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A Statement Long Overdue

I’ll just get this out of the way quickly. I sincerely apologize for the hurt and pain I have caused people in the literary community regarding some of my poetry (particularly the Misogyny poems), which I sincerely deceived myself into believing had a noble purpose behind it, but was really just me deluding myself of my own importance in a field I still struggle to find a place in. I was wrong, and I take responsibility for it, having done much reflecting and introspection since the time period of which I was embroiled in that controversy. Again, I was wrong, I accept it, and I don’t expect to be forgiven by those who want to hate me for writing obscene things, I just want to put all that idiocy behind me once and for all, and move on with my life. I hope that someday those who I hurt with words, as much as words are capable of causing hurt, can at least try to empathize with what prompted my provocations, as much as I have tried to empathize with the reactions to the work, and that we can agree to just put it in the past. That’s all I am asking here. I understand that forgiveness may not be earned in this case, but I am trying to do the right thing and admit my mistakes for what they were, just pure delusional stupidity, coming from a person who still struggles with self-image and clinical depression issues, and who allowed those issues to manifest in extreme outbursts of hurtful words disguised as awful poems.

This is all prompted from a recent reading of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, from which I gleaned several valuable lessons about perception and the self, and how perception can blind us when stunted by personal belief. One of the lessons in that book that really struck a chord with me, was that in order to understand the world, you must first take a hard unbiased look at the self, and understand your own problems, work on fixing those problems, and only when you are healed can you begin to work earnestly at understanding and finding a place in the grander scheme of existence, and maybe help heal others or larger problems. And so, having this in my mind, and having already been thinking for several months about what went wrong with my poetry, I have had to make some difficult acknowledgements of my own deficiencies as a human being, and try to make some changes. The first of these changes is that I have to stop refusing to admit when I am wrong. The next is I have to sincerely apologize for being wrong. The next is I have to rekindle my inner humility in a world that doesn’t even have to pay attention to the fact I am alive within it. Some of this I have accomplished through distancing myself somewhat from social media and a voracious addiction to attention (or the perception of attention) given by that superficial lust. The rest I tried to accomplish through meditation on healing and empathy.

I have changed a lot over this time period. Aside from moving all the way across the USA, I have tried to reconnect with nature, reestablish authentic connections with friends and family, and just live a healthier life with as little conflict as possible. My stepfather died this past September, and that was particularly hard for me. The challenges of dealing with such a loss amid some petty family disputes really put the finite nature of a lifespan into perspective for me, really had me trying to measure the importance of things. I found that these literary feuds I had previously let consume my time and attention the past few years were in the long run going to be meaningless. These things are not important at all. They are a distraction, a distraction that removes you from the actual experience of being alive and contributing meaningfully to that experience. I am sorry for ever falling prey to such a narcissistic pitfall of an illusion. I don’t want this small blip of a failure in judgment to be what defines me as an individual, or the broader scope of work I leave behind.

Recently, I was shared a psychological profile of Borderline Personality Disorder, and I was disturbed by how many of those boxes I checked for myself. I don’t know if I have that disorder, but it was humbling to me to feel even remotely the possibility of it. I know that I have struggled with depression most of my life, with suicidal thoughts, with an uncontrollable desire to fit in and be liked that I have never been able to fulfill except in small doses, and these issues have only been exacerbated by my addiction to the internet and social media. I was bullied ruthlessly most of my young life and adolescent life, I was raised in a turbulent environment, I struggled with relationships and rejection which culminated in an intense fear of rejection, and now I still bear the burden of how these experiences have scarred my mind, to the point that I am often uncomfortable around others, including things as simple as family get-togethers or friendly social gatherings. In my mind, I still struggle to fit in, no matter where I am.

