Arson

Arson

Everyone is good at something,

or so I have heard.

There are many forms of intelligence,

and an almost countless amount

of activities that someone can put their time

and energy into.

How does one reckon

when they have become proficient at something?

Do they wake one morning,

and willfully acknowledge it?

I have become good at baking pies, or

running marathons, or playing the violin.

I think that is a part of it, the cognizance

Of achieving some plateau, or mark,

known only to the individual reaching it.

A lot of it has to do with recognition

from others as well.

You might think you are good at baking pies,

but that is ultimately immaterial until

another person tells you it is so.

 

I have become adept at a few things

during my time here, or so I have been told.

I can write well, turn a phrase, tell

an engaging and entertaining story.

Help people feel something, maybe even

something profound and unexpected.

I also listen very well. I enjoy

hearing what others have to say. I engage

myself into their words, and I pay attention

to them, because no one likes to feel unseen.

I also am good at abstraction. Seeing things

in multiple ways, or even in novel ways. Realizing that

there is more to this world than black and white.

I am good a being quiet, and at being alone.

I know how to keep myself entertained.

But, I think, the thing I am best at…

 

Burn it down. All of it. This house.

That bridge. The fields surrounding it.

This life, those dreams. My time.

Burn it the fuck down around my ears.

Feel the heat, hear the roar. Breathe the ash.

Smell it, taste it on your tongue. Let it sting your eyes.

Those aren’t tears. Open flames make

your eyes water. Don’t care what was built before,

don’t care how long it took to build. That is done now.

It is over. Time to move on.

Strike a match. Burn it the fuck down. Walk away.

You are tired, and you’ve given so much.

Soak it in gasoline, let the smell overpower you.

Relish it. Feel free. Burn it down around your ears.

Walk away and don’t look back.

New worlds are born in great conflagrations,

And there is always time for that.

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Weekly Horoscope

Aries: (March 21st – April 19th)

You should stop being so bossy this week. Literally no one likes that shit. In fact, someone you know is plotting to kill you because of it.

Taurus: (April 20th – May 20th)

WHATEVER YOU DO, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT TURN LEFT THIS WEEK, OR ASK FOR SPRINKLES ON YOUR ICE CREAM.

Gemini: (May 21st – June 20th)

You will be visited by a great grey owl in the middle of the night. It will whisper the secrets of existence into your ears. Upon waking you will sadly realize it was only your cousin Lucas dressed in your Aunt Kathy’s feather boas. You will never discover what he was actually perched on.

Cancer: (June 21st – July 22nd)

Do not reach for that second package of Ho-Ho’s, your ass will thank you for it later.

Leo: (July 23rd – August 22nd)

Say it with me really slowly: bloody diarrhea.

Virgo: (August 23rd – September 22nd)

On Wednesday at 1:03 P.M. while eating your blackberry yogurt, you will suddenly realize that existence is inherently meaningless, and that time is a human concept, making life fleeting and ephemeral. This will propel you towards cosmic awareness at a speed greater than ever conceived by human minds. The speed at which you travel will also violently and messily kill you. No one will notice your absence at work.

Libra: (September 23rd – October 22nd)

That steamy night you spent in the bathroom of a cheap taqueria during your vacation to Juarez will finally come back to haunt you. You will name it Hector.

Scorpio: (October 23rd – November 22nd)

On Thursday morning you will become aware of the fact that you are actually a fly that was splattered on the windshield of a powder blue Dodge Dart, and that you’ve been dead for 53 years.

Sagittarius: (November 23rd – December 22nd)

Spend some time on you; your sofa, a box of Kleenex, your battered VHS copy of Herbie The Love Bug, and an obscene amount of take-out pizza.

Capricorn: (December 23rd – January 20th)

You will never get anywhere in this life if you keep insisting that those pastel yellow slacks you bought on clearance are “cool.”

Aquarius: (January 21st – February 18th)

Your world will come crashing down around your ears when your favorite uncle Edward reveals that he is actually a three-toed sloth. You had always wondered why his birthday cards arrived 4 months late, or why he never made it to any of your piano recitals.

