Being Honest (Revised)

•October 25, 2018 • 2 Comments

‚ÄčIf I’m being honest,
I’ve been depressed
I’ve been like this for most of my life
Sometimes it feels like it’s the mood I’m most comfortable with
But I promised myself a long time ago
I wouldn’t let it just linger in my chest
That I ‘d shake the lines from time to time
To remind myself of the miracle this mess really is

But one night,
This fairly level headed acquaintance of mine said to me,
“Poetry, is the fastest way, to end a party.”
And it stuck with me
Because he’s fucking right
Some of the shit I write
Could quiet a busy room on New Years Eve
pretty close to midnight
But this is how I find truth, this is my light, you know?
It’s the only way I’ve found to make sense of my life, and so
I promise not to gloomy every time
and just exercise my demons while folks are trying to have a good time

But we share nothing so much as the experience of being alive
Of staring down the barrel of life
and pulling the trigger time after time after time after time
And maybe it hasn’t always gone so right
Hell, maybe you’ve even lost a few fights
But isn’t breaking what makes making it mean so damn much?
And maybe that’s really as ourselves as we’ll ever be
Standing amongst the wreckage of how we once defined ourselves
And stepping free

We deserve the courage to fall.
And if we believe we’re the first to ever try it
Maybe we don’t ever take the chance at all
Maybe raking our mistakes across the coals
Is just part of what makes us such relatable miracles
So, yes, lately I’ve been pretty depressed
But what I came away with is this:
The poets, painters, musicians, and artists of every stripe
Carry this kind of cloud around with them all their life
And it grows sodden with sorrow, burdened by beauty
Leaden with love, loss, dreams, and futility
Until it comes time to rain
To turn the pain into perspective, into hope,
Into the kinda shit you wished you witnessed when you needed it
But didnt.
So, this is it.
they offer the world more than just the darkness they carry
They offer the tale of a road so hard it earned itself a song, a story, or poetry
They offer tangible proof that we’re not alone
That someone has weathered the storm
We casually found ourselves forming
And learned so much that they’re performing the mistake
A couple nights a week, because sometimes you need to hear someone else say
“Yes, I’ve been really depressed,
but
I think its gonna be okay.”

This one I wrote a while back and was just never really happy with. It got the general point across, had some good zingers in the first draft, but just felt fat. Overly wordy and metaphor laden. I have a hard time revising work, though. I need some distance before I have the heart to surgically tear apart something I painstakingly pieced together. It feels insurmountable until I find a good for hold. 

Tonight I found myself trying to start something new but it kept feeling like this one. I kept trying to steer it away, but it kept veering in my head back to a few lines of this. Lines, I’ll note, I managed to cut. Revising it took probably 4 or 5 hours now, but after gutting it and slapping the parts back together I ‘m much happier with the result here than I was with the original. This is what I was trying to say. Cleaner. More honest. And less tangled in metaphor.

I hope you like it. I hope something in it rings true for you. I hope it maybe shakes some of the dust from my pen too, while I’m being honest. That guys comment was just a straw on an already overloaded camel’s back. I struggle with futility whenever I’m creating something, a song, poetry, a story, whatever. It bothers me somewhere inside that, in the long run, I’m just calling out in the chorus. Another voice in the crowd. It’s not a question of recognition, but rather, futility. Does it even matter?

I’m not a You-Tuber or a famous blogger, if there is such a thing. I’m just another guy, screaming into the ether. For whatever that’s worth. And, I guess what I’m trying to say is maybe that’s good enough. Maybe reaching one person for one night is enough. Maybe just managing to peel a lesson off of life, loss, love, regret, etc. was always the point, and the idea that someone else might enjoy hearing your version of it is just a bit of icing atop the cake. Anyway, I hope you liked it. 

