The wish for death always comes true
we all run out of breath
So many have wished I would die
like a candle on a birthday cake
that just won’t burn out,
but every fuse
flickers down to the powder
before it sets loose
the dynamite or the smoke.
Isn’t every death
All suicides occur on planet Earth.
All murderers convert oxygen into CO2.
Cancer exists in your DNA
from the moment you are born.
They found Jay Sizemore
in the bathtub
with a Ziplock bag
over his head,
duct tape closed
around the neck,
bottle of wine half full
on the lip of his porcelain tub,
water still warm
They found Jay Sizemore’s body
near the foot of the bed,
one hand curled inward
like the corner of paper
left in sun,
as if starting to wave you closer
for one last whispered phrase,
“You are alone.”
Except that the face is gone
along with the lips,
his other hand still cradling
the trigger and stock
of the shotgun.
They found Jay Sizemore
hanging from his ceiling fan,
an exercise weight band
pulled taut in slow descent,
there were pictures scattered
all about the bed,
screen shots from Twitter,
Facebook and Instagram,
the most awful of mirrors
where the reflection
is just that inner pain
finding its way
from one body to another.
At the finish, it was all just words
and no one knew
where they ended or began,
just that nobody died
until they really died.
The white apology
I’m sorry that you need to hear it,
sorry that history favored
the first to wield the sword
the first to encase black powder
in shiny brass and steel,
but this was not my doing.
I wasn’t there on the ships,
in the moorings, on the fields
of swaying grass and gut,
or surely I would have died
shitting my pants with fear.
I’m sorry that history allowed it,
allowed the oil tycoons and soft-palmed
narcissists to trade metal and paper
for all the world and all persons within it,
to layer scar tissue on the backs and the wrists
and the inner thighs of objects
they saw as objects instead of lives.
I’m sorry Jesus was invented
Mohammed was enshrined
Joseph Smith was batshit insane,
and I’m sorry so many believed.
I’m sorry for the laws
written on the faces of such belief.
I’m sorry superstitions still carry
so much currency
like buckets drawn up from wells
filled with blood instead of water,
and I’m sorry those wells
seem to have no bottom.
In low-lit bedrooms since the beginning of time
when a bedroom was nothing but smoke
caked into bedrock,
I’m sorry men of all colors and creeds
could get what they wanted without a fight,
before aluminum canned beer
was poured into Solo cups,
before fathers and Fathers
waited for the mothers to be out of town,
before grades and jobs and debts
became levers and scissors
on clothing and legs
pried so easily apart.
I wasn’t there, but yes it was me,
me too, me too, me too,
for not being there to stop it,
to raise my voice and do my part
to end the cycle of complicity
in the carousel of consent and discontent.
I’m guilty and I shoulder the blame
of an entire history I had no place in
other than sharing this similar skin,
this generic face, this entitled life
of accepting my body for what it is.
I’ve said the word nigger with no remorse.
I’ve called you cunt and fantasized
about fucking you like a receptacle
for lust instead of love
like so many starlets on display online.
I’ve said the word faggot and dike
as if it were a punchline
in a joke everyone already knew.
I’ve been a child in a world
made in my image
and I grew to hate myself anyway
as I grew to see past these shells.
Forgive me, I know not what I do,
and though I never hurt you
as a straight white man,
I hope it gives you some comfort
to hear someone admit their fault
for all the pain they know you’ve felt.
Forgive me. Please, forgive me,
then let me burn in hell.
I drove across the United States
with my dog in the backseat
sometimes putting his nose
out the window I rolled down
so he could smell the intricacies
of each landscape we passed
like a customer wafting perfume cards
in some ephemeral beauty salon.
Here is a highway covered with soot
and tire-blackened snow along its edges.
Here is a cleft shorn and blasted
through this mountain to make way for our
future ambivalence to its rocky cliffs
and its hanging curtains of fanged and frozen teeth.
Here is a desolate moonscape
of flat tilled earth stretched to every horizon
broken only by the gray boards
of a dilapidated barn storing god-knows-what
in the middle of so much nothing.
Everywhere electrical wires
spanning pole to crooked pole
linking years upon years
of forgotten voices and tragedies yet to be,
linking travelers like pushpins
in a map of destinations connected with strings.
This road once used by serial killers
and hitchhikers and preachers and pioneers.
This road once used by carnivals of nomads
by the broken and the hopeful
by the faithful and the damned.
This road littered with beer cans
and dead dogs and empty shopping bags.
Once we passed a dump truck
hoisting up a deer carcass
with a pulley and steel cables,
its bed already full of twisted and rotting bodies,
brown and white fur matted with splotches
of that bright red liquid life
we all take for granted
trapped beneath our skin.
I’m no poet, just a petulant child
with a pad and a pen
and a Macbook Pro, where every keystroke
is the embodiment of a scream
caught in a wind I somehow find myself in
like a loose cilantro leaf
stuck to the tooth of some beautiful woman
who only desires to bite my cheek
until it bleeds.
Oh, how I wish Danez Smith
would punch me in the face.
Then, it would be self-defense
when I make him eat his words
like glass shards
from a vodka bottle
tossed into the street
for the careless feet of dogs.
Fuck this community of clones
and would-be has-been’s
using the bullied and broken
piles of formerly closeted bones
for their soapbox sophistry
and self-righteous posturing
of career highlight reels gone wrong.
I wonder, have you even seen the mountains?
Have you seen the way moss ignores
the northern side of any stone
wetted enough with rain?
Have you seen the moon skewer itself
like a fish hook through the clouds
spilling its light over the tops of trees
like ivory clad chaos,
meant to drive the heart
through every guardrail of madness?
Maybe just stop and look around
at how everything dies
the same meaningless way
amid so much beauty.
If I believe my own voice
to be the voice of the poem,
I lose credibility, lose my integrity,
lose my attachment to the basket
of that hot air balloon we call wonder,
beginning to listen to my thoughts
instead of opening myself
to the vistas and visuals
of a disappearing world.
Notice how no one auto-tunes the birds
as they migrate overhead,
as they shout out their triangulations
and ping pong echoes
guiding themselves wherever instinct wills
beyond those seemingly vacant hills
long reduced to matte paintings and background noise
accompanying mindless drives
to and from the nowhere we call our lives.
Notice the absence of photoshop blurring tools
to smooth imperfect canyons,
make the multi-creviced mountains
into blot-gray slumbering seals with dolphin skin,
just more scrolling reflections against windows
and windshields where the heart is a distraction,
and the sunset is a blindness
to be shielded against for better commutes.
Next to the road is a river,
next to the river is a forest,
next to the forest is another forest,
and beyond that, the snow-capped peak
that seems to breathe smoke
into the treetops,
pine needles filtering light
like kaleidoscopes for squirrels,
where the sound softens to footsteps on sand,
and the air begs to be held
just a bit longer in the lungs.
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
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.