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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.

Jay Sizemore is Dead

Obituary

The wish for death always comes true
eventually
we all run out of breath
for wishing.

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
natural causes?
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
and cloudy.

They found Jay Sizemore’s body
sprawled out
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.

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.