Poetry

Fuzz in the Time of Cholera

I sit near the cat tree downstairs and I wonder,
what does Willow make of me wearing a mask?
The mask is literal this time.
My brother caught COVID-19 sometime last week,
after he tested negative the prior week, but
continued to feel sick afterward.
We’re not sure from where he got it, and
it probably doesn’t matter, anyway.
What matters
is that he’s quarantined in his room,
and if he needs anything, I try
to get it for him. Or he leaves his quarantine,
mask on, gloves on, with disinfectant wipes in hand,
and he cleans. Everything. He touches.
That’s what I’ve seen, anyway.
I shouldn’t be down there, I should
lock myself in my own room,
for my own safety,
but as it was before,
I’m the only one
who will clean anything around here.
I did it to myself: every time someone asked
“Do you want help with the dishes?” I’d say
“No thanks, I got this.”
So I washed the dishes yesterday. In the kitchen.
Which is definitely where most people wash their dishes,
but my brother’s room is way too close for comfort.
I know 6 and more feet of distance should be enough.
I know we’re masking up, and disinfecting, and
we have doors between us. But now,
with the sickness in the house,
I don’t feel safe.
So I wash my hands after I touch anything,
and I wear my mask all over the house,
and Willow looks up at me, doing what
she usually does,
but I swear I notice a slight pause
as she registers the strange thing
on my face.

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rambling

Another Anti-capitalist Rant

A Note From the Author: I started writing out this critique on January 10th, mostly off the cuff, after seeing posts addressing the 100th anniversary of the first successful insulin treatment. I think I meant to take it further, but I stopped ranting and just saved it as a draft. I added one sentence for clarification, but really, who stops to clarify their thoughts in the middle of a rant but the most self-critical, anxious overthinkers? Oh yeah, that’s me … but anyway, here we go.

Can you imagine being a person who witnessed the discovery of insulin and thinking “Oh great! Now that diabetics can live, how can we charge them money for that luxury?” Yes, to profit off misery – I fucking hate pharmaceutical companies. I just heard tell of people in California pushing for an affordable way to synthesize insulin at home. I also know there are researchers out there who are trying to create tools that will make insulin accessible and affordable to everyone. Bless them, for they are saints. Medicine and healthcare should never be out of anyone’s price range; capitalism is twisted, and sick, and demoralizing, and destructive, and poisonous, and insidious, but it’s also been hilariously obvious how its shortcomings far outweigh its benefits. Wait, what benefits? That’s right, capitalism has no fucking benefits. It tricks people into believing their worth is tied to their work, and if you’re not productive, then you’re worthless. Somber news flash that’s actually decades old: our productivity has skyrocketed while our wages have stagnated. Now, CEO pay has also skyrocketed. Hmm, a coincidence? Fuck no, friend. The people in power, politicians and executives and management types and grifters (whatever, they’re all grifters) who have all the money and power hold the strings of huge fucking purses, and they shower coins upon anyone who will help them squeeze every last drop of value from exploited workers. We’ve been exploited, time and again, by people who already had way more money and opportunities than us, to grant themselves even more money and opportunities, while we waste away in the shadows. Can’t afford healthcare. Can’t afford a vacation. All the god damn money that “bigwigs” and “fat cats” get paid in humongous bonuses, payouts, and disgustingly large salaries? That’s money that could be paid to workers. Which would then be pumped back into the economy as we all pay for the shit we need to live healthy, happy lives. We shouldn’t have to pay money to live healthy, happy lives.

I don’t want money to be the crux of a good or a bad time. I don’t want a dollar value to be assigned to anything. I want necessities given free of charge, and I want people to care for one another, and I don’t want to hop back and forth on Venmo to make sure I’ve paid all my dues. Money pits us all against one another. We should target the bastards who take what is ours. Rise up, and throw the bigwigs down. Bring them to our level. But it’s too late for the bigwigs: they’re too sick and twisted to withstand the continual trauma inflicted upon the oppressed. The nerve of them, to grease their ways into safe havens.

