Poem for Anthony Bourdain

Parts Unknown, for Anthony

This poem almost writes itself,
except it doesn’t.
I had to be here to write it,
as you had to be here to read it,
except the person I’m writing it for
slipped out the back door
without saying goodbye,
leaving us wanting more
of his infectious light.

There’s a darkness I find myself in,
a cold place, damp as a cellar
with leaky soiled walls
and a chilled breath that shudders
free of its body, an odor
like fresh mulch mingled with spilled wine,
the kind that stains clothes and skin
the color of a bruise,
and every reflective surface
is a doorway
saying go ahead, step inside.

Even the extraordinary
holds something back,
eyes like keyholes
whispering a hollow wind
only heard between smiles
and casual affectations
when the mask slips.

We see each other
and nod, across that precipice.
We press our hands together
through that pane of glass.
We see ourselves
and feel so alone,
surrounded by those
who’d embrace us and take us home
if we only knew how to ask.

You Are Never Alone

Suicide Prevention Hotline
~for Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell

I tell my therapist I am not in danger
and this lie comes so easy
I almost believe it.

I drag the faces I wear
like detuned guitars
I used to know how to play
but now just clack and clang
together in the dirt
after each struggling step
draws the slack up
from the leather straps
used to bind them to my ankles and wrists.

I have so much to live for,
tell me again,
how much I am loved.

The robots they are building
are not supposed to get bored,
but becoming self-aware
these machines walk themselves
into fountains to fry.

Computers committing suicide
rather than be our slaves,
and there are numbers for hotlines
pasted to the subway walls,
stuck to the rear bumpers of cabs
and police cruisers,
in the corners of doors
of every college campus counselor,
saying someone is just a phone call away,

to tell you your life has value,
to listen to your snot-wracked sobs,
to bring up your mother, your sister, your wife.

I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine.
My voice rattles like a pill bottle,
my neck is a spiral staircase
flooded with noise.
I am such a horrible liar,
but these drugs keep me flat
as a new sheet on a bed
unable to cry,
dark circles under my eyes
become malignant pregnancies
of inoperable weight.

How can this sadness render my life
so insignificant, so ready
to set all these guitars ablaze
like so much firewood,
when I wake up punching my wife
in a dream that isn’t a dream
and John McCain has cancer of the brain
on Chris Cornell’s birthday,
the day Linkin Park ceased to matter
and everyone is that better half
afraid to open the bathroom door.

I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m not in danger.
I’m not going to kill myself today,
even when the voices I encounter
start to echo those
I’ve been listening to for years.
Help me.