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About a Smile

•October 13, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Musical accompaniment recommendation: David Gray – “Life in Slow Motion” and/or “Ain’t No Love”

There’s a home hidden in her smile. It makes me wish I was funnier, just to see it more often. It’s not my home, and it probably never will be, but it’s still a beautiful thing to see. Not everyone has one. And maybe I should have paid more attention to that before, but I guess I didn’t really know until after the last one left. After she had already finished dousing my house in gasoline and lighting fires just to see how they’d burn. There had always been roads behind her eyes. Stretching out past the horizon to places I never knew the way to. 

This smile reminds me to keep trying. That I’m not too old, or too bitter, to carry a single smile on my mind all night. The kind that pass like photographs behind your eyes while waiting on a red light. Forces a smile upon your typical Tuesday frown. It made me want to flirt again. I shouldn’t couldn’t with her, so I decided to drink instead. A tale as old as time, right? Lonely man seeks solace in the bottom of a tin can. Only, I’m not quite as lonely.

In a weird way, just wanting to seek company is refreshing enough. I’ve been held up here going on three years and I’ve rarely thought of trying again. But, there was just something about that smile. Something about the quiet home I saw behind it. Like a slow country ranch, an abandoned beach at dawn, or a still mountain sunset somewhere. The quiet smell of forever stretches out through the air and time sits so thick you can barely move. Getting old there is just the completion of some long-held plan. It’s a finish line, casually closing in.

Some nights I spend wondering about which hearts I broke. Some nights I just think about the ones that broke me. There’s even nights that I don’t think about it at all. But, for the nights I spend wondering about a smile, those may always be the best. Who’s to say we all get to retire there? Where even alone has company. The place time can’t even reach. Neither life, nor love, have ever seemed overly interested in what is fair, after all.

I’ve gotten closer to love than I’ve ever gotten to God. Either that or, I’ve gotten close enough to love to hear the voice of God, one of the two. I’m not entirely sure which. Feels like a small distinction when stacked next to how it felt, to how much it’s shaped who I am. For better or worse, it’s fueled a large part of my life. It took me a while to understand it myself but, just because it was sad doesn’t mean it was bad. Bumper sticker idea? 

I built a lot out of the ashes of those burnt homes. Failure is just practice in practice, right? Have I been sad? Sure. It’s up and down these pages. I’ve suffered in ways I wouldn’t wish on my  worst enemies, but it’s mostly because of what it took to hurt like that. Something I believed in more than i could believe in myself. Something bigger than I could ever be by myself. Something so powerful, so beautiful, so close to whatever God really is that even time couldn’t touch it. Even bitterness couldn’t break it. A smile with a home hidden in it. A place where even alone has company. 

“One more day up in the canyons”

•October 10, 2018 • Leave a Comment

One more day in the city. Watching the world go by. It’s been said people aren’t good or bad, only their actions. So, is that what I’m doing up here? Hiding in my tower. Protecting myself against action? And by association, consequences? It’s hard to get hurt again if you shut yourself in. It gets easier and easier to do and before you know it it’s been nearly 5 years, but eventually the questions come.

Were those my dreams? Like, really mine. Or did I just want them for myself? Some of the best chances I’ve had I’ve squandered. I only chased the ones who ran away, and I lost interest in the ones who just took my hamd. I wonder sometimes if I’m just addicted to being liked. Terrified someone I care about will think ill of me. I’ve made such an utter mess out of having a relationship, what makes me think I’d fair any better with a whole family. A child.

There was a period there in my twenties when I was sure I didn’t want to have kids, but I think that was just the last hurrah of reckless, careless youth. I didn’t want to be responsible. It still scared me, but in a different way. It’s more like that feeling I get looking at a blank page now, anxiety, nervousness, a dash of pure fear, and an exaltation that only possibility and creation can muster. 

Maybe my lack of it points to my shortcomings in relationships, maybe it says it’s best I haven’t. Read a room, right? Four years ago I might have just agreed, but these days I’ve got a lot of that stuff together I promised myself I would. It’s so damned hard to see that when you’re the one doing the work, though. I still have plenty to fix, but I guess I just think I’d be good at it and I’m just not getting any younger.

