I sling words with feeling without skimming on the surface like a cockroach across a puddle.

I get drunk and cry with my pen instead of writing about my tears.  Anyone can do that.

I drag myself through a slimy alley of darkness and live to keep it a secret.

I don’t have time to spout pretty words and platitudes and cocktail party phrases.

My life, my existence is this: every word counts.

Every stinking drop of sweat on this table is a poem. Every lamentation for lost vices pushes a limit. Every painful sunrise is a testament to being laid bare every night.

Every click of the compressor motor on the refrigerator counts down to the end, closer than the beginning, and I am alive to feel every second of it, taste every bitter dreg of it, lose myself in all the places where I don’t matter.

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I took a walk in the woods one day on a well-worn path dappled with shade and sun

beside the path, a quiet creek made its run

to the ocean, you say, but maybe to a thirsty belly or a still

 

The earth felt alive and laughing at my puny existence as I ground out the miles without a real sense of distance,

but miles went by.

I heard a hum, like the twang of a lonely banjo that slides in and out of the mountains after a midnight rain when the fog settles low

The hum of the earth, the world, the sentience of startling rocks that pace my path, not as stumbling blocks, but

guides to the secrets of the ground

If I only listen and dissolve my barriers of skin, mortal skin

 

 

I went out between rain showers to stock up for the next few days

and my guy was in there, doing his thing, selling the booze, chatting up the customers

I got my stuff, he showed me a stash of a rare minibottle that I covet

He said he saved it just for me, and you know, just for a minute, I thought that we are more than just customer and clerk. He thought of me when I wasn’t there.  In my pathetic isolation, I believed that.

But it was ok in the end.  I told him I needed to write today, and he said, today is a good day to make some great poetry, what with the rain, the grey skies, and a couple of pops of liquor to lubricate the wheels, I mean, that’s what I do when I want to create.

And in that moment, we connected. He said, your eyes are twinkling today.  I said, you look about sixteen with your new glasses. He said, write about it!  It’s a good day to write!

In the half dark, I write.  The rain falls soft, then hard. The tv murmurs in a back room. And I write.  I write. The booze sits untouched, waiting for a celebration or maybe a wake, but the words come

strong and sharp and cut me to the quick.

 

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keeps the kitties in kibble and me in tacos

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You wanna know what’s sad?  I’ll tell you what’s sad.

It’s sad knowing that your cosmic twin, thirty years younger and fifty pounds lighter, is

sitting in an apartment in a giant, never sleeping city

feeling just as alone and isolated as you are, but she

still has hope.  She thinks she’s jaded, but she’s not.  She thinks she’s weary, but

she doesn’t know yet of the soul-crushing exhaustion of chronic empty bank accounts and crummy lovers and shitty food

She has no idea what despair is, and that’s a good thing because her still pure soul would disappear with the realization that nobody cares. Not really.

Imma tell that girl, my cosmic twin, to make friends with her isolation because it’s gonna be there for good.  Imma tell her that despair isn’t so bad when it’s a catalyst.  Broken dreams pave the way to reality. Imma tell her to drink the good booze when she’s flush and the shitty stuff when she’s broke.

I know she won’t listen, because she holds out hope that it gets better.  She has to believe it gets better, otherwise, she will shatter into a million pieces, maybe end up pushing a grocery cart and feeding pigeons with the crumbs in her homemade dreads, drinking buzzballs, collapsing into a heap in the park.

donation

keeps the kitties in kibble and me in tacos

$1.00

Wondering where the dream went.

If she’s lucky, she will claw her way out to the other side and sit under a bare bulb over the kitchen table, thinking about her younger cosmic twin just starting out, sipping a fine microbrew and sending not good vibes but survival vibes.

The veneer of adulthood wears thin after a few decades. There’s a pause that sounds like a hiccup in the middle of a weather forecast.  It resets thoughts.  It rearranges beliefs.

Maybe it’s overwhelming, contemplating the vastness of life and realizing that my significance has no more weight than the dot at the end of this sentence.  Maybe I shrink at some visceral level to keep claim to “me”.

I am a stranger who may or may not exist without the largesse of other strangers who believe that I, in fact, am here, in all my crazy, continually failing glory.

