young vagabonds

It was then, when we’d been tussled young vagabonds– that I’d learned of words, their promises, and their treason. I remember the first beige-paper letter I ever wrote to you and the stark room– where a crimson-glow sun bled out inside a narrow window that didn’t open and the walls stood tall and blank beside me. I’d only wanted you to be where I was then, or I with you– both of us rescued from this world, every detail shared.

I didn’t love you yet.

I mailed the letter from somewhere in Kansas; on the road, there ain’t nothin’ but nothin’, and more of it over the horizon that never arrives, only changes– nothin’ but screaming thoughts and haunted voices, and whispers– your song and your laughter gave solace between the rumble-thump of tires and the red needle dropping low.

Finally home, four dark walls made me miss the horizon, its rising hem that teases our wishfulness as we give chase, right foot to the floor. Each letter was several pages longer than the last. I wrote to you for hours every night by the heat of a yellowed bulb. Oh, the places we traveled, in my mind– we danced again, but this time sober, aware, inside the moment’s fire.

I still have your letters here, somewhere; I know better than to read them now.

love’s cherishment

Poetry is too impersonal to convey love’s cherishment. The trouble is in the words themselves. Each would wish to be a god, but there are no gods. There is only seduction, shouted into the soul’s echoing well, when we’d wish’d compassion’s whisper.

Can you remember– the lake’s shimmer? Aye, the way the water held the sky above us, and kept us from the darkness below– Our conversations, our silence, both brimming, and entwined, each a continuation of the other, seeming never to end. To the east, there was a fence, broken by vandals, its opening wide enough to crawl through. I’d ventured inside once, finding another lake beyond the tree line, but without you there, after you’d left, all I could hear was the calls of the birds. I’d watched a swirling-purple sky yield to night’s cruel obsidian, and I spoke to you, without speaking. I’d whispered your true name, that which’d been known only to me, that which’d been told only in silence. Nothing stays the same.

honor

they’re the largest lies

ever told

these poems–

in third person

pronouns

entire existences

reduced

to she

or her

distanced–

as though

a poet

could watch

a soul

from above

if I’ve any honor

remaining

in these years

grown slender

I’ll never write

another

as such

red-painted letters

Love stays in our shadow, never far behind, tho silent, as are a poet’s deepest poems, those never written.

Morning had come and mostly gone when she’d arrived. Haughty, pleasantries’ fraudulence danced between white wisps of smoke drifting upward from my cigarette like lovers whose fingers never brush against the skin of the other anymore; a double entendre leaped through a shivering silver-haze ring, as graceful as a dancer, tho unnoticed. If you listened closely, all you could hear was the distance, the mumbled muddle that fills the days.

“Words are the worst invention yet,” I thought to myself, perhaps saying it aloud, “never able to tame a thought, unable to hear a soul’s symphony, deaf and useless, never able to love. Death is not the end of sentience; our words shall end us.”

I’d spent the morning writing poems.

We knew before we knew– where this rendezvous of retrospection was going, careening toward our only honesty, headlong into wrist-bound surrender, the silence between gasps of pleasure screaming all our secrets in red-painted letters that reach the sky.

When it was over, and it always ends– leaving us to the echo-voices of our solitude’s madness, she asked, “When did you start drinking again?”

Karōshi

Karōshi, they call it
such a lovely name
for working ourselves
to death

you can feel it–
a diminishment
as the days fall over
piled upon those prior
flattened, like a folded hand
all the mass
removed

tho, perhaps–
a redemption
another soul
taken notice
this one moment
saved
from the gray
savored
like a poem

young trouble
talking on the phone
yellow-straw hair
tied haphazardly
intentionally random
head tilting
and the thinnest wisp
of a smile
softens a stone resolve

keep on walking, brother
it just ain’t worth
the pain
for something
strange

she was wearing
those big sunglasses
like all the girls
are wearing these days
and like the movie stars
used to wear
last year
a slim white cigarette held
between her middle
and ring finger
sizzles and crackles
when drawn
a slow exhale
lips pursed
and she’s
gone

keep on walking, brother
the time just ain’t right
and it ain’t ever gonna be
right
she’s for another
but you know

she’ll

make you feel

alive

like a woman
who screams at you
swearing
red, and sweating

and then claws at your back
until you’re hearing bells
and the taunts of angels
who cackle, spread their wings
and depart, leaving you there
panting, and bleeding
but most certainly
not dead

tho, how
can we ever be
certain?