Was it ever really my dream if I was the one thwarting it half the time? Did I ever really deserve it if I was so afraid of it I wound up here? A hermit in a city tower. It would be so dang easy to blame one or the other of them, or that damnable museum of memories I pinned on the moon, but it wasn’t them, and it wasn’t her. It’s always been me. And that’s the one thing I could never seem to take seriously.   

It’s like I don’t know how. Like an addict trying to kick for the first time. I don’t even know what it looks like, and everything about what I imagine when I try, scares the shit out of me. I’m terrified of getting to know someone, of falling, and not being able to climb back out if I have to. Hell, I’m scared of wanting to climb out again. 

I guess I’m not sure why I’m publishing this. It’s doesn’t have a moral or even a decent lesson, it’s just a State of the Writer speech. Maybe somewhere down, past the yellow wood, I’ll want to look back and understand what in the hell l I was thinking. Well, future self, loyal readers, the short answer is, you’re not really sure. The long answer starts a paragraph up. Hope we figure it out in time to do something about it.

The Moon

•June 3, 2018 • Leave a Comment

You asked me for a story about the moon, and I’ll be damned if the first thing I thought of wasn’t you. I’d like to think that that isn’t always true, but a full lifetime ago, when I was sorting through the shards of the story of us, it was the one place I finally found to hide you. So I could put the whole damn thing somewhere far away until I was ready to look at it again. So that maybe someday I could point to something beautiful and tell you that, that’s where I kept our story safe. That’s where I took the tale of us until I could put myself back together again without it. Until I could smile when I wondered if you were wondering about me while looking at it. Or wish on it when I wondered if you could still hear me somehow, a half a world and a full lifetime, away. Somewhere in the sky to look to remember that some part of us is forever, and maybe it’s just a story we made but maybe that means more than any of us know how to admit.
Stories are all any of us really are. A thickening plot in motion. Blindly bumping into beauty and defeat in unequal shares. It was my youth that belittled it as something that lacked meaning without continuation, that believed it had to be my future to matter. The years have helped me gain perspective. Helped me see that the past doesn’t stop being beautiful when it’s not the present. That life is more like a photo album, and less like a movie. Inside my gallery there hang some of the most beautiful pictures of the simplest days, and I’m nothing if not proud when I happen to find your face. Because the simple truth, between me you and the moon, is that there was never a smile I believed in more than the one painted on you. Whether that was just youth or not doesn’t really seem to matter much in the face of it being true.
These days I still look to the moon when I want to remember you and it’s nice to still have a light in the night to remind me too. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keep a couple pieces up there just for you. In case you ever happened to look to the same place for a little truth. If there’s any magic in the world at all, then you’ve at least once stumbled your way into one of those leftover lunar gallery halls and seen yourself in a painted memory on the wall. I hope you come to see it like I do. Proof that beautiful things don’t end, they just are. That even though we’re more than what we did then, two dumb teenagers can still write one hell of a love story.
So, tonight, and I don’t doubt throughout my life, I will raise this half emptied wine to you and the moon. For the years it kept our story safe for me, and the decades it has and will spend hearing the shit I can’t by any right type up and send to you. For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you. And for all it matters now, I still believe in you. Maybe you were the best I’ll ever get or maybe I just haven’t found better yet, but either way, I’m thankful for the time we spent painting passionate portraits of those simple days. Pictures worth hanging on the moon. A story so powerful, it couldn’t end any happier way and still be true.

An Apartment Democracy on Eggshells

•May 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Kept separate for too long we came together one night for all the old reasons. As if nothing had changed. As if we hadn’t spent the past years tapdancing across eggshells. If we had thought about what we were doing it’s hard to say we would have been that brave.

It started quiet. We filed in one by one, slow enough that no one noticed that everyone had been invited and just quick enough that no one thought twice about it. Before long we were all talking. Like the old days. No politics, just big dreams and small days. Funny stories and stupid jokes.

For a few golden hours, in the hot basement of a pile of crumbling bricks we drank, passed tea, and sang songs only half of us really knew the words to. Like believers in a dream of a community. Like, at least for a moment, we all believed variety builds a better world, and that our differences are like the harmony that comes together to make something better, something stronger than the parts.

