursting out of me with little warning, and at inopportune times. Sometimes during the summer if I am sleeping in a room with a ceiling fan, I wake up with a start thinking it is someone’s breath on the back of my neck. I have spent much of my life in and out of various states of dissociation and bottomless rage. I have spent much of my life like I still don’t know how to say no, and often find myself intimate with individuals who know just how to exploit that.

On the other side of that survivorhood, I distinctly remember being thirteen and my male friends and I figuring out that that there was a blurred line between persistence and coercion. To our young minds, the absence of physical violence somehow differentiated us from the individuals who assaulted me years earlier. Furthering that idea, when I was fifteen, a group of boys abducted one of my friends and took her to a party where they assaulted her. This crime was never reported, but served as singular turning point in the young lives of my friends and I; a reminder of sorts of the secret truth we had always known, encoded in our young bodies: The bad men were real, and they mostly got away with what they wanted. My best friend and I walked around school carrying knives secreted away in our pockets the rest of that year, swearing that we were going to stab the one perpetrator we could identify to death the first chance we got. We never did. He went on to live a normal life until dying in a car wreck on the run from the law ten years later. I was at a party when I heard, and I laughed audibly, comfortable in the certainty that my friends and I were so different from this sorry, dead asshole.

When you are a young person, especially when you grow up in punk, you define yourself by what you are and what you are not. You delineate everyone into a clear “them” and “us”. You surround yourself with other freaks and outcasts and convince yourself you somehow live outside of the unrequited-blood soaked horrorshow that is life on this planet. My friends and I naively believed we were somehow different, all the while shutting out the voices of the women and queers in our lives who have been imploring us to just fucking listen and do better. The few deeply intimate relationships with I have had with men have been with fragile boys with fragile egos, unable in varying degrees to examine hard truths about themselves, always wondering why their lives are perpetual disasters and their exes fucking hate them. Don’t worry. I am counting my relationship to myself in there too.

I wrote letters to two of the individuals who assaulted me at the beginning of my thirties, never having the nerve to send them. Two years back, I decided to send them while trying to reconcile and change my own patterns of abusive behavior towards intimate partners. I held the naïve belief that maybe these two men would hear me out and open a dialogue and that maybe we could sort out some of this mess together. One of them responded. I obviously could not hear the tone in their voice as they composed an email, but I am fairly certain it differed very little from Brett Kavanaugh’s as they berated me, simultaneously calling me a liar and weak for still feeling the effect of their actions thirty years later. They included their phone number in the email, demanding that I call them, which I never did. I have no doubt that had we spoken on the phone, they would have sounded *exactly* like Judge Kavenaugh did on television the other day.

This individual also came out to me as trans in their email. Two days later, they committed suicide. I blamed myself for the death of another trans woman, and wondered what kind of common ground we could have found had they just listened. I wondered how similar the paths we had walked really were. I spent the next week certain their ghost was in the room with me at night and slept very little. I left my room only to eat or walk my dog. I told my friends I was sure that they would be waiting for me in hell when I died. The crushing feeling of guilt stuck with me until I thought about what an utter fucking chump move it is to hurl yourself into whatever afterlife will claim you rather than take responsibility for your actions.

My heart feels ripped out of my chest this week. My heart is broken for all the people I love who are survivors (and that is almost everyone I know.). My heart is broken for all the people I love who are raising children, especially daughters in this thresher. My heart breaks for the kids who come after us, who were supposed to inherit a better world. My heart breaks for the people I love who live the duality of being both survivor and perpetrator this week, because every person I have loved the most has endured/is capable of/has inflicted some serious harm, and we have to live the lives we’ve made and pick up the pieces. My heart breaks continuously thinking about the people who I have done harm to. My heart breaks thinking about what it is to live in a culture that benefits you so intensely that your hard-learned life lessons usually come at the expense of the people you love the most, and that is treated as normal.

I am tired. We are all tired. We are all tired and heartbroken, and I have no optimism with which to end this post, only a small body filled with venom and unwavering love for my friends doing the best they can.