tall silence of the gray

there is a bottom
to this place
tho it looks a lot like–
when you’re on top
when nothing can go wrong
but you’ll find
some different people
there
at the bottom
where the valley is wide
and flat, and hoary rubble
where the pinnacles
we’d once claimed
hold new flags
in the clouds
tho the sun still shines
and the days
still come and go
and come
and go
as always
aye, you’ll find
some different people
below
some, the same–
and oft times a few less
than you’d known before
tho there be hordes, unknown
wanderers, and crossed-eyed babblers
and slurring lunatics
or mutes, scratching noisily at their skin
or anarchists, black-clad and clamorous
or some– becoming suddenly
red-faced, and pious
and some are quite loud
about it all
to stave off
the tall silence
of the gray
yet still, they are each
distant
muddle, and murmurs
from miles away
even when right beside you
screaming– about nothing
or about everything
and everyone
loved
and all things
touched
are not really there
anymore
the reach of a hand
to comfort another
passing right through
where they’d once been
souls, and flesh, now like notions
become ghosts in the ether
except the ground
the concrete streets
of the fallen cities
stay
there is a bottom
and the stony soil
of the wide valley
remains
unyielding, beneath
those grown weary
tho they’d wish it
give way

that grace once promised

birthed, ten loves ago
and perhaps more
hollow and screaming, then
endless, red suns’ crimson sorrow
flickers and wanes
to the west of us
as does the flame
a dog-worn path
traces the borders of periphery
pacing, never leaving this place
aye, never finding that grace
once promised
slender winter now passed
round-blond petals
yellow memories, each
wide, and yearning, return
silent, in the trodden earth
awakened, and awaiting
and here, my loves
shall we remain

That vs. Which, a Curious Conundrum

I should really be writing something that will make me money. This won’t. The problem is that every time I park my behind to write something, there are grammar questions, ones that make me wish I had paid more attention in English class instead of watching Susie’s derriere twitch as she walked to the front of the class to turn in her puuurrfect paper.

Today, I find myself again perplexed by the notion and usage of That vs. Which in proper grammar. Yes, I know my main topic should have been in the first paragraph, rather than leading with than Susie’s shapely rear end, but that’s boring and I don’t care. Oh, the memories, dear Susie.

Anyone who has read more than a few sentences that I’ve stitched together has seen me misuse and/or abuse both of these words. In fact, I may have done so just now, in the previous sentence. I have no idea. The topic is almost as baffling as semicolons, which also make me think of asses, but not in such a nostalgic way as did Susie.

I’m too old to go back to school to learn the proper usage of That vs. Which, and Susie has moved on by now. My brain cells are mostly gone anyway. The ones I hadn’t killed off in my youthful insobriety have fled, screaming, having seen what I did to their brethren.

Needing to understand the difference between That and Which, and which one I should whip out at a given time, I did what any modern writer would do: I consulted the experts on YouTube.

Now, to be fair, I think the people in the videos really were experts. Also to be fair, I wouldn’t know an expert if I saw one, although one did look a bit like Susie.

These experts used a lot of technical jargon, like Identifying Clauses, to help distinguish the cases where That should be used, or where Which should be used. Nobody made any jokes about Who’s on first, but it would have lightened the mood.

As best I can figure, Which should be used when there is additional information to be shared, but when this information is not necessary to understand the sentence’s meaning. That should be used when you need to identify which one we are discussing.

That:

The alligator that bit Grandma had big teeth.

Maybe there were 10 alligators, or 11. The distinction must be made as to which one, and that distinction is made by using That. The other alligators refrained from biting anyone that day and need to be given credit for their good behavior by clarifying which one did the biting.

Which:

The alligator, which had big teeth, bit Grandma.

In this case, the fact, interesting or not, that the alligator had big teeth is not necessary to the sentence’s meaning, so Which would be used. I think. Never mind the fact that the entire sentence, blog post, and most of the internet is not necessary. We’re just talking about Grandma’s alligator here, and grammar, and Susie’s prominent posterior.

I hope today’s lesson on That vs. Which has been educational. If not, go look it up on YouTube. As I am still confused, and perhaps more than before, I’ll see you there.