When we went our separate ways no one said a word about it. Maybe out of fear it would break it, maybe nobody else noticed. I guess i’d like it to be the latter, in the end. We didn’t all have to agree on why we came, why we had a good time, why it was valuable, just that we wanted to get to know someone else. Acknowledge that we share this ride with billions of other people, a lot like us, who see it all a little differently. And maybe sometimes, we could use to see things differently.

Even if it’s just a sunset, or a song, some of the best moments of my life involved seeing something familiar for the first time all over again. It’s part of the magic of being a communal creature. Being taught something. Piggybacking, for just a second, on someone else’s hard earned vision of truth. Standing atop decades of experience impossible for me to share with no other effort than to listen. To not be scared.

It’s not easy. But kept separate for too long we’ll always find cause to come back together. We are all made from the same things: dirt, stardust, God, or computer code, to whatever or whomever we owe this fleeting gift I think we’re most reticent to squander this knowledge.

We all face the same puzzle, but we all find different pieces along the way. We all see different parts of the puzzle from different angles. Our only hope is to share solutions and trade pieces. But as fast as we all move, or try to, differences represent hurdles. Stoppage. Moments we don’t have. It takes times to understand things that we’re not. 

Occasionally, though, we find ourselves next to one another, apartments, neighborhoods, lines, community events. Even more occasionally we see each other for what we are: a fellow puzzler, a fellow person, another life. Seeking solutions. Running hurdles. Chasing down dreams of differing perspective. 

When we find one another, for even a brief moment, maybe it’s better we don’t notice. Maybe it’s better if we file in quietly, be honest about what we believe and just be willing to learn. Hurdles are challenging, but a person is just a circus mirror. A reflection of ourselves under other circumstances, and maybe we would have liked to have done things differently, but these are the circumstances upon which our world’s met. 

In basements, apartments, football stadiums, and more, or less, stately places, we see each other as enemy or fellow soldier interchangeably. But what we are is a community. Standing together, whether we like it or not. Bound together by geography, an inherited dream, and an inherent truth: that all people are created equal, and all have the right, the privledge, and the burden of a perspective to share and hear.

The Knots

•March 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

‚ÄčThere’s probably not a day goes by I don’t think of her. Ever since I met her. That’s almost 20 years ago now. It’s crazy how short they seem when you look back. God, and how long they all felt as they passed. I might have even believed you then that I’d still find knots in my stomach when she finds my mind all these years down. I’ve always been a romantic.

After she was gone, hell maybe even before, I got scared of those stomach-knots. We were still close, but we’d been growing apart. I wasn’t calling my crush anymore, not just the cutest girl in the school, I was calling my girlfriend. And well maybe we fell for each other trying to find one another. Three years later and we still loved the living shit out of one another, but not what we’d become after all that time we spent searching for how to make that love work.  

That first year after we split up I barely ate. The knots were constant. As if her memory had cracked the record of my mind and it kept skipping back to her and back to her and back to her. Every single thing I saw was a reminder of her. Over time I learned to just turn the record off when it started skipping. 

Still, there were those knots when she found her way to my brain. They started to remind me of loneliness. That ache I used to feel when I couldn’t manage to get close enough to her turned into a missing place in my chest, like an open wound. The pain was the same, but I was so sure I had been broken I couldn’t make the connection. Something in me had to believe that there’s a price to pay for losing ‘the one’.

Over the years I’ve stopped believing in ‘the one’, but I never stopped believing in her. We talk from time to time. She’s married and they’ve had a child. I’ve never shaken the knots when she comes to mind, but I’m starting to smile when I have them again. 

It only occurred to me on my drive to the office the other day that the knots were always there, it was something about me that changed. The way I saw the things I already had. I couldn’t appreciate something so beautiful if it was gone. O convinced myself that the absence hurt more than ignorance and started cursing the day I fell for her. It’s selfish and self-defeating, but if it helps, I don’t think I knew that’s what I was doing. Not really.