Pisces: (February 19th – March 20th)

Perhaps swallowing all of those balloons full of black tat heroin wasn’t the wisest way of trying to pay off your student loans.

 

 

All my Clothes have Stains on Them

All my Clothes have Stains on Them

There are some things in this life,

no matter how hard you might try,

that you simply cannot avoid.

Nor, once these things have occurred,

can you erase them.

Like pasta sauce on your favorite shirt,

from that meatball sub that was

so delicious (there is always that one

meatball that refuses to stay

nestled between the bread.)

And even though your favorite shirt

is black, red sauce and meatballs

are greasy and make a darker black

than the faded hue of your favorite shirt.

You wash it numerous times, hoping

the stain will yield itself to the

laundry soap and various other cleaning

agents you introduce to the process.

But alas, it has become a part of your

favorite shirt now, no way out of it.

And even though you are 99.99 percent sure

that no one else in existence will notice it,

because nobody pays THAT close attention

to anyone else’s wardrobe, you will

always know it is there, and it will bother you.

 

Grass stains on pants from playing in parks.

Scrubbed, and pre-soaked, and color-safe

bleached to no avail.

Ketchup on denim (or was it blood?

They look so much alike.)

Every piece of clothing in your closet,

every pair of socks, every pair of underwear

in your dresser, every jacket, every favorite shirt.

All stained. Covered in them. And you remember how

each blemish appeared, you remember

what each one cost you. And you console

yourself, knowing that everyone has

the same problem, knowing that everyone

is trying to wash them out as well.

Perhaps the stains really don’t matter, after all.

Perhaps it’s only in how you wear them.

All my Friends are Dead

All my Friends are Dead

The apartment is freezing. We hadn’t paid the electric bill in 3 months. There are more important things to spend our money on, mainly drugs. Jimmy should’ve been back three hours ago with more smack. That will warm us up alright. That will do the trick nicely. Lonnie, and Jimmy, Alice, Andrea and me won’t even notice it’s freezing anymore, as soon as he gets back. Goddamn Jimmy, we shouldn’t have sent him, motherfucker always takes too long. He gets distracted, plays with puppies and shit along the way, even though it’s February and cold as fuck outside. Goddamn it Jimmy, where the fuck are you man? Alice starts to cry in the bedroom. She is bad off. Probably twitching and shaking and drooling too. Snot running down her pale face, getting stuck in her blonde hair, and running off her chin. Her and Lonnie and Andrea are huddled in the bathroom for warmth. Me, I am sitting by the window. Cold don’t bother me much anymore anyway. No fucking heroin, that bothers me. Jimmy in a park somewhere chasing a fucking kitten, that fucking bothers me. The pipes start creaking, fucking hell, it is fucking cold outside. I find some bologna in the fridge that ain’t too old and eat it, not that I’m hungry, but it is something to do, get my mind off it for a second. My hands start to shake, can’t tell if it is the cold or the smack talking.

Jimmy Kyle had been standing in the same spot for two and a half hours. He just didn’t get these guys. He has picked up a lot, from different guys too. These fucking Polish dudes are the worst. No fucking schedule. You have a product, and people wanting to buy, you stick to a fucking schedule. What ever happened to customer service, man? Too bad the Jamaicans were dry. Then he would be back at home, where at least there was no wind, and he would be flying free; too fucked up to care about no electricity. Just him and his friends, floating off together into a beautiful dream. His hands were starting to go numb, but he couldn’t lose his spot, not now, not after all this. Fucking Polish were pricks making him wait like this. He didn’t even look at the other junkies huddled there; didn’t need to know them anyway. He already had friends. Big Mack opened the door, and waved Jimmy inside with a grin full of teeth. About fucking time. Jimmy’s insides were starting to itch, and he couldn’t feel his lips.