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Poetry

Mental Gymnastics

20, 19, I count down the slices of kielbasa as I eat them. 18, 17, I never told anyone about slipping and almost falling down the stairs, and how I stopped my fall with my right foot, and my long right toe has been in mild pain ever since. 16, 15, okay, I told Joe ’cause he was staying in town and he was on our couch at the time, so he heard it happen, but no one else knows why the hell I’m walking so funny. 14, 13, 12, I don’t even think anyone has noticed that I’m walking funny. 11, 10, my right ear is still clogged or blocked or something, even after I cleaned it out with hydrogen peroxide, and lately there’s an incessant ringing in it, and last night I woke up after sleeping three hours to the thought of “I think I’m hearing things that may not be there.” 9, 8, I braced a big green suitcase with my right leg at work and the suitcase slipped and bashed a spot above my ankle and it scraped some skin off and I started bleeding so I made a makeshift bandage with paper towels and tape but it didn’t wrap around my skin so well, so I had to search the first aid kit anyway, and that’s in the hall where there may be people and it’s a pandemic and my fucking fingers were all over that kit. 7, 6, 5, I washed my hands before and after I handled the first aid kit, but I still felt funny about it. 4, 3, it’s been a little over two years since I started buying Wal-Mart insulin ’cause my introverted ass wouldn’t drive to the doctor’s office and get my prescription refilled, and it was probably the second or third time I’d canceled the appointment last-minute, and I’ve never been great at going out in public, even before the pandemic, but I really fucked up with that one. 2, 1, sometimes I wonder how much sugar has coursed through my blood and ruined vital parts of me, and this line keeps going through my mind, it says “Mints won’t fix my rotting mouth,” and that’s just my fun way of saying I need to see a dentist too. Zero, I ate a whole kielbasa sausage (it was more than 20 slices but I liked starting there for the sake of poetry) and the whole time I cooked it all I could think was “This is a depression meal, what if someone walks in on you forking kielbasa slices right off the pan?” but I quashed that thought, then I realized that I really don’t wanna see anyone right now, which is when it became clear to me that I hardly ever get time to myself, like true “me time,” not since the pandemic started, and I think that’s why I’m sad right now, but my longer sadness is something else and I really need to stop counting down kielbasa for fun and start thinking about how to find a new doctor.

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Poetry

My Morning Reverie

I woke up thinking about coffee.
Coffee is usually drunk in two scenarios:
one is working, or
one is relaxing.
Yet its potential goes beyond those two possibilities.
What if I wanna sip it while I
climb a mountain?
I guess that’s work.
What if I wanna chug half a mug
and get frisky?
Fuck, I guess that’s work with a moment of relaxation.
What if I wanna reveal my true inner workings
in a handful of phrases
while I drink coffee slowly?
I hate this assumed beverage binary.
“Some drinks are for hard work,
others are for chillin’.”
Maybe some situations require a different composition of
feelings, sensations, and actions.
What do they say?
All work and no play … it’s not very fun.
What if I wanna hide near the top of a tall tree
after scheming my rival into an ill-advised hike
and wait until they crest the ridge down there
then BLAM, that rival’s gone?
I detach my thermos from my belt
(or jacket or backpack or whatever handy outdoor gear I have)
and open it, take a few sips of the steaming coffee inside.
Maybe this is my origin story.
This is work, and play, and doubt, and devotion,
I assure you it’s fiction with a non-committal motion
(one could call it a shrug);
I’m not that angry and I’m not that violent
and I’m not in the habit of gathering rivals.
It’s not that I’m that good,
it’s that I try to get along with everybody.
Every body needs a sip of something,
for a panoply of reasons.
It’s not all work, it’s not all play.
But damn, the coffee is fine.

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Poetry

Flow

It’s a stream-of-consciousness kind of day,
and my brain just won’t
stop telling me
how sad we are.
While I calculate
how long this sadness will last,
I remind myself
that I only slept
about six hours last night,
and I’d had a bit to drink,
and although it’s not deadly,
it’s enough to put me in a mood.
A bad place.
A dark time.
Maybe it’s time I admit
that the more I tell myself
“Plenty of people sleep less than you!,”
the more okay I become
with denying myself
good health.
In the spirit of optimism,
I’m going to bed.

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rambling

Learning to Love Long Underwear

It’s sort of a joke at this point, at least in the U.S. for people who celebrate Christmas, that eventually, all the gifts that mortified us as children take on a new sheen when we’re adults. You probably know what I’m talking about: the limp and lumpy packages that inevitably gave way to reveal socks, underwear, new pajamas, clothes of some kind. Sometime in the last five years or so, I reached the point where I embrace the reality of time’s long and assured destruction of my body. Since that needn’t be one fell explosion (though it might be, depending on how unhealthy I continue to be), it’s important to take measures to protect myself against gradual degradation. That’s just a fancy way of saying that I need to take better care of myself.

This idea initially germinated as a post-Christmas reflection on the passing of time and the changes our understandings of space undergo, with particular regard to the personal space of our bodies, but, naturally, Christmas leads right into the new year … our usage of time is a construct, unnaturally, but I can’t deny the very real effects of aging and the contraction of years into closed-accordions of more anxiety and fewer real memories. So I’m melding my new understanding of holiday gifts with my renewed interest in my own wellbeing to create a relatively tidy end-of-year rumination on my recent life.

Winters are, by definition, cold. When one lives in a place like my hometown, nestled in the high desert near a few mountain ranges, there’s a good chance snow will actually bless the lands and curse the roads with a white Christmas. And that’s exactly what happened this year: winter storms were forecast, people prepared as they preferred to (either by rolling their eyes and continuing as usual or by stocking up on necessities), and while the pre-Christmas storms were light, a fucking blizzard danced atop my little city all Christmas day.