I turned all that light and hope I saw with her into darkness and loss after she was gone. As if the light had come and gone with her. Instead of the truth, which was that she had been the first to have managed to get through to me that there had been light all around me the whole time, I just had to open my eyes. (I may or may not have completely ignored the message at the time (I did)).

That hurt mixed up the chapters of our story. Until those stories that made me feel like I was part of something bigger than me only reminded me that I once felt like I was a part of something bigger than me. It made the beauty I had found into the beauty that had passed me by. The line is thin, but the divide is vast. 

See, I was in love. I ached with it for years. No poetic hyperbole. I’ve loved that girl so much it physically ached for about 20 years. I’ve been in and out of relationships since, and even before, and I’d say I loved since and possibly before, but she was different. And if you’re with me up until this point you’ll understand why that makes it okay we’re not together.

It’s something we probably shouldn’t have run into so young, or ran with quite so far maybe. We did, though, and we screwed it up like the fucked up kids we were. It’ll never work again, but I’ll be damned if I don’t love the shit out of that girl. I hope I find it again. Knots and all. I have to believe I will, but, it turns out, I’m just now learning to count myself lucky I found it the first place. Pain and all.

Some part of me kind of wishes we had just been friends. So we wouldn’t have to have all this baggage about talking again. Maybe we were really just some kind of double-edged lucky that we ever found our way out of the friend zone, but maybe all good blessings come with curses. Maybe karma comes quick and we got a little too lucky for our age. 

Either way, I’m here to settle the story once and for all. I know love. The kind they don’t talk about in the movies. The kind that survives barely knowing one another and a thousand miles of distance. Tempered in the fires of loss, regret, bitterness, it is something similar to family, and occasionally maybe something deeper.

Prairie Dogging

•January 10, 2018 • 2 Comments

Tonight is one of those nights when I manage to get constructively angry at myself. A rare treat, of a fashion. It’s nice to finally see fucks budding out there in the field, but at the same time I know, somewhere in my head, another frost is coming before those fruit. It’s damn nice to feel like I actually see myself for a change, though. Sure, it’s not a pretty picture in every aspect, but it’s not just confusion. Bewilderment. That stupid top spinning out of control from the depression commercial in the 90’s.

I think I’m finally over being pissed at love again. It’s almost like I’ve built into my psyche a cooling off period between relationships. The desire has always been there in the animalistic way, but I’m too old for that shit, so I can ignore that. These days I’m actually starting to feel the desire to share with someone. To really get to know someone again. I forgave Joy petty quickly after the whole thing blew up,  forgave myself petty quickly thereafter, maybe even before. But, I think I was working on forgiving fate, honestly.

It’s stupid, but I’ve really felt shit on by love, and I’ve been a vocal believer all my life. An evangelist for it, even. Check the records, they’re literally here. Back to my freshman year of college. I kept believing it was all just teaching me to love that mythical “one” that much better. That much more. Maybe it’s old age, maybe it’s cynicism, maybe just experience, maybe they’re all kind of the same thing… but I’m starting to think maybe it’s just not magic after all. 

Maybe it’s just two people, bringing their own specific brand of messed up together and trying to raise a couple kids, before they all kill one another. Maybe my dreams are just dreams and we’re not somehow connected across space and time over the silly shit we shared. My last little Santa Claus. It’s times like these I envy the religious. At least there’d be that magic to look forward to. Even if you’ve gotta die for it.

A clear, if not cynical head, today means I’m coming out of it. The pitch, as it were. I used to call it a well, but either way, I’m poking my head up. ‘Prairie dogging’, my Dad would say. Fully aware of the connotation. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll make it to the surface completely, but I’ll be damned if fresh air doesn’t feel good. Even the metaphorical kind.  Something like poking your head out after a natural disaster; the destruction is terrible and overwhelming, but you’re alive, and that suddenly feels like a gift again. Even if just for a day or two. You just can’t pay for that feeling. That appreciation. You have to earn it.