I did a radio interview today on Short Attention Span Theater with host Andrew Turman, in which I discussed internet outrage, censorship, and the people who have worked to get me blacklisted from most publications. You can listen to the interview at the following link:
When it is wrong to mourn the dead
~after Charles Manson’s death
Even forgiveness has its limits,
ask the mothers, ask the fathers,
ask the brothers and sisters
of the dead, the voices stilled
in the throats of the young,
the beautiful faces laid to rest
before their smiles drew lines
around happy mouths.
Tonight, there are monsters
crawling into heaven
with knives between their teeth.
There are madmen convincing angels
to carve X’s into their flesh.
There are wild-eyed demagogues
telling children they worship false gods,
and to burn is to live free
like vibrating cells exposed
to catalytic chemicals.
What is a cult, except the pinnacle of belief?
To smell the blood-soaked carpet
and feel unafraid of ghosts
though those ghosts carry chains
linked to the rusty cage of rage?
This martyrdom is not self-aware.
It’s a false flag, an insect
made tyrant, made giant
under the magnified lens
of historical inaccuracy.
I do not take joy or pleasure
from the texture of soot and ash
rubbed between the fingers
of an ambivalent universe,
just more smoke in my eyes
as these senseless candles scorch
and smolder their wicks,
leaving only that fragrant filament
of death, and a black cloud
billowing like a distant forest fire
waiting for the wind to bring it closer,
close enough to feel the heat
of that hungry thing that waits
for all of us in time.
Copy and Paste Condolences
by Jay Sizemore
The residents of ______________ need our love,
in this time of unavoidable tragedy,
if only the sky would open itself
like a great swan unfurling its wings
to swaddle the grieving
and protect them from the rain,
the thunder and storm of their own
We send our thoughts and prayers to them,
the buoys bobbing, lonesome and jettisoned
in the rough waves of this tiresome wake.
Let them be calmed by the notion
that loneliness is an illusion
in the absence of concern,
while our hearts carry their hearts
like hot air balloons gathering stones
in tethered baskets
until too heavy to float.
These stones are hardened eggs
warmed by the sun,
and this is a cycle of catch and release,
of nature and nurture,
of wound and suture and scar,
the abused given new life in the afterbirth of pain,
hatching from sorrow stronger than before
with haunted eyes remembering the wind
and how it carried them away
from everything hidden beneath the sea,
hot air balloons once again free to soar
and look for more lost souls to rescue.
Perhaps it’s too much to ask
that we forget what happened here
knowing what blood tomorrow holds
like a vein in a palm
that closes upon a fistful of glass,
the shattered remnants of a non-violent future,
the window we broke believing
it was the only way to breathe the air.
Nothing that could be done
I remember my first paper cut,
when I was just four years old,
I went to the school nurse
for some kind of care, maybe just a band-aid
or the warm reassuring smile
of an adult who understood the world,
but instead she said, with her face so grim,
there’s just nothing to be done.
Let it bleed, she told me,
these things heal themselves.
And I looked at the red drops
like breadcrumbs shining
my way back to class,
stark constellations so bold and dark
against the sterile white tile,
and I believed her.
Again, in middle school, I fell,
my hands still stinking of rust and steel
from gripping swing set chains so tight
the links left white indentations
in my palms that flamed red upon release,
and the sound of my wrist snapping
was that of a dried twig
under the foot of a careless hunter
spooking away his prey.
My mother took me to the doctor
where they didn’t even bother with an X-ray,
just again with their go-to phrase,
Nothing to be done, broken bones mend
with time and the soothing song of the wind,
so the rest of my life I lived
with a crooked arm I could not use
except as a crude tool for propping up my face,
but my belief in medicine remained unchanged.
I sat at my mother’s bedside
and listened to the way her lungs
struggled like refugee swimmers
whose life vests were made
to absorb the ocean instead of float,
and I pleaded to the specialists,
I pleaded to the surgeons
with their walls full of degrees,
their photo albums full
of pristine family portraits
with every grin warm as a sun
meant to go on for endless days,
their manicured hands perfect
and poised as if penmanship
were their own secret language
of prayer, as if it were a privilege
to hold a clipboard and scribble fates
so different from their own,
and they said it again and again
like the mantra of the damned,
I’m sorry son, cancer is just a gun,
and I’m afraid there’s simply nothing,
nothing to be done.
Ever wake up in the skin of a pig?
Maybe you forgot to pay the water bill,
feeling like a river that flows to both ends.
Feeling like the threads through a button
sewed into a stranger’s coat.
Carrying the new scars of the frantic dog
who just wants to be loved the same way.
These women wish you would just die,
they’d like to feast on your white meat,
a fine pork twisted and turned over the spit
until it drips its clear delicate juices.
I am not god any more than another acoustic guitar
leaned in the corner of a corporate junky,
and you are a voice in the walls.
One more mountain on the moon,
one more interstellar collision
sending ripples through the cosmos
like a heart attack numbing the left arm.
I love my enemy and their unflinching resolve
to break me open
like a fresh stick of Dr. Tom’s deodorant,
smelling of green mint and death.
I’m a feminist and a dental hygienist,
you are a serial killer of words,
you are the reason I keep writing them down.
Fear of words
I’m afraid of words, and what they might do.
Rape, as a word, cannot be trusted,
with its r it uses as a rivet
to shackle thin wrists and twist,
its a it ambulates over frantic mouths
like a palm to smother and stifle screams,
its p it puts between legs and pries
so the e can explore
like an ether or ejaculate that enters
where it is most unwanted.
