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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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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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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Poetry

This Is My Stop

The people who rode
the bus with me in middle school,
they may know me
best of all.
At least, they’d probably ask
the most
interesting questions.
“What ever happened to that house
that looked like a barn?”
“Do you still hide between headphones?”
“Are you still quiet?”
Are you still,
you,
still?

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Poetry

The Dead, Redux, or, How I Ranted About the U.S. and Accidentally Repeated Joyce

I just read a Reddit comment
claiming that America gets the Halloween season right,
and my first thought was
“That’s ’cause we’re one giant ghost country,”
then I thought about how we’re haunted by
so many sins,
and this person went on to say
(I’m paraphrasing here)
that wearing a costume is liberating,
so I thought about
how we cover our problems,
and we hide our roots,
and we ignore all the violence
inside every suit,
and now I’m thinking
that calling us a ghost country
is accurate
and wrong at the same time,
’cause many ghosts haunt us,
but the people we’ve wronged
are still living here,
they’re struggling here,
and though I did not commit many of America’s sins
personally,
I benefit from the repercussions of systemic wrongdoing,
I receive a relatively cushy life
thanks to inherent
violence
vice
repression
racism
sexism
ableism
God, I wish I could be more
poetic about this,
but I can only state it plainly,
that America’s problem, mainly,
is that it’s tearing itself to pieces all the time,
and the people who could do things better
never get positive attention, or power,
and half the country glowers
at any suggestion that we could improve ourselves,
so we’re fascinated by ghosts
and we’re inundated by monsters
because they show us a truth that we’d rather deny,
and the masks let us hide
in the stories we tell,
we convince ourselves that we’re not stuck in this hell,
a gigantic grave,
and a cell,
a shell of the beautiful land it once was,
before all the settlers,
before all the colonies,
now just a siphon that’s sucking the money
from every poor worker
and every minority
and, well, most everyone, actually,
the people at the top
are sipping grape gravy
and chuckling at somebody’s racist tweet.
They know they’ve shackled our feet,
and we can’t get anywhere
unless we agree to work for them,
then they drag us,
slowly,
while syringes and hoses
take every ounce of blood,
every dollar,
from us,
and I don’t know where this is going,
I just know
I’m real sad
that all we have is hospitality, and spooky shit,
Joyce said it all a century ago,
about Ireland,
and it applies to us now,
we’re a frail fucking cow
who’ll bend over backwards
to give up our milk.

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Poetry

A Lifetime Supply of Plaque

Y’all wanna talk about dental hygiene,
I finally remember to floss
after a few days
(maybe it was a week)
and blood fills my mouth,
and smears the skin around my lips.
There’s a crusty something
on my tongue,
and it sort of flakes off,
and I spit it out with the blood.
I rinse my mouth;
I smile;
I don’t look so bad after all that.
Time to brush,
and make a promise bound to break:
I’ll do this again tomorrow.

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