A terrible sadness overwhelms me at times when reverence and serene solitude are the expected emotional states.  That muddy and dark grief is a lonely blacktop that unrolls as far as my eye comprehends. It always appears like a faithful mourner that shows up to every funeral because it’s supposed to show up.

Where it comes from–who knows?  I have determined that I must make friends with it, hold it close to my heart and no longer treat it as an adversary to be conquered but a worthy opponent deserving of vigilant respect.

 

 

Writing is easy–when you’re not doing any

Ideas come out of nowhere like hitchhikers that materialize on a shimmering highway, trudging along, waiting to be transported to new places

I pass them by because hey, I’m going somewhere, but I’ll swing back by in a couple of hours.

Damn.  Gone, the whole lot of them.

Must have been a mirage.  Maybe someone else picked them up and carried them to an exotic destination

I’ll see some more.  I’ll keep watching.  Next time, I will stop wherever I’m going and give them all the respect and attention they deserve.

Where is the middle ground between my loving altogether in the whole sense

and walking an ascetic life?

It’s no accident gurus and crones are long in the tooth

It takes decades to learn anything in this life

Anything that is worth a damn, anyway

Those of us who claim to be forever youthful and therefore excused from

learning lessons and little grievings of maturity, mortality

whistle through the day with a jaunty tip of the cap and a nod in toasting

We, the orphaned children of Pan, we winking curmudgeons,

for us, there is no middle ground for anything

and I’m fucking grateful for that

In between here and there lies a place of quiet

a place of no longer yearning for others’ attention

or affection or respect

It’s a place fully alive to absolutely everything in the universe that exists

to know the mysterious workings of things

It does not love or hate or boast of arrogance

nor bow in humility

to be fully alive and quiet in the now

In the flow of a silent eternal rhythm

 not watching

clocks or calendars or seasons changing

The essence of unbottling this quiet

belongs to nothing and everything

but exists on fairy wings, those mythical sprites

that flit in the gloaming of life that possesses

more yesterdays than tomorrows

I never thought that my best friends would have been objects instead of people, but here we are.

I liked to smoke.  I loved to smoke.  My favorite time of the day was early morning, with cup of coffee in hand, pack of cigarettes on the table, and an hour to leisurely peruse Facebook and Twitter before my caregiving responsibilities came into play.

I cherished the twin jolts of caffeine and nicotine, and to a lesser extent, the solitude to indulge in those old friends.  Of course, at night, there was nothing better than a few beers, a lot more smokes, and hitting the hay with a pleasant buzz.

Then, the virus happened.  It started like my usual infection that happens every year at the same time:  sore throat, headache, nasty asthmatic cough.  I took my usual store meds to keep the symptoms to a dull roar and continued to do my usual, albeit with the added stress of Thanksgiving just a couple of days away.  I powered through, prepping for the big day, hacking and blowing my nose, smoking less and drinking more.  Alcohol is a disinfectant.  The logic seemed impeccable, really.

Then, my roommate started sniffling.  Started wheezing.  By Friday, she was puffing like a steam engine.  I was somewhat concerned, but not unduly so.  Although she indulged in the same habits, her smoking took a big hit.  She just couldn’t draw a deep breath.

By Saturday morning, she sounded like Darth Vader and looked like him without the helmet; grey, sickly, weak around the eyes.  Her stubbornness would not let her even touch her rescue inhaler until it was too late to do any good.  Off we go to the ER.  She spent six days in the hospital, struggling to draw a breath, taking breathing treatments and injections every two hours.  I had another day of self-recrimination and smoking, until I gave it up, too.  There was no way I could continue to smoke after what I saw her go through, even though I hadn’t planned to quit, exactly.  It just happened.

So, this Saturday, she will be two weeks smoke-free, on a strict heart-healthy diet, one drink limit, and as much walking as she can handle, which is to say, not much right now.  my drinking is down to one beer a night.  I didn’t plan that, either, but it happened.  Sunday will be two weeks smoke-free for me.