Kill, maim, murder, lie,
all must be made archaic,
must be stricken from our tongues
to prevent future harm,
such grievous perils spoken
can never be undone.
To even whisper them
renders them powerful,
like a trigger in a gun
tethered to loose lips
just waiting to be sprung.
A poem is so heavy now,
it can never be lifted from the page.
There are libraries filled with obscenities
sinking like cities built upon damp paper streets.
We must put a torch
to the pyre before it burns us,
before it makes us feel
what we felt before as pain,
these words, these words shouldn’t exist,
shouldn’t open doors we want locked in our brains,
so pass the gasoline and pass the blindfold,
pass the blank white sheet
of our sterile refrain,
and come closer.
We can’t see our breath now,
but it’s cold, cold, cold in our bones,
so stay where its warm, here by the flame.
How we convince ourselves we are right
My pain is no more important than your pain,
and your pain is no more important than mine.
What is this life, but a thin veil of inconsistencies?
You turn yourself into a platitude for justice,
a self-replicating viral meme
of the latest in social outrage.
These are the screws turning in your wrists,
pinning you to the cross of self-indulgence,
to the pyre of broke down birdhouses,
this kindling made martyrdom appealing
for the self-righteous holy ghosts
wanting nothing but to die for vanity.
It’s fallacy and fallibility made into sacrament.
The human condition leaves little room
for another consciousness inside its skull.
Where does the truth lie?
Somewhere, out there, beyond this moment.
This history is impermanent.
So, make your police reports out of jealousy.
Build your narratives out of decay.
Nothing will last, not even words like these.
There is no pain like yours, as there is none like mine.
We are living the same dream outside our bodies.
We just want the same things we can’t have.
You didn’t ask for these words,
but neither did I.
My brain is tattooed with memories
even a laser could not remove.
My mother dragged from my room.
My sister put back in her bed,
his belt buckle still open
and clinking like a monster’s teeth,
a monster made of hairpins and bottle caps.
Here is his fist. Here is the bruise.
Here are the bruises you cannot see,
living inside me like incessant ocean waves.
I feel like my face lives behind your face,
a face you’ve carved out of shadows and malice,
a face you created with your fingertips
in your blindness, searching for your father
or your rapist, or your college boyfriend
who let you drink too much
on a Thursday so you wouldn’t remember
where you left your panties.
I am not that face. I am the face of my eight year old self,
boiling with rage after a stranger
smacked my sister on the school bus,
the stranger who wore a black eye for weeks after
only because I was too young
to break his bones, and a grownup
rushed from her trailer to pull us apart before I could
make his mouth fill with blood.
I’m the boy chased from the playground
day after day, tripping over my own feet,
and being kicked by the rough boot heels
of those with a ferocity outpacing their growth spurts.
I’m the man becoming a boy becoming a man,
standing at the edge of personhood
and wondering where to step,
which way leads to the abyss
and which way leads to the light
that might illuminate these futures
and show my face to the world.
When the music breaks your heart
by Jay Sizemore
No one expects a heartbreaker
to die of a broken heart,
and are we really going to fall for it again,
this narrative of the lone gunman,
devoid of motive
while those highest in power
pluck and snap the rusty piano strings
of an America in need of a transplant?
These deaths are so senseless and yet
so anonymous, so faceless and separate,
removed from the scenery of our lives
like extras from a movie
we barely pay attention to,
just bodies shuffled through revolving doors
but beneath sheets so their forms
may as well be made from loosely piled stones.
This is what we are now.
Just actors in a play we refuse to acknowledge
because the reality might destroy us.
It’s so much simpler to mourn celebrities.
It’s so much easier to pretend
that the air we breathe isn’t poison,
that the television screen
and its newsfeed scrolling
would never tell us lies.
Just keep buying the product.
Just keep binge watching these stories
of super-human deeds
done by super-human versions
of your super-human selves.
And when you hear that song on the radio,
the one about belonging “somewhere you’ll feel free,”
just close your eyes and imagine it so.
Someday I will love Jay Sizemore
Forty years goes by before you are ready
and then you’re married with two cats and a dog,
a mortgage and two car payments
and two spare bedrooms to park the boxes
and the books and the guitars and the poster tubes
filled with old drawings from those days
before arthritis and an elbow like a rusty trap.
Your mother spent the night in the ER
coughing up blood
and didn’t tell you until later in the week
like a birthday card filled with
someone else’s handwriting
arriving a month late, because it went to
the wrong address in another state,
as if to say, these will never reach you in time
where you are going, and while you are away
the people you love will become
doppelgangers of the people you loved.
But isn’t this the age of video chat
and the era of the private prison
where our lives have become slaves
to the technology of interconnectivity?
Isn’t this the right time to live stream
your every emotional breakdown?
It’s like reinventing something
as sacrosanct as the rain.
For as long as I can remember
I’ve been in some kind of pain,
painting pictures with words
about the reasons a person can never
feel whole and wholly themselves,
a scent of decay creeping into
every new thing, and did you know
old books collect tiny insects
to create that odor you love so much?
I’m finding my way like a duckling
dropped down a drain
must discover that instinctual drive
to navigate north until it hears the cries
of those lost and familiar voices
that have been calling him home
since before he knew
what the voices of his family
sounded like on the wind.