I don’t Know What To Say

7/25/18

’67 Airstream with the radio on
Sweaty Appalachian air thick with heat
Cicadas sing me to sleep
Out in the restless southern dark

The night called me home
With song and blood
Skin never quite shed
Right here
Where god spoke to me
For the very first time
Once upon disaster and nuclear atrocity

Outside the trailer door
You can still smell the scent of it
In the air like a thousand sleepless hours
Passed in this city before this moment

This city
Always in my heart
There was never any choice
I loved this place ever since the moment
An angry kid first set steel-toed boot
To heat-cracked pavement
In the rush of misspent youth

I love it now, still
Walking alone on tourist-choked streets
As an outsider to my former home
With aging eyes searching for familiar sights
Across this beloved skyline
I lost my heart in the shining
Concrete and glass relics
Built for a collapse yet to come

Down in the dives
My friends and I
Drink our liquid bread down
Grown like bitter weeds
Breaking through cracks in the concrete
Poisoned plants from poisoned roots
Choking on words wielded like weapons
Smoking cigarettes and talking trash
Breathing in bitterness like our lungs could last
Building lives out of sculptures of ash

7/25/18

8/28/18

I have been feeling weird and anxious all day, and unable to place exactly what lay at the source of that anxiety. I’m in the middle of packing all my things to move and struggling to get an abscess tooth taken care of adequately with my inadequate state health care. I even lost my patience with an overworked healthcare worker today, saying “I have a fucking infection in my face, and all I want to do is get it treated without losing more of my teeth. This cannot possibly be this hard”. I almost immediately apologized and told the worker that I knew they are just doing the best they can. I’m just so frustrated having been trying to get this tooth fixed for weeks now. None of this is exactly out of the ordinary though.

Then I realized what day it is. My father would have celebrated his 80th birthday today had he not been dead for 24 long years. I didn’t know my father well. He worked tirelessly and came home exhausted and checked out nightly. He would eat dinner sit in front of the television, drinking and smoking until he fell asleep, only to get back up with the sunrise and do it all over again the next day. He looked old past his years, with strangers often confusing him for my grandfather. I didn’t realize until I was well into adulthood that my father had a drinking problem, much like his father before him and the dependencies inherited by my older brother.

Tonight I am thinking about all my friends. I am thinking of all the people I don’t know who I am afraid for. I am thinking of everyone struggling to care for themselves sufficiently. I am thinking of everyone I have ever loved who struggles to live well because they have always been told they only deserve so much. I am thinking of all the people who the world has a way of knocking down anytime they find a way to stand a little too tall. I am thinking about everyone I love who I worry is literally working themselves to death. I am thinking about low intensity class warfare laying waste to all the cities I have loved, making them uninhabitable for the people who made them what they are. I am thinking about the houseles folks whom Relic and I gave some things my emotionally abusive ex sent me unprompted for my 36th birthday to last night. I hope they liked that soft gray blanket and Joy Division shirt. I am purging things to move and they had been sitting in my room long enough, reminding me of the text messages that followed their arrival in the mail two winters past. “Hopefully you like them. The blanket was expensive.” Gross. I am thinking about sitting next to one of the great loves of my life earlier this afternoon, feeling wave upon wave of exhaustion exude from them, and feeling how much the potential of loss scares me even more as we go deeper, get more vulnerable, and as we get older, as if I held them tighter death wouldn’t be as much of a certainty.

I went for a bike ride in the late summer night until my heart beat right again. My chest has physically hurt with anxiety all day today. I am so tired all the time, and the wildfire smoke surrounding the Puget Sound has made it hard to want to exercise lately. I wanted to move my body and not tread down the path laid for me by either of my parents, ignoring despair and inertia. Though I do hope my father’s ghost rode along with me for a bit. I sat on the hill beneath the water tower waiting for the moon to Rise, listening to the music I have loved for more than half of my life. I listened to early Cock Sparrer LPs. I remember my how my mother hated the music and subcultures I was joyously diving into when I was fifteen. Inexplicably, she liked Cock Sparrer. “I think your father even would have liked this” she said.