The apartment smelled like dead things, that sickly sweet odor of decay. Jimmy choked back some vomit and stared at the yellowing linoleum floor that was littered with vials, cigarette butts, and empty beer cans. No eye contact. Answer yes, don’t say no. Big Mack sat on a moldering green tweed sofa and picked up a shiny 12 gauge and sat it in his lap like a dick. Caressing the black barrel in long slow strokes, his stare burning down deep into Jimmy. Big Mack motioned for Jimmy to sit in a rickety plastic chair across from him, and smiled. Jimmy began to feel hot, and began to sweat, eyes anywhere other than Mack and his gun. He noticed a large reddish brown stain on the floor under the sofa, barely spilling out into visibility. Killed some fucking rats, is all Mack would say. Time began to stretch out for Jimmy. His hands and legs started to shake. He needed a fix. Mack just kept staring at him, and stroked the barrel of the shotgun. Tim finally showed up, out of the bedroom, wearing nothing but a stained pair of grey boxers. Jimmy got a quick glance inside and noticed a dark haired girl, naked, lying face down on the mattress. He thought she was bleeding.

“You want some shit my friend?” Tim’s voice snapped Jimmy’s attention towards the task at hand.

“Yes,” he wished his voice didn’t sound so shaky. He wished his hands weren’t so shaky.

Tim opened a drawer behind the kitchen counter producing a bag full of red capped vials. Jimmy gave him most of the cash he had, 300 dollars, and got the fuck out of the apartment as quickly as his wobbly legs would allow, his jacket pocket clinking the red capped vials together on his way back outside, to the cold. He decided to cut through the park, it would take less time, and his friends needed him right now.

Andrea needed to get out of the apartment, the sooner the better. Fuck, why hadn’t she gone with Jimmy? At least you could talk to Jimmy, the rest of them, not so much. Lonnie and Alice were making her teeth stand on edge. She just kept sobbing, and he just kept whispering fucking bullshit platitudes to her, over and over, the same tired lines.

“It’s gonna be okay baby, I promise, don’t worry, Jimmy will be back soon.”

Fuck that. None of them were okay. Not for a long fucking time. At least Andrea was able to realize that. Her breath puffed out of her mouth in the cold air. She got up and grabbed her coat which had been unceremoniously dumped over the bath tub. She smelled horrible, they all did, but there was no way to take a hot shower, and they were already freezing in the apartment. Just around the block a couple times, away from the sobbing for a little while; she needed to get lost in her own mind for a bit. Andrea tried to ignore the roaring hunger in her belly, and the dreaded itch of addiction trying to claw its way out from behind her eyes. Jimmy should be back soon, and then things would be okay again, at least as well as they could be right now. Andrea drew her hood up over her pale, freckled face, and tried to shrug off February’s cold wind. For perhaps the thousandth time this week, she told herself she was going to walk straight to the rehab clinic, no more fucking around with this shit. She couldn’t even cry about it any longer. The promises were empty, the words rang hollow in her head. Just another lie she told herself, to try to make things better. It never worked; maybe it did at some point, long ago. She was starting around the block for her second time when she heard a solitary crow up in some barren tree. Tenacious little fuckers, crows, and goddamn smart too. What the hell is it doing out here, alone, in the middle of winter? Can’t be that smart then, she bitterly thought. She imagined herself as a bird then; flying away to some warm far-off place, an island. No drugs, no platitudes, just white sand and warmth, and maybe one of those drinks that comes inside a coconut husk and sex with island boys too. The crow stopped calling, and turned its head to look at Andrea. Its black intelligent eyes froze her in place. I would trade places with you in a heartbeat. Andrea let out a long sigh; the sun was starting to set in the west. Jimmy should be back soon; she had lost track of time out here. How long had she spent staring at that damn crow? Andrea turned to head back to that damn cold apartment and her damn cold friends. They probably had heroin by this point at least. Andrea looked over her shoulder for one last glance towards the crow. It was still there, staring right at her, and silent. She never even heard the moving van jump the curb behind her.