And I said to myself, thank the maker I asked for long underwear. The limp and lumpy packages I hated as a kid, they became my shield against the storm this season. I unwrapped a three-pack of knitted socks, a three-pack of thermal underwear, a handful of thermal long-sleeved shirts, a set of “loungewear,” which I believe is just adult-speak for pajamas, a new jacket that keeps me warm with an efficacy I never expected, and, perhaps the greatest gift of all, two pairs of gloves to protect my hands from the frigid desert air. You may have noticed that I’m missing a few important pieces of winterwear, but I assure you, I already have a good hat, a nice scarf, and hiking boots that keep me from sliding around. Combine the clothes I already owned with my newly received gifts, and I’m pretty fucking set to wander the snow-wracked wastelands of my home. Hell, I can wander the snow-wracked wastelands of any place, as long as it’s not, like, Minnesota or Antarctica or Alaska or okay, maybe I’m not as prepared for the super cold places of the world. But I am prepared for single digit temperatures … below zero is a whole other beast, with icicles for fangs and snow for fur. Icy eyes and a frozen soul. No thank you.

Rather than take the old approach to the cold, which involved me putting on a sweater or a hoodie and saying “I’ll tough it out, it’s not that bad,” I now suit up head to toe to prepare for any foray into the cold. My brother, bless his DIY leanings, finished making and installing a coat rack a few days before Christmas, and my favorite little hook now carries all the things I need if I want to go outside in inclement weather: gloves, jacket, hat. I even took my masks out of my room and hung them from the hook; it’s just convenient to have the things I need for the outdoors hanging within reach. These days, with snow on the ground and ice permeating the air, I wear thermal underwear beneath my pants, and I pull thick socks over the underwear; I put a thermal shirt on over my t-shirt, and if it’s really cold, I’ll wear a sweater over that, before I pull my jacket on for outdoor adventures. I always wear my beanie, and the other day, I walked into my parents’ house to hear my mom say “Where are your hiking boots? I bought them ’cause you asked for them.” See, that was for Christmas a year ago. And damn it, she’s right: I asked for hiking boots so I’d be ready to go outside in more extreme conditions, and I was just ignoring them. So I placed my hiking boots in the foyer, below the coat rack, so I can grab them and pull them on when I have to venture outside during a storm, or when I want to go on a hike, or whatever. I’m just ready now, is what I’m trying to say.

This readiness, and this desire to be ready and outfitted, literally, for any circumstance, is now a part of my new year’s resolution to take better care of myself. For those who may not know, I’m 32 years old, going on 33. By most standards, this isn’t old or even middle-aged, but I’m also a type-1 diabetic. I haven’t been watching my health like I should, and I haven’t taken care of my body like I should. I know that “should” can be a dangerous and belittling word, and I don’t mean to belittle myself; I’ve been caught up in my own struggles, but if I can just take the time to treat my body better, I’ll be happier and healthier. I’ll probably be more long-lived too; it’s not that I want to be immortal, but I do imagine a future where I’m able to walk around at leisure and run a bit if I want to and maybe even tromp through the beautiful woods. For that to happen, well, the world needs to survive. If we manage to avoid a complete global meltdown, and I make it to some number even closer to old age than I am now, I’d like to be healthy. So here’s to a new year, whereby I treat myself well and I work on my wellbeing.

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Poetry

Rotting

I finally sat down
to figure out my broken Zippo
and the sound of it igniting
brought old movies to mind,
people playing at being chimneys,
smoke ever curling from pursed lips
and a light always ready to glow.
I don’t smoke, but I choose my death;
I choose my death every day.
Every time I forget to drink water,
every time I decide not to exercise,
every time I microwave a meal,
every time I cram caffeine in my blood,
every time I don’t check my blood sugar,
every time I don’t make a doctor’s appointment,
every time I binge a video game,
every time I binge chips,
every time I forget about fruit,
every time I vacillate about veggies,
every time, I choose my death.
My death is slow, and habitual,
just like my life.

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Poetry

Potential Repetition

Did I ever share this one?
A possible title for some eventual project?
Here goes:
The Blunder Years, Or: How I Messed Up, Got Lucky, and Managed to Survive Continually in a Capitalist Deathtrap (a collection of poetry from the last few years of working hard for almost nothing)
Phew, that’s a mouthful.
Maybe the title will take up the whole front cover.
In big, bold letters.
I could put the parenthetical on the back.
Or I could leave it with the first part.
Complete. Whole.
Hopeful.
I wrote this in the Notes app on my phone
sometime within the last year or two.
Still working hard.
Still for almost nothing.
Learning to ask
for more.

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