This is not a poem.

ache

in all of us
there is a thing
missing
there is an ache–
an unspoken vacancy
in the eyes’ glossy shimmer
there is a sunny-day sparkle
that doesn’t shine
there is an absence
while visiting other worlds
or worlds passed
there is a ring-planet place
we’d all rather be
but of which no one speaks
there is a wish
we’ve all had
and still have
and have kept
shrouded
there is a thing
clandestine
which we’ve held–
nestled in the bosom
of our heart’s shadows
bringing it out at night
to admire, and caress–
when the lights are dim
there is a thing
we see missing
in others
and which others
see missing
in us
as we drive, and shop, and work
and pray, and fuck
there is a part of the smile
even those smiles
a bit too wide
that is never given
and we don’t say a word
about this ache
never in a lifetime
it is ours, alone


I’m quite aware that every poem I write is a rewrite of this one, in some way. In any case, I’m posting it here again as I kill off the other blog slowly.

Late for Work

I’d just walked in, plugging my company-issued laptop into the dock when the email arrived. “Eric, In the future, if you are going to to be 15 minutes late for work, I’ll need to know before you arrive.”

I hadn’t intended to be late. My job was already hanging by a thread; they’d been courteous enough to tell me so in a private meeting. And now they were building a file on me, making notes on all the small imperfections which every employee has, but which would be used to document my upcoming dismissal. Corporations like having these things properly documented. The tsunami was already on its way and there was nothing anyone could or would do.

I hadn’t intended to be late. The traffic was heavy as we all jammed up on the highway near the frozen Delaware, fighting for position as 5 lanes merged into two heading for the state’s capitol. And we all hated each other, silently, without even knowing each other. But it wasn’t each other we hated, it was our own existences, and how small our petty jobs made us all feel, filling us with seethe which bared it gleaming teeth and showed its frozen soul in the daily traffic jams next to the blue-ice river.

It wasn’t each other we hated, it was that we knew none of it meant anything. It was that nine hours of time and another three hours of sitting in traffic jams was all we’d amounted to. It was the knowledge that none of it mattered, and– as a part of it, that none of us mattered. After decades of hope and promised possibility, it had come down to this, pissed-off, over-caffeinated assholes, cutting each other off in a race to arrive at tall, glass buildings filled with nothing but futility.

Sure, we’d make our money doing meaningless things, and we’d spend it all on meaningless things, hoping something might fill the emptiness which sits in the passenger seat beside us as we all sit in traffic seething. But nothing ever does, and the emptiness grows, and we turn up the radio to crush its cackling silence.

I hadn’t intended to be late– but the minutes and the moments have a way of sliding into our individual history, and becoming a wavy memory trapped in the past, desperate faces pushing up from beneath the river’s ice, a past which doesn’t even seem to be mine, somehow belonging to someone else, each a memory transplanted, and most of which I’d rather not have.

I hadn’t intended to be late, but I’m glad I was. Fuck them anyway. I didn’t get an email thanking me when I stayed late, or when I worked from home on weekends. Fuck them and their empty building and worthless job. It was all lies anyway. None of them gave a fuck about the customers, other than if they thought they might lose one for not giving a fuck. Then they cared, but it never lasted long.

I hadn’t intended to be late, but they didn’t deserve my time, or anyone’s. The publisher there had just retired after 20 plus years. They had a retirement luncheon for her, and I was on time for that, and we ate from fancy plates and clapped after the speeches which were more about the speaker than the person they honored and afterward we all left and belched loudly in the echoing emptiness of our cars, and everyone quickly forgot that she had even existed as another took her place.

I hadn’t intended to be late, but I was. And they fired me, though I tell people that they let me go. Not just for being late, but because I didn’t fit. There are a lot of ways to say it, but that’s what it was. And they were right to do so.. at least for that reason. I didn’t fit, and I would never fit. The man who used to be able to play the game is dead. I drowned his sorry ass in the river. That was his screaming face trapped beneath the ice. Scream all you want you fucking sell out. It’ll be over soon. And you’ll thank me for putting you out of your misery. You’ll thank me for bringing death’s honesty. You’ll thank me because you’ll never have to smile a fake smile again. Though you’ll wonder why it took me twenty years to kill you.

But I’m at a writing group today and there’s a lady next to me, writing about having to sell her toes. Better her than me, I suppose.


#notapoem Old stuff found in the archives