Knowing that, I can now look back at what went down with my work in the poetry community and see it all as attempts to please others and fit in, and then attempts to self-destruct when those attempts failed. I convinced myself I was in the right, that I was the one under attack, that I was the one being shunned and bullied, and my reactions to those things were to lash out and provoke my perceived attackers. Much like violence only begets more violence, resentment only begets more resentment, and negativity only breeds more negativity. I felt caught in a riptide of a downward spiral of my own making, and I became so far entrenched in it with my own self-righteousness that I was helpless to stop myself. This was in effect, part of a repeated cycle of behavior I had nurtured online through addiction to attention and getting off on stirring the pot of provocation. I had allowed myself to become addicted to the whirlwind of internet outrage. Not only because I felt that outrage was blatantly in the wrong, but because I enjoyed the attention of pissing off as many people as possible. I had seen what others had done in this vein, and I vowed to do it better. In other words, I was an absolute asshole.

I understand that nothing I say or do now can take it back, and honestly, I don’t want to take it back, you can’t take back what you said or what you did, because it already happened. Perhaps if I had a time machine, I could try to talk some sense into myself, but I think the person I am today is better for having gone through it and having to learn from these mistakes. Those poems can stand as a testament of what not to do as far as I am concerned, the most grievous of errors between perceived intent and audience reception, and how art no longer belongs to its artist once it has been delivered for consumption to the world. The artist can’t ultimately decide what their work means. Time and context cease to matter as time continues to move and original context is forever lost to the ether, and so what only remains is how that work is perceived and critiqued, and how those perceptions evolve and maybe over time the critiques will as well. I think artistic intent shouldn’t be completely ignored, but it doesn’t have any ultimate effect on audience perception at all, and has to be considered separately. I can look at those poems for instance and say that they are my own version of Horror Film Poems, that I tried to load them with allusions to popular horror movies and literature, from Don’t Breathe, to Human Centipede and Hostel, to Grimm Fairy Tales, to H.P. Lovecraft, that I was trying to make a statement about the perception of satire and how it can be skewed by the simplicity of titles and dedications, to the difference between real world trauma and the written word, but at the end of the day, none of those things matter. What matters is perception, just like the lesson gleaned from Motorcycle Maintenance. I allowed my own belief to blind my perception of what I was doing. I am not saying I am the only one this happened to, as I am sure people have preconceptions of my work that may have impacted their perceptions of it as well. But I am admitting my own failures here and just finally wanting to put this whole charade to bed once and for all. I am sincerely sorry and will live with the regret of it for the whole remainder of my life. And I continue to pay the price for it, for writing poetry that offended and hurt people in ways I will never understand, and for believing I was totally entitled to write such poetry without consequences. I also hurt those who had defended me in the past, making myself into a character so despicable I alienated myself from peers and friendships I had worked so hard to build by becoming a monstrous villain of truly indefensible stature. I tried to make myself an artistic martyr for freedom of expression, and failed so gloriously that I became a joke. I am a joke.

So, in closing, I continue to find solace in the fact that I am nobody. I am not a great poet or writer, I am not a great person. I am just a person. In the end that is all anyone ever gets to be, and I will continue to try and find a place in this world that allows me to be the best version of that person I can be, as long as I am trying to find out who that person truly is. Thank you for reading this, and if you are one of the people who was hurt by my poems, or one of the people who tried to ostracize me from the poetry community, or even just someone with a vague interest in all this, I hope you can find the truth here, and see it comes from an earnest place of remorse and blatant honesty. I hold no animosity or anger toward anyone who tried to ruin me or my work. I deserved it. I let it go. I let it go and admit to my own part in creating the whole ridiculous circus of that mess. I hurt people with carelessly provocative work, and I am eternally sorry for doing so, for believing that art is more sacred than emotion, and for somehow believing I was the person capable of making such a statement. And I hope to never make the same mistake twice. I believe in second chances and even third chances. Maybe someday we all get them.

Thank you.