Lonnie didn’t know what to do. Alice was a wreck. She had started to shake violently about 15 minutes ago, and she just kept crying. He had been trying to cheer her up, but it wasn’t working. She withdrew worse than any of them did. Lonnie supposed that meant she needed it the most. She was so beautiful when she was high. She sang for them in a clear voice. Sometimes Lonnie thought that helped him to forget better than the heroin did.  After Alice sang, she would be silent for hours, just staring off into space. He hoped it was someplace better than what she had left behind; Alice didn’t like to talk about it, but Lonnie gathered that it wasn’t a very good place. Hell, none of them had come from a very good place. They had all found each other in the midst of escaping whatever hell they were bound to before. The most ironic thing about it, and Lonnie knew this deep down inside of himself, was that in trying to escape, they had all ended up binding themselves to a much greater hell. The drugs had helped for a bit, but now it wasn’t escape; it was simply getting by. He was surrounded by his friends yet utterly alone, more alone than he had ever been in his whole life. Alice stopped crying for the time being, and he could see down her shirt. Lonnie thought maybe he should try to fuck her. They had all fucked each other at some point. He supposed it stopped meaning anything a long time ago. He knew she would let him. Instead, he just draped the blankets around her again, trying to keep her warm. He figured that didn’t mean anything either, by this point in time. Mostly Lonnie just wanted to cry, just like Alice, but he was trying to be strong for her right now. Or rather, he was just trying to be strong for himself. Not an easy thing to do coming off of heroin. He wanted someone to talk to so badly. He had listened to all of them plenty. They never seemed to hear him though. Fuck. Stop that bullshit, man. This is the best it’s gonna get. They aren’t bad people. He couldn’t blame anyone except himself. When it came down to it, this was his choice. If he really wanted to be somewhere else, all he had to do was get up and leave, right? He didn’t figure anyone would be there, even if he was sober. This might be a lie, but at least it was a pretty one. At least it was his. Goddamn it Jimmy, where are ya brother? Can’t take much more of myself. Come on Lonnie, close your eyes and breathe. The headache will go away. Maybe if I just had someone to hear me. Maybe I should fuck Alice.

It wasn’t as bad any more. The worst of it was past Alice hoped. She did her mental trick, the one she had done since she was a child. She pretended she was a turtle, and she crawled back inside the safety of her shell. Everything was so intense on the outside. Everything hit her hard, colors, lights, sounds. She could feel Lonnie’s erection through her jeans; that did as well. She stifled a giggle, still finding it weird despite herself, and despite the years. Heroin blunted the intensity of life. It made things bearable. She loved it, couldn’t get enough. It let her float like a ghost. It helped her forget for a little while, who she was, what she had done, the things she had seen. How could people think it was bad? They had never seen the world the way Alice had. Maybe then they wouldn’t judge her so harshly. Alice was a turtle, ducking her head back inside the blankets, her shell. The shakes were coming on again and she needed to retreat. Her shell was hard. Nothing could get through it.

Almost home. Fucking a, Jimmy Kyle was almost home. And he had a pocket full of the good shit, he could feel it. The Polish were disgusting, but they had the good shit. His friends were counting on him, and he wasn’t going to let them down. Jimmy Kyle was in such a rush he didn’t notice the ambulance, or Andrea lying on the sidewalk, broken, in a pool of her own blood.

“Where’s Andrea?”

“It doesn’t matter. We will save her share for her. She knew you were coming back Jimmy. It is her fault she isn’t here now. We were really starting to feel it over here.”

