Lessons Learned

I’ve stayed away from the windows, when it’s dark and the lights are on. I’ve never let my lighter be lit for too long. I’ve never ordered the Chinese to come right to the house. I’ve never stayed in the same lane for more than three minutes, or taken the same way home from the same place twice. I don’t cry anymore, and I don’t buy stupid shit, and I don’t let idiots direct me. I don’t know what else it is you want from me. I don’t let anyone follow me. I don’t give out my number. I don’t give out my address. I don’t have anyone, and I have been by myself in this stupid place for what feels like years now, falling out of the sky, falling back through the center of the universe until I think I must be drowning in time.

I walk in your footsteps, because they’re the clearest path out of here. I reach out for your hand because I think we’re both just so goddamned tired of being alone.

I thought I found you, once. I thought it would last.

Maybe that’s the last lesson you’re trying to teach.

For my wife

You who challenge me,
you who praise me,
you who love me,

you who refuse
to let me lay down
in the mud

and give up.

You who push me,
you who encourage me,
you who love me,

(again)

you who will listen to me,
believe me,
guide me,

be beside me,
hand in my hand.

You who are not
who I thought love might be
until I realized
you were the only one
love could ever be.

You who has dried tears,
cried tears,
bitten back anger,
stomped down pride,
lifted up hope.

You, whose feet fit my face.

You.

* * * * *

For my wife, because I will always be searching for the right words, the best words, to give her what she gives me.

With Her Basket of Apples

She knew poetry from her lover,
and could repeat it aloud,
speaking of stars
freshly hewn from the heavenscape,
of the cosmic rain that washed her
as she stood with her toes in the river,
shy and yet unafraid.
She knew profound loss,
even as she had been so blessed,
and she knew,
even as she tipped the basket into the stream
and watched their damasked flesh
bob and shine down the stones,
that she would find the rocks as steady,
the water as unforgiving.
The clumsy promises of another
had never been more
than a biding of time;
all she had ever wanted was to sing,
skin against skin,
her back to the mud,
her heart laid bare.
But never was a tongue so silent
as she struggled to find words
to make herself worthy
of all the beauty she’d been given,
and would fail to know again.

* * * * *

For my friend, Trent Lewin.

Moments

“Have you ever felt like maybe your life was just a bunch of moments, one right after another, like, y’know, nothing really stringing them together except that they’re all happening to YOU, right, but it could be anyone? Like you’re an understudy, and maybe you don’t have all the lines, because people are always looking at you like they expect something more, something different than what you’re saying, what you’re telling to them, you know what I mean? Or or maybe, maybe like, maybe it’s because they’re all a page ahead of you on the book? Or or or or or or MAYBE it’s because they’re on an entirely different chapter? A whole different BOOK! Yeah! Like they’re reading the cookbook version of ‘To Serve Man’ and you, yeah, you… you’re not even reading. You you, you you’re… you’re still picking lint outta your belly button and wondering why it smells like that. You get what I mean?”

“Uh… Is this where I can get my parking validated?”

Flesh and Blood

She peels it back, inch by inch, careful to remove just it, and not the viscera beneath. Concentrating hard on the sound of heartbeats, she doesn’t notice the visitor.

“Help me,” sobs the man in chains. “Help me!”

“Nice to see you taking up new hobbies,” the visitor remarks.

“She’s crazy, help me!” the sound of the man dims to background noise.

“Well, with you not around, I have to get up to something,” she says airily.

“Some people take up piano. Or French.”

“I thought I would study the great artists.”

“Monet? Van Gogh?”

“Dahmer. Sagawa. Also, it’s pronounced ‘Gogh’.”

“You sound like you have a hairball.”

“HELP ME!”

“Shut up!” she said tersely.

“Me?”

“Well I’m not telling him — I like the sound of his distress. It’s soothing.”

The discourse went on and on; and all the while, he slid closer and closer, until he reached to touch her hand. They smiled, sharing a secret sort of grin.

He closed his hand around her wrist, and pulled a gun.

She pulled him in closer, and drove the knife she’d been using to flay her neighbor right under his ribs, up and up and up. She was surprisingly strong for her size — surprising to him, at least.

She laid him down and let him bleed out; the tarp was already laid out, after all, might as well.