Poem for a facebook friend

Reasons to exist
~for John Duddy

We try to make sense of this life,
we want to understand
how our differences intersect
and make connection possible
among all this random bullshit,
how we can love one another
despite the myriad reasons
to simply close the door and hide
inside our nests of self and same,
our quiet holes of comfort and light
dimly cast from curtained windows
or lamps among stacks of well-worn words,
and yet, there’s no sense to it all,
no reason to be found for why
even the good people die,
suddenly, another novel removed
from the shelves of ourselves
leaving only but a faint outline
from where the dust fell
just as careless as rain
that causes the land to slide
and close the spines
of thousands of stories
never opened to our eyes.
You were here yesterday,
and today you are a glimmer
along the edge of the glass,
a trail of sun waving its last
ghostly filament of shine,
while in this world we move on
in fading remembrance
or without missing a thing,
poised on the ignorance
of our next innocuous mistake,
running stop signs, running red lights,
forgetting to signal a turn
that always leads us here,
looking around and lost
about what exactly happened
and how can we still love
a world such as this,
but it turns out it’s simple,
it’s because
we exist.

Not a racist

When they called the dead poet a racist

I suppose I’m selfish
because my grief makes me so,
turning your death into an excuse
for me to need something more
than even your presence could offer,
I say I’m sad, so comfort me,
make me feel anything
other than this emptiness,
this loose coat of flesh
dropped to the floor
like a fresh gutted fish
because it slipped
from the butcher’s hand
before he reached the brown paper,
and god damn it,
I just want to keep finding myself
reflected in the eyes of your words,
they gave me courage
to emulate your fearlessness,
your playfulness, the way criticism
seemed to bead from your skin
like water on a newly waxed car,
labels sliding off you
as easy as eggs from a pan
onto plates you just kept serving
to hungry customers
who kept standing in line
no matter what the protestors
shouted from outside
on their sidewalks, their lips curled
with rage, their mouths
all flying spittle and clouds
of cold breath, how could you,
how could you continue
without apology, without explanation,
smiling beneath your veil
of hot tar and goose feathers,
your teeth so white,
your skin so pale,
your poems so good
you insisted they do all your talking.

Poem contemplating life and death

Epiphany of the lemming

There’s a lightbulb cooking dust
in my troubled mind,
something so akin to meaning
I can practically taste the alkaline.

It’s worrisome, this notion of age,
that I’ve lived long enough
I’m now imprisoned by breath
that heaves as I’m forced
to watch my idols die.

Maybe it’s imaginary,
this vision of mine,
that everyone I love
suddenly takes on the stilted posture
of a marionette, string-guided
and trance-like in single-file rows
toward the edge of a cliff
that separates the light from the dark.

Daily the news comes,
be it phone call or text,
news headline or tweet,
that another great influence
of my life has taken the dive
into that unquestionable void,
and each disappearance
causes more of a stir in my gut,
more of a dread-set panic
that blooms like an electrical burn,

because I’m here too you see,
I’ve woken up trapped
inside a body of wood
and cheap metal joints,
my eyes fixed forward
as if they’re a painted stare
watching the bobbing rows
of shiny black heads
careening like floating ducks
on a river without rapids,
and only I seem to understand
it’s a trap

there’s a waterfall waiting,
and it’s impossible to hear
the deafening roar of the cascade
until it’s swept you away,
out and into the ether
far from the crowd that remains
and wonders absently where you’ve gone.

I want to scream,
WAKE UP YOU FOOLS!
THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS PEACE!

My heart a piston out of control,
turning my insides red,
but I can’t open my mouth,
my lips now just a pen-drawn line
curved at the corners
into a concrete smile of catatonic glee
watching more members
of this cursed conga line
vanish from my sight,
their scents still left like chalk plumes
in the absence of their bodies,
dissipating seed clouds that glow dim
and swirl like coffee creamer
between the ignorant passers-by.

There’s no way back from here
that doesn’t sever the world from me,
and I’m suddenly haunted
by a repeated phrase, a recurring dream,
ask not for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee,

and every shaking step
carries you closer
to the source of the noise.