My so-called best friends ended up not being my best friends after all.  They didn’t care about my wellbeing.  They just wanted to kill me.  With friends like that, who needs enemies?  I can live without them and I have more free hours to do what I really want to do.  I thought I would be depressed, but the opposite has happened.  I feel more energetic, more positive, and I cook a whole lot more because I feel like it again.  I’ve noticed that my back no longer aches when I walk a lot.  I don’t get in a hurry to finish something so I can have a cigarette and a beer.

My roommate still has breathing treatments for the next few months, but she sounds better now breathing-wise than she has in years.

As for me, I’m still taking doctor-prescribed meds, still sniffling, still keeping a headache, and still smoke-free.  The gut-punch of wanting a cigarette happens and I let it come and go.  If I could train myself to not smoke in the car or the truck and be happy with it, I can train myself to not smoke anywhere, anytime.  I thoroughly enjoy my one beer and don’t miss the other five or six at all.

I once thought that being an adult meant doing what I want when it turns out that real maturity means doing what is necessary and liking it for the sheer joy of having the choice to make good decisions.

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, the house vibrated with each beat.

Jane cocked her head, startled.

“What’s that noise?”

I told her it was a car speaker booming somewhere close.

“A CAR SPEAKER!” “WHAT??”

I walked out on to the porch and the next door workers were blasting from a truck as they threw trash into the bed. my triangle neighbors across the street came out, too. Left angle neighbor said that her twin toddlers woke up from their naps. Right angle neighbor came out barefooted, hair all askew, throwing up her hands.

“What the fuck??”

I jerked my thumb over to the offending house. Dude, they shaking the house. She said her windows were rattling. She shouted over in Spanish to cut the music down and they ignored her. We talked for a few minutes and went back in. I texted the PD and said the neighbors were raising the dead over here. I came back outside and the music was turned down enough that all you could hear was quiet little booms, like a cockatoo that’s been told to shut the fuck up but he mumbles just enough to let you know you are not his mother and he doesn’t have to listen to you.

Right angle neighbor came back over and we smoked and talked about her casino trip the night before. She said her old man was gonna shit when he pulled up and heard what had happened. Not that he’s a crazy guy or anything, but he is the opposite of little man syndrome. And he’s a short guy. I know good and well he won’t start anything but he will sure finish it. Couple of weeks ago, he was outside raking leaves when he heard another neighbor, elderly, yelling at some dogs that were chasing her out of her backyard. He ran over with his rake and they turned on him. He made them turn around and hop over the back fence to the crackheads’ yard, which is probably where they came from in the first place. He told me to keep an eye out for the dogs when I came outside, and sure enough, as soon as I got back in the house, they came running into my yard and charged at the storm door where the cats were looking out. I yelled so loud that they stopped and ran off. The cops called me that day when they finally had the dogs cornered and I could hear them barking like crazy as the cop told me he thought he had found the right ones.

My neighbor told me she had called the cops earlier, so we watched for them, and sure enough, they came rolling by right after boomer left. They chatted with us for a few minutes and were the epitome of polite and even tweaked me a little on my ballcap.

This neighborhood is small, one way in, one way out. It’s a mixed, diverse neighborhood, with a trump supporter at one end, hispanics at the other end, and every color of the rainbow in the middle. The town itself is small, just a dot on the highway, but less than ten miles from a good sized urban area. Hundreds of brand new neighborhoods are getting thrown together by a builder of dubious reputation, but people don’t care. They are desperate for affordable housing and this is where they will find it. The older neighborhoods here are getting top dollar for shitholes, even though there are no bad neighborhoods to speak of, but Texas is cursed with soil that moves. Foundations crack. They can get so bad that a house can look like it’s broken in half on the inside and still command a premium price because of the location. So, this settled little subdivision is mature, quiet, where little kids ride their scooters and big wheels up and down the street under shade trees big enough to cool the yard but no so big they will send limbs into the neighbor’s roof the next little tornado that skips through.

The cops ride through and don’t mess with anybody. They didn’t say anything when we, four middle-aged adults, sat at the edge of the driveway to watch the fireworks down at the park and smoked a blunt and drank beer. They just waved at us. You know what happens when the Policia roll up on people reliving their bad old days:

“Shhh! Shhh! Be cool! Shnork!”