worse for the wear

this is the poem i don’t want to write.

this is the poem that is not beautiful.

 

or maybe it is,

because it is true.

 

the truth is,

i wish she were worse for you.

 

the truth is,

i wish she would just disappear.

 

i wish she were not so much like me.

it would be easier to hate her.

 

for both

of us.

 

the truth is,

she is good for you.

 

the truth is,

she is better for you

 

than i

would be.

 

i try to woo you with

my words, mystery,

 

well-timed

misery;

 

but the truth is,

i’ve never had a healthy

 

relationship.

it feeds the

 

poetry, but not

the living.

 

the truth is,

if she disappeared

 

tomorrow, i would not

know what to do.

 

i would probably

cry for you.

 

and then

for me.

 

i am the one who

should disappear.

 

i am the one who

is worse for the wear.

 

 

 

 

 

asylum

look behind you:

the orchard-lined hall-

way; all the things that have

grown up and pushed out fruit

 

in your wake; the worn door frames

and door knobs, the sleeked floors slipping

under committed feet, the living point of contact

keeping you both here, resolved—all in, so to speak.

 

not since those first nine months

have you ever been so

in love with a

lynchpin.

permanent record

when she was a child, she

realized she could move

things with her eyes. she

remembers them levitating,

flying about, crash-landing.

 

she’s in the middle of her

life now; she feels what

people call a crisis. she

talks to herself, and is the

nicest person to talk back.

 

she reads novels that are

going no-where; she keeps

seeing under-utilized words that

aren’t there. she thinks one thing

and writes another. she knows

 

you can say things in a poem

you can’t say any-where else.

people are weapons; even the

kids playing on the lawn in the

warm snow are getting away with it.

 

 

 

 

the dark side of the day

i burned my hand making a tuna melt.

i suck on the spot, pulling the skin off the

middle knuckle bone of my right hand into my

mouth. it’s looser than it once was, less elastic.

 

see you in the new year we say cheerily, as if

things will miraculously improve, solve

themselves, by the next time we see

each other—just by a calendar flipping.

 

it’s the eve of my birthday and i’m here to

say that nothing ever really improves;

we just find more ways to manage the sad-

ness, the loneliness, the expectations, the

 

inevitable aging. old friends drop away, new

friends are harder to make, and the dull ache

of an old flame is still there, somehow sustained

like a red poppy in a field of unanswered questions.

 

arrive alive

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always driving,
always moving,

running to meet point-less
dead-lines, absurd expectations:

rushing, rushing to our graves.

this time i happen
to be headed south,

past neon signs with casualties
counted and engraved:

657 so far this year;

past the severed alligator, under
the glassy big-brother eyes,

funneling down to the edge,
straight into the heart of

gun-shaped dread. i’ll wait until
i get there to start drinking,

numbing away all the things waiting to bite,
until the laughing takes us right into the

crying. it’s all the same out-
pouring in the mind’s eye,

tucked up on that cloud
shelf in the revolving sky;

just harder to put your finger on.

pieces of memory paste themselves
together as i maneuver in and out of states:

last words, last touches, collages of conversations
from ten, twenty years ago, from count-less lives ago—

before we knew what we were be-coming;
before we knew how it would all end.

i keep looking over at my girl sleeping safely
on the seat beside me. my eyes are wide prayers.

the bittersweet dark is settling in as we
arrive alive under the last exhale of sun;

arrive to your absence, to the stomping pulse
of grief running through your girls,

to the very same places where we
once romped and rallied for joy.

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we are all connected (or, the softer side of obsession)

for tjr: today and every day


it happened while i wasn’t looking;
it happened while i was in pretty deep—

trying to climb up and out from that steep
dark that meets me even in my sleep.

but this time, you. you were there, too,
saying, yeah, i feel it; it’s true

but, it will pass. hold on, like the last time;
hold on, and it will lose its power,

and you will
rise.

it means every thing to have another
being there to say – i’m here

and not
much else.

it means every thing to have
a hand reaching out, an ear opening,

a heart-mind waiting to
wrap itself around you.

even across the creeping
light-years, miles, blues, trials:

we        are        all        connected
and that has made all the difference.



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Painting of Tommy Joe Ratliff by Olivia Santiago