Poem for Tony Hoagland, RIP

Fuck Cancer
~for Tony Hoagland

I could say fuck cancer
but cancer never seems
to get fucked,
and all these repeated incantations
reverberating in kitchens
and hospital walls
like backwards Hail Marys
or curses of wind
expelled when stubbing your toe
on the dark corner
of the coffee table,
in the end, they’re just words,
creature comforts like chocolate cake
or favorite characters in a sitcom,
and it’ll never stop,
despite the stadiums filled
with pink scarves, pink socks,
pink shoelaces and gloves,
the pink will disappear from the faces
of the ones you love,
they’ll slowly turn an ashy gray,
waxy synthetic, almost mannequin-like,
only their eyes will remain
glossy and wet, quarters in a creek bed,
shining up at you on the bank,
someone so stupid,
you believed sometimes
coins carried wishes,
and even if they don’t,
people keep throwing them in,
so many coins, so many scattered prayers,
the stream shimmers like a disco ball,
and even if you died right now
there’s something beautiful
about that, something disorienting,
a virtual vertigo of the senses
spinning in a captive body,
when death’s black jaw yawns
so close to the ear
its breath raises the fine hair,
that whisper of finality
like trickled drips down an IV line,
a sound not unlike a fountain
found in a Buddhist shrine,
so hard to discern the difference
from the echocardiogram
and the scribble of a poet’s pen,
perhaps why it was once a custom
to place coins over the eyes of the dead.

A Dumpster Fire Speaks

Trash fire
for VIDA

“You can have it all,
my empire of dirt.
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt.” ~ Trent Reznor

I used to be fierce, but now I am afraid.
I’m afraid I’ve lost my ability
to tell the truth, to know
what it is I stand for.

Everything I sought I saw stripped away
when it was just out of my grasp,
like some award I felt entitled to
or the keys to a new car
car of my dreams
with its paint so shiny
and reflective
it almost seemed liquid,
or the girl at the basketball game
with the supermodel body
and the pornstar fuck-me eyes
who dared me to approach her
with her lips wet and slow
sucking a Blow-Pop and staring me down
like she wished it was my cock,
who when I finally worked up the nerve
to walk over and say hello,
just curled like a leaf
into the shoulder of her guy friend
laughing, her and her friends laughing
at how stupid I was
for thinking someone like her
would ever be interested in someone like me,

and I felt myself slip
just a bit closer to the edge
of a cliff I’d stared off of many nights alone,
down into a darkness that seemed to have no bottom,
I felt another filament of light spark out
inside myself and this time I wasn’t sure
if I’d find another bulb to replace it,
but of course I did,
and somehow I added another layer
to my person suit, zipped it up
over my previous self like a fresh baby skin,
and I managed to move on,
to find small measures of happiness
over the years, people who loved me
and then stopped loving me
only to be replaced by someone else,
and that’s how it goes
if you don’t manage to fuck everything up
beyond your scope
of seeing a way to rebuild it.

This poem isn’t even my own voice.
I should know better than to write
after reading someone else’s books,
but sometimes that’s when I’m most inspired,
I see the genius of others
and my mind starts trying to duplicate it,
to find in myself
what I found so captivating
while living in another writer’s mind.

And by now, you’re thinking I’ve lost the thread.
Wasn’t this supposed to be a poem about Truth,
you’re probably thinking to yourself.
Truth, that comically noble notion—
hold your horses, lady or gent, I’m coming back to it.
You see, when I first started writing,
I had a rabid desire to protect
the sacrosanct freedom
that I saw coming under attack:
nobody poets telling other nobody poets
what they should or should not be writing,
what was offensive and infringing on the safe spaces
of literature, what was appropriating other cultures
through the oppression of colonialist patriarchy,
what was objectifying women
treating them as totems or victims
of a fetishized male gaze,
misogyny, sexism, violence, homophobia,
transphobia, racism, ablism, Islamophobia,
agism, all these things signaled a problematic author,
someone entrenched in an outdated worldview,
someone who was probably a trash fire
and didn’t deserve to be read or even to be alive,
even if they didn’t believe what they wrote,
even if they just considered these elements
to be part of a complex reality
that needed to be seen in order to be critiqued,
they were to be shamed and shunned,
driven from literature like lepers
forced to live in caves
on the outskirts of civilization.

