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.

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 languishing on my tongue

Untitled

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

Goodbye To A Bedroom

Sit alone and content in a room
On a quiet evening just at summer’s end
Give thanks to these four walls sheltering my soul
For just under 1,000 nights
Breathe slow in the darkness before dawn
Think of the four nights left to go

I spent my very first night behind these walls
Just as the sun cracked summer wide open
Heartbroken, restless, and all alone
Pacing in front of the window
Glancing down at my phone
Waiting for calls
That would never come

I spent days that followed
Settling for a companion culled from
The worst in humanity that I have ever known
(Yeah, yeah, you know who you are)
Just as you know your
Actions ensured no force on earth
Would ever call me home
To your door with flowers
Or any remnants of love
As you run the race alone
In delusion, dishonor and sickness
From bottle to the bottom of the grave

Three nights in August
Spent in spinning sorrow
Faced with the lonely death
And the haunted by the ghost
Of my very first nemesis
For three nights
Her spirit crawled from my childhood nightmares
To stand spectral watch over my bed
Staring hate from eyeless sockets
Into my sleeping back
Goring war into my soul

I fell in love in this room too
Despite those first nights
Painting portraits of a void-filled heart
Writing love letters to nothing at all
Feel myself change shape the beautiful glittering dark
Cold winter moon, streetlight glow in the window
Warm nights wrapped in your arms
Your fucking smirk
Giving way to one of my favorite grins
(Yeah, yeah, you know I’m talking about you)
Giving thanks for all the times we cried
Finding the deepest strength I’ve ever known
In the afterglow of vulnerability

Leaving behind every single night
Spent in this room worn down
Burnt out and breathless
Certain that the day had come
And I saw my very last sunset
To my demons
To my enemies
To every lost hour
Spent within the confines
Of these walls

I thank you for the opportunity
To rising above
And destroying you.

Goodbye To A Bedroom

Two Day Romance, as the fires burn.

We sit beneath the yellow sky
At the edge of the water
I cough. We talk of loss
Dead love
Tales of hard lived histories
The day drags deliciously
We talk easily
Dancing like ripples on the surface
Of the water, speaking of sweeter things
I feel myself soften
Despite the claustrophobia
Closing in with the weight
Of what was once so many trees
Falling like a hard rain

I would like to invite you to spend the night
Together at the edge of this city
At the dark end of my dead end street
My time in this house
(Not quite a home)
Is winding down
Yet this space is a delight
To share with you all the same

All the trees seeped in smoke
Distorting their shapes
On the horizon
Against the haze
As if the mouth of hell opened wide
To cough out an apocalypse skyline
Crafted from ash and nightmare

Laughter fills the late hour
I find myself invigorated
Despite the taste of ash and cancer
Crawling at the back of my throat
Catch my face in the bathroom mirror
Just as the world spins out
“Please, not now.”
We wonder why a hellish wind blows
(Except we don’t)
Burning cold through the nighttime window

Your sweat slick with the taste of want
Spread across my stomach
We melt
Howl
Into one another
Given fully to the frenzy and darkness
Of desire desperate against
The world as it burns around us

Two Day Romance, as the fires burn.

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

Proximities.

This is a blessing
For the bliss of
Breaking down
Breaking out
Letting go
Of love
(or closest proximities of)

Fond affections
Now disfigured
And distorted
Embers burn
Down to ashes scattered
Into the howling wind

What is a little bit of
Betrayal between friends anyway?
A glance over the shoulder, lamenting
How the worst enemies
Are always the ones
We know the most intimately

I propose a toast tonight
With a heart closed
And a raised fist clenched
Drink to your health
And the wealth
Of lessons learned
In blood sex
Promises half spoken
Unremembered and never meant

Viva love
(or closest proximities of)
And long live its death

Proximities.