 

I watched, removed, from the kitchen chair. The fucking junkies, my friends, begin preparing for their fix. Andrea’s vial is secured, nice and snug, in my jacket pocket. I am fiddling with mine, anticipating the high. I hear Jimmy tell the others not to take too much, to save some for later. Those fucking junkies always take too much though, especially Alice, and then they expect the rest of us to share, but I never do. It isn’t my fault they get too greedy at first. I like to spread mine out, make it last, that way I know I always have some, just in case. The last batch we had was pretty good, so I use the last of it for most of this shot. Save this new stuff for next time. That’s what I always did, I just knew I couldn’t let the others know; they would never leave me alone about it. I start getting my shot ready, and watching the others in the bathroom with disinterest. They don’t even realize I am there any longer. A sick light has returned to their eyes. We are all greedy, and we hunger, and it is about to be sated for a little while. I watch them divvy up their drugs. Fucking hell, they are going to take a lot, even Jimmy. Should have figured, Jimmy always talked big, but when it came down to it he had no balls. I go through the process in the kitchen, but still watching them. They shoot together. I see their eyes roll back in their heads. Lonnie gets an erection. I slide the needle in, feel the squirt inside my veins. It is an icy stab, spiking its way towards my heart. I hear Alice say holy fuck that’s good. Then it is all fire, everywhere inside of my body. I hear Jimmy puke in the bathtub. I think Lonnie is screaming. The seconds stretch out towards infinity. They become years and years and years, full of pain, and fire. My guts are twisting ropes. I am on fire. I puke right there on the kitchen floor. I want to rip out my insides. I glance towards the bathroom, I think Lonnie puked blood. I try to stand, but end up collapsing in my own vomit. Blackness.

Where the hell am I? I fade in and out. Voices chatter away. I hear the robotic buzzing of machines. I feel like shit. Like my insides are all hollowed out, and have been replaced with dust. There are bright lights all around me. No one seems to be paying me any mind at all. My mouth is dry, and my lips are chapped. I am warm. I fade into blackness again.

“…are a very lucky young man.” I think he is talking to me. A doctor, with a nurse, and a policeman. Funny, I don’t feel fucking lucky. They are staring down at me. Hospital noises fade into my hearing. I realize I am strapped to a bed.

“You have been in and out for almost a week. The heroin you took was cut with strychnine. There has been a rash of it recently. You are lucky to be alive.

Motherfucking Polish. Fucking pieces of shit.

I manage to croak out a request for water. A week. At least the worst of the withdrawals will be over. A nurse gives me a glass of cold water which I gulp down. I still feel warm. I haven’t been warm in so long.

“Your parents have been notified. They haven’t responded yet.”

Figures. Would have been surprised if they had bothered.

“This man here is Detective Morris. He wants to ask you a few questions. You have been cleared of any wrongdoing, aside from the possession charges.”

My eyes narrow. Wrongdoing for what I ask. I feel a tightness in my chest. My throat feels like it is closing up. I begin to sweat. I want to piss. I am having difficulty breathing. I haven’t been warm in so long.

“Your friends, they didn’t make it. They took too much, and with the amount of heroin all of you had been taking, everyone was really weak. The only thing that saved you was the smaller amount you took. Your downstairs neighbor heard someone screaming and called the police. They were close by. Another of your friends, an Andrea Barton, had been struck, and killed by a moving van outside of your apartment building.”

Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. Aww…….goddamnit. No. They got out. Now I am all alone. The doctor and the nurse left. The policeman took a seat and began asking me questions I couldn’t really hear. I answered him by rote, like I had a thousand times before. My mind was somewhere else. It was flying away into pitch blackness, alone and lost, with no one there to help it along. It was plummeting. It was in freefall. I felt sick. They all left me. All I could think about was getting the fuck out of this place, and getting really wasted. It was too much right now. The interview kept dragging on. I think I started to cry at some point. I think I tried to throw up too, although my stomach was empty. Finally the policeman left. Said he would come back in a couple of days. Told me to get better. I laughed at that part. Bitter and full of venom and self-pity. I was alone now. Never in my life did I ever want to be the one who lived. Never in my life did I want to get to the point where all my friends were dead. But now here I am.

 

 

 

 

The Hag

The Hag

I wish I were a hag of the bog.

Alabaster skin, lank, dark hair,

that billows out from my head,

whether or not there is wind to move it so.