Fuck Bukowski. Fuck Hemingway.
Fuck Browning, fuck Carver, fuck Lowell,
fuck Ginsberg, fuck Stafford, fuck Collins.
Fuck David Foster Wallace and Brian Easton Ellis.
Fuck Chuck Palahniuk and John Updike.
Fuck Junot Diaz, Sherman Alexie, Joseph Massey.
Fuck Kenneth Goldsmith and fuck you if you like him.
Fuck William Shakespeare.
Fuck Whitman, Thoreau, and Emerson.
Men are cancelled.
Fuck the Canon. Fuck the Patriarchy.
BURN IT ALL DOWN.

I started writing poems specifically aimed
at pissing these people off.
They demand Trigger Warnings?
I’ll write the most triggering poem I can imagine,
and I’ll mock trigger warnings in the process.
Fuck your trigger warnings.
They say you can’t write about rape?
Challenge accepted.
Fuck your coddled victimhood mentality.
Don’t use racial slurs in poems.
Watch me.
Fuck your book-banning stereotypes.
Don’t mock the Prophet Muhammad.
We’ll see about that.
Fuck your precious religion.
Accuse me of appropriating someone’s abuse?
I’ll put my accusers names as titles
of the most offensive poems of all time.
Fuck you.

And this is how I lost the truth,
by fighting a battle that wasn’t mine,
in which I ended up defending myself
more than I defended the cause,
by becoming the villain
of a story that has too many villains,
attacking my attackers,
becoming a scapegoat
for what’s wrong
with white male writers,
someone no one would defend
for risk of their own credibility,
someone even a good friend
couldn’t or wouldn’t stand beside
any more
without putting their own neck
in the path of the guillotine.

Welcome to the world of internet poetry,
where years of work
building a name
can vanish over the course of three days,
where it has become commonplace
for gangs to demand
publications to remove the poems
that dared to cross imaginary lines,
and then for that poet’s work
to be scrubbed from the archives
as if they never existed
or ever wrote poems at all.

I often wonder how many of these poets
whose books I have purchased over the years,
and who I reached out to in email
or through social media chats
to express what their work meant to me,
ever bothered to buy one of my books,
or to even read the books I mailed to them
just to show my appreciation,
how many of my books
have never even been cracked open,
were just moved from padded envelopes
directly to dusty bookshelves
to begin collecting their own sheens
of shed skin, the sloughed off cells
of the poets coating the covers
of the work of a friend or a peer
they never respected enough to begin with
to give their work even the fleeting chance
of a few precious minutes
of their own attention.

In the end, it doesn’t matter,
everyone thinks they’re burning down the world,
but they’re just dancing
in their own fires,
and once the flames have all burnt out
there’ll be no one left
who cares enough
to sweep up the ashes.

Trump’s Democracy : NaPoWriMo #14

Kakistocracy : The New Constitution part 2

Let he without morality rule them,
let he devoid of decency close his fists
about the throat of the world
and throttle, his spittle-flecked lips
frothing white, his face flushed bright
with the tantrums of every subverted wish.

Let he without conscience be king,
his sagging skin but an ill-fitted coat
cloaking the hideousness of his greed,
the unscrupulous and the craven
leprosy of want, a blood-filled sack
covered in pus and wet dollar bills.

Let he without humanity declare himself
dictator of the masses, the masses clamoring
for a new Jesus to usher their souls
into the fire pits of penance and self-deprecation,
tomahawk missiles sounding like horns
blown from the mouths of archangels.

Let he without intelligence lead them,
bumbling and stumbling, foolhardy and blind
into the next Dark Age, a cavernous catacombs
of blank-screened smart phones
and television monitors caked in dust,
a continent sealed in walls of bones.