Go figure.

The moon rose, full, ancient and yellow. I remembered a night so much like this one back home in Appalachia with one of the other loves of my life. We fucked in the cemetery, sweaty and joyous and in love. When we finished the mountains stood silhouetted by the moonlight and I felt the immediate sensation of someone having touched my soul in such a way that I felt like I had been here with them before.

My remembrance was interrupted by the kiddo walking up and taking a seat on the pavement next to me. We listened to a few more records there in the dark, with the moon rising higher and the sounds of the city to our backs. Percy Sledge, Lee Moses, Maraboots, and Symarip. I can feel a shift coming. For once I’m not overwhelmed by the darkness behind and ahead. I’ve survived so many nights of going through hell in this city by keeping going. For once those nights feel like they add up to something.

Thanks dad.

Thanks lovers (Save for that aforementioned one whose gifts now grace the hands of some of Olympia’s houseless population.). Thank you friends, past and present.

Thank you moon.

8/28/18

Apocalypse Summer

A burning yellow sky summer settles into place
Like a toxic haze across a bone-dry Rain City
I wear Leather like armor for skin too thin
A wet bandanna over the face
To walk the late night streets of an apocalypse maze

The sound of my best friend’s paws on pavement
Make for the surest, sweetest company
Against the hushed highway hum rending
The burning world to the bone

The air smells of smoke and ruin
As we walk the path of ash
Empty streets paint portraits of dead time
Old photographs, too late at night, one more backward glance

Come four AM, we give in to rest
Windows shut tight, and the curtains drawn closed
Electric air filter running on overdrive
Filtering out the filth, working as hard as the night is long

Lie in bed and wish to want nothing
Here in this stuffy and darkened room
The sepia toned cinema of memory
Spins off of the reels in the golden gloom

I remember you.

You were always so gentle, my love
Or at least as gentle as your scars allowed
Before we grew to love one another
You were just another face in the crowd

Could have been anyone or anywhere
Lining the haunted avenues and alleys of this town
Living hard and cold in the land of
“I got no friends, only people I know”

Ash falls like snow, there is no way home
No reason to look over my shoulder on the way out the door
The past is a dead country
Sinking to the east, burning down to the west

In solitude
I long to set sail
Away from a burning empire in its dying days
Away from bruised hearts and industrial haze
Untouched by loneliness, longing or sorrow
Into the beauty of the possible and futures unknown

Apocalypse Summer

First poem in a while. Consider it a work in progress.

I am tired of writing poetrybridge to nowhere
While the world burns down
Set to the droning sound
Of helicopters hovering in the skyline
Like I have been tired
Of so much for
The past five years
The past ten years
The past life

All my loves
Wear worry lines
Into fragile smiles
Brittle eyes filled with
Visons of the fire next time

But we have been dancing
In the flames
For our entire lives
Save for brief respite
Of breaths
Shared in rooms safe as houses
Doors locked against the cold outside

Standing at the edge of industry
In the weeds
With my friends
Burning Bridges to nowhere
With a blueprint for
Breaking my own heart
All over again

I wonder just how
Far we have to fall
As a (death cult)ure
Where is the threshold?

Fall asleep with the breath
Of emptiness exhaling whispers
On the back of my neck
Spectral eyes stare
Hell into skin too thin
For this fucking planet

First poem in a while. Consider it a work in progress.

Signals Fill The Void Mix Volume One: Apocalypse Dread In A Dead City/Gravity Pulling In Reverse

It has been one of those days.

It’s one of those days where the gray sky has been dripping cold rain on my face for days and days without relent.  In my anxious state, it’s just all too easy to worry the winter sun may never come back when it sinks beneath the slate gray sheet of sky at four PM.  As the long night falls, the ever-pervasive clouds snuff out starlight and moonlight alike, giving an eerie abyssal feeling to the sky.  The darkness is pervasive as it is consuming.  So much so that I get the feeling walking home sometimes that the blackness towering above me wants to reach down and pull me into its maw, swallowing me whole.