Long fingernails, that look like talons,

sharp enough to slice. And sinuous limbs

untroubled by vines that twist and choke

so many others. I wish I could float above

the quagmire, my feet never getting stuck

in the mud. No worry of drowning there,

in the swamp, alongside the masses.

I wish I could collect herbs to make tonics,

and poisons, for whatever might ail me.

Collect the skeletons of birds, and toads, and fish,

to use in my rituals, the ones where

I dance naked under the light of the moon

and chant and shriek loudly and shrilly,

untroubled about whom might hear.

 

I wish I were a hag of the bog.

Feared and respected, and largely left alone.

Villagers only making the arduous journey

to my hut when they need a healing potion,

or a spell for mending, or a baby stilled

within a womb. They ask these things

of me, with eyes upon their feet, too

frightened to meet my gaze, ashamed of

their requests, but also thankful for

my ability to help them in their need.

I am talked about in whispers in the backrooms

of their taverns, or in their haylofts. Never openly

acknowledged, but universally required.

I do not mind. They leave me be, I prefer this to the clamor

of their streets and shops, to the messiness

of their lives. I prefer my friends; the raven, and toad

and fox, and fish. The lamprey and the silence of the

swamp. The stillness of my soul,

the black cauldron, and the insects that

sing in the night, yet do not bite me.

 

I move through the bog, alone

and unafraid. The orchids

bend down to kiss my alabaster skin

as I float towards my hut, clothed in

the light of the moon.

Storytime

Storytime

Write a story about yourself, about your life.
What kind of things do you want to say?
How many monsters will you encounter along the way?
How many heroes?
Write out all of those crazy thoughts,
the ones that plague your mind,
and keep you from sleeping.
“The only constant in the entire universe is change.”
This is known.
“People who claim to have no regrets
are fucking delusional.”
This is also known.
“You really should have kissed her,
you really should have told her how you felt.”
“You should have been less afraid,
and cared less about how other people thought of you.”
“You should have smiled more,
and taken more vacations.”
“You should have screamed more, and sang more. Felt more deeply,
and cried so much more. You should have had more sex.”
“You should have smoked less,
and done fewer drugs.”
“You shouldn’t have wasted so much time
trying to do what was expected of you.”

The only constant thing in this universe is change,
and I have so many regrets,
but I am trying to change that.

So, sit down. Grab a pen and some paper.
Write the story of your life.
You have plenty of time.
Write it down, and believe it.
Every. Single. Word.
Believe it.

Seen/Unseen

Just finished this. Rough draft. Thank you for reading.
 
Seen/Unseen
 
Cracks in the sidewalk. The tops of scuffed, over-worn black boots. The tailpipes of automobiles.
/Dark blue flowers, that blossomed in late April, covering the hillside, and the bees swarming around them, awake now, for the warmth of spring.
A cracked phone screen. Text messages, or funny YouTube videos. Facebook photos of that guy/girl you want to fuck so badly. The sticky floor of a bus.
/The grand mountain to the south, rising out of the smog and mist, so prominent on clear days. Shrouded in snow, defiant, sun blazing off of her face. Begging people to see her, although in this place they seldom do.
How badly she broke my heart. /How badly I broke hers.
Self-deprecation, my fucked-up thoughts of never being good enough, a maelstrom I keep swirling down just to see how deep it goes. / My value. My value. My value.
Smiles and laughter. / The pain we all hide.
Skyscrapers. Monuments to ourselves. Raw sewage and air pollution. Broken glass and garbage dumps. / People living under tarps, or corrugated tin shacks. Huddling near oil drum fires. Freezing to death beneath the overpass.
All the little things that you make so much larger than they really are in your head. Your foibles and flaws. Your shakiness and uncertainty. / A way out of this mess you’ve made.
A future, painfully burning through your brain. Also, the way things are. / The way things you imagined they would be.
A world you have never ever felt you belong to. / Make believe. Imaginary lands, made up people. Home.
Half-baked thoughts and ideas. Ramblings. / An end to this poem.