Let he without grace state his amoral decree,
The truth is but a noose swinging
and wound from fake-fibered news
in these gallows of country turned cataclysm,
and the people will willingly slide
their heads through the holes!

Let he without gravitas guide them
as he strokes his member for all to see,
ejaculates vile filth onto every belief
while they bathe in it, rub it like salve
over their faces and eyes and gaze upward
awe-struck, slack-jawed, begging for the trickle-down.

NaPoWriMo Poem #11

On hanging a bird feeder

If I am a stranger to myself
maybe I’ve always been,
wondering at the man I’ve become,
buying a better drill to drive
these screws into the deck post
when twelve volts couldn’t do the job,
securing this wrought iron hook
to hang this lantern-like object
with its windows only reflecting light
I can no longer discover inside.

And then the disappointment begins
when nothing seems to happen,
days of waiting like a child
for a Christmas morning with no snow
and a living room floor absent
of the gift Santa promised to bring,
sitting in a cloth-backed chair
sipping beers at sunset,
the wind gently flapping
the sun-filtered shade of an awning
while blue-gray clouds ease their way
eastward beyond the trees that lean
into a sky past the fence line.

This is pointless, I think, listening
to that ambient susurrus
of neighborhood noise like ocean currents,
what winged thing would ever want
to visit me in my apathy?
And, of course, nothing answers,
as it always does the thoughts
of an aging mind.

But, life still holds an element of surprise,
life still happens without announcement
of itself, when without applause
a red-breasted finch alights
along that lantern’s metal-railed base,
cocks its head to and fro
as if in ambivalent acknowledgment,
picks up a seed in its black and white beak
and flutters out of sight,
back into the canopy of camouflage trees,
and there’s this moment
this inexplicable pause in the minutiae
of heartbeats flooding my veins,
where happiness finds its wings.

Another gun poem : NaPoWriMo #10

A penis is a warm gun

The measure of manhood
can’t have a snubbed nose,

this open carry seems indecent
in the presence of children,

yet, here we are, waving
our dicks around like trophies,

impregnating the air
of coffee shops and grocery stores

with that curdled milk odor of death.
Shooting off at the mouth,

shooting off from the hip,
stroking these polished barrels

and stocks in orgies of masturbatory
fear mongering for what?

A good guy with a cock
keeps his happiness at home

and shines up his chrome
to internet porn when he’s alone

like an ordinary homophobe.
Maybe it’s less manly

to keep your junk in your drawers,
to keep your chamber cleared,

to keep a pistol only capable
of shooting six girls before needing reload,

but at a certain age it becomes obscene
to think of anything but a future

where the young can decide for themselves
which wounds they’d prefer to die from.

The Weapon of Ownership : NaPoWriMo #9

A person is a weapon

A gun is just a tool,
something for the red cloud of violence
to seep through, an arterial spray
that spatters the canvas
of homes and city streets
with chaotic disregard
for where its color will land.

Remove the tool,
and this violent fog
will still leak from our pores
like blood-tinged sweat,
finding a new outlet,
be it fist, or tooth, or stone.

What is a law, but a rule
meant to be broken?
There will always be forces
that work against
this cohesive reality,
atoms vibrating themselves into fevers,
shredding the silk curtains
from the windows,
pulling the skin from the bone.

The human animal is not to be trusted,
one thin sliver of glass
separating consciousness
from instinct, separating words
from gut-throated howls
and knuckles dragged
through dust and dirt,
these tight circles
of territory, not to be infringed.

Convince a man that he owns the world
and other men cease to have faces,
become thieves wearing shadows
coming to club the light from the skull,
coming to plant a different colored flag
on this hill of nameless graves.

This is the primal law
written somewhere beneath the jaw,
remove every weapon from the Earth,
melt the steel, burn the wood,
pluck every fingernail, pull every canine
from every snarling mouth,
and we would still find a way
to choke the life from the other,
to lay claim to this body,
to prevent sharing sips
from a single glass of water.