Like I was never here.  Like I was never supposed to be here. Like gravity pulling in reverse.  That’s how I described my feelings of alienation and displacement in conversation once.  Like the world as it spins now, does not hold a place for any of us.  It’s like that episode from The Twilight Zone, where the three astronauts return from a mission, crash landing their space shuttle.  One by one each of them gets the feeling “they aren’t supposed to be here” and fade away.  That’s what lonely nights in this city feel like.

Like gravity pulling in reverse.

On quiet nights like this one, were it not for the internet and panic paced twenty-four hour news cycle, I think it one could almost forget the world exists outside this city and its dim streetlights.  As if the world just falls away into nothingness once you hit the city limits. So I go it alone one more night, hunkering down to write to my favorite songs in my small bedroom, shut away from the world I’m so desperately afraid of fading away from, but don’t know how to rejoin at the same time. Tonight it feels like all the clocks died at two minutes to midnight.  Fuck, the whole last year feels like that.  The kind of apocalypse dread and desperation that reminds you what attracted you to punk in the first place.

So tonight I lose myself for the millionth time, slipping into the spirit of sound.  Ensconced in the wail of guitars and D-Beats drumming out a battle march with all the rest of the lost souls and bitter children.  Screaming at the madness and sheer fucking senselessness of it all.  Because I don’t know about you, but I haven’t gotten a good night of sleep in what feels like weeks.  Ever since that intercontinental ballistic missile false alarm last week, mushroom clouds have haunted my dreams almost nightly.  All across the city, everyone I love just wonders when the hammer might fucking drop, and that then that’s it; lights out for all of us and the roaches have their go.

Punks have been freaking out about the end of the world for forty years now, my entire adult life.  I inherited these deep fears as much as the next oversensitive ex-spiky kid.  I mean, shit.  Discharge made a few flawless records (Let’s just pretend for tonight that Grave New World just never fucking happened, okay?) and a career off these fears. Beyond that they inspired legions of leather clad, paranoid emulators.

I don’t really know how to end this, except to say that I’m scared sometimes.  I’m sad sometimes.  I’m strong most of the time.  If you’re reading this and we know one another, I love you so much, and I’m glad you’re alive.  I want you to keep living.  If you’re reading this and I don’t know you: I probably like you.  I love your lives and your stories because you have them and they count for something.  Here’s some tunes that I love that have been on heavy rotation the past few weeks.  I hope you find something you like.

This mix represents my first attempt at what I hope will become a more regular feature of incorporating my love of music and my love of sharing music into my writing practice.  As always, thank you for reading.  If you’ve got feedback, or just wanna tell me what songs you loved or hated, I wanna hear it.

Track List:

  1. Chaos UK – No Security
  2. Icons Of Filth – Fucked Up State
  3. Skinny Puppy – Nature’s Revenge
  4. Confuse – Hate (Is It War?)
  5. Black Flag – My War
  6. Ash Borer – Waves With No Shore
  7. Body Of Light – Burn As One
  8. Larm – Chemical Suicide
  9. Cemetery – 4:30 Blood City
  10. Gauze – Unknown Title, unreleased song. Live, May, 2011.  First show back after the Fukushima Disaster
  11. Lydia Lunch – Suicide Ocean
  12. After The Bombs – To The Void And Back
  13. Youth Code – The Dust Of A Fallen Rome
  14. Nausea – Here Today
  15. Killing Joke – This World Hell
  16. Broken Bones – Death Is Imminent
  17. The Comes – Ningen Gari
  18. Part 1 – Pictures Of Pain
  19. Pharmakon – Sleepwalking Form
  20. Lebenden Toten – Near Dark
  21. Drift – Mirage
  22. Bellicose Minds – Orwell’s Troops
  23. Scumraid – Tsar Bomba
  24. Crude – Stand And Fight Again
  25. Life – The World Lies Across Them
Signals Fill The Void Mix Volume One: Apocalypse Dread In A Dead City/Gravity Pulling In Reverse