26: l., 2005
we could have been closer,
i wasn’t allowed to sleep with you until i left school,
and by then the rules had relaxed.
you went from crying in the bathroom to
curled up inside a pillowcase,
cocoa-muzzle, head cocked.
when i fought with my sister or they fought with me
or they fought with each other,
you would worry your white-flecked tail tip,
soggy and wretched, eyes aglow.
when i fought when them, you would howl,
mostly, i would howl back.
what i needed, what you needed, neither of us could provide;
but you were there after school,
i was the first person you saw after a long day,
and we whiled away the secrets together,
futon, cozy bed,
the last living reminder of a family of four.
i’ll think to myself, my mother needs another dog,
but what she needs is intangible,
the trust that comes with
many quiet nights;
and rustling movement under blankets, the clicking
nails on the floor.
25: m., post-humously 2016, 2017, 2018.
luckily? you are always on my mind around this time
you are always on my mind
all of the time, every moment every breath-
but that’s besides the point.
at these particular circuitous moments,
there you are.
this time, the first time–
today i am a failure, tomorrow, who knows? i panicked and fled from the building like a frightened horse and got lost in the thick Bradbury shit of the forest, commiserating with the universal long-dead self-hatred among the trees near a vandalized statue of Chris Columbus; I smelled the water but I didn’t want to drown and realized that my therapist was right, that animals resist death when it’s presented as a last resort, I think. Whatever.
The articles were right. People who succeed are unaware of their success. People who fail are bound to fail again and again. I don’t have a game plan. I need to keep my job. Try again. I don’t know what’s left. I think my girlfriend masturbates in the shower. I’m that kind of guy now who has completely devolved into a failure. It’s a test. Hey, you’re a test.
and that was even after you died and the sunset was waning into a gaping, black beyond and I was alone (but not really) and cold, and this time, last year;
what’s progress, anyway? Have I made it by simply living to fight another year, feeding and clothing myself, going to the gym, forging relationships, watching myself grow and change like a monster exploding from human skin? Maybe. Was it progress to fail twice, watch my cat malinger and die, take home her cremains, lose my job, stand in the middle of my apartment with a broken ankle wailing and just leave? I can’t tell if I’m still moving in the right direction, whatever that may be.
that was all so sad, that now I can’t help but cradle my tender self in my cosmic arms and whisper–
yes, it happened again
yes, I am sorry,
no, it’s not the end,
here we are again
the last time I didn’t think to commemorate it with a photo, the first time was on a set of train tracks in Brookline
My cat was dead, I remain a failure.
All of these definitive statements feel so fixed
I don’t want to indulge in a moment of self pity or self loathing, I don’t want to wrench my skin just to see the liquid bleed from my pores in a satisfying ache
I don’t want to fail, but if I do fail,
Which I have,
I want to be immersed in a culture that lets me know that there will be more options
I took a quote off my dashboard a few weeks ago,
the one that said, “I am not afraid to fail,
I am afraid of running out of chances to fail;”
or something like that.
Probably that’s why
Or probably something else
Some weird karmic universe shit
Some quirk of brain synapses
Maybe some day they’ll open me up and find out exactly what went wrong
Or maybe some day they’ll evaluate us on a more humane scale
I don’t want to have to feel bad for failing.
I don’t want to go through my journals (like I just did) and read about how badly
I made myself feel
I wanted to be done
I can be finished if I choose,
I can fail on my own time.
25: l.t., 2012
the backyard was always perfect
parallel lines, pansies in the center, surrounded
by the grey edges of the world, curling in, rusted dog kennels long without occupants, easter spring and the 4th tinged by threats
of a storm.
the bathtub was green and the soap was irish spring,
i wondered if i was tracing steps that i should have known,
or if i was just a player in someone else’s game.
down the street, the st. peter’s church van lay at rest and your neighbor
millie, would move out in bits and pieces,
leaving me with a miniature, functional lottery machine
and you, false flowers
in my dreams i can walk through the house and know the smells, the scents,
but i can’t place the people,
what they’re doing, where they are
frozen in face from the last time i saw them;
frozen as stiff as the fire she lit in the dark basement of the bowling alley,
trauma served cold by twilight,
22: d.s., 2006
i have lost photos four times-
one smashed digital camera, italy 2006; i remember mushroom houses,
pining; the plane ride home from california,
i learned, in succession, about yellow banana slugs,
the alcoholism of our in-in laws,
and how a memory card is formatted,
that was the summer i had planned to put my photos in a little book
captioning lives as i stuck my arms out the car windows,
that was the last time i had been so confident about
once, i squatted to capture the hand and footprints in paint near the metro station, stinking of petrol and
winter air, i woke up to– a broken apartment,
the ipod never recovered my playlists,
or the last two years of documentation
the first year i had her for real, the first year she was
the hardware lies in my safety deposit box,
rusting, but the rust is mine, someday maybe they will find a way to preserve the data as they have preserved
maybe they will let me look one last time at my own life and what i chose to capture briefly in my hands
there is a gap in my cloud, whatever time i considered valuable and still simultaneously lacking enough that i could not risk backing it up
the illness, those are the ones that are silt and dust on the bottom of the pond
perhaps you’re safer that way
perhaps i am, too,
compressed into data and the scent of wet soil
20: j.a., 2008
cotton, by the mountain goats
good fucking song
it came on the other day, about six years after i’d forgotten it
confession: i turned it down the first time
my cousin’s house
then went back and smoked it after
pretended i was in love with the faux fur rug
she taught me how to do scacazzo
nose breakers; shit eaters, little puffs of smoke
shotgunned up the nose
and then i was stoned
and then i called- i watched the embers in the grill go,
but i lost my real virginity to you, my love
outside on the back deck
you’d never smoked before, and
it was an unseasonably warm day, i had the shittiest seeds
and rolling papers
purchased at the gas station across from theatre practice along with arizona iced tea
a lottery ticket
if i could pretend my fate lay in a lucky dip
instead of college applications,
if i could smoke while our family dog yowled inside,
if i could show you something new
19: r.w., 2009
out of all the things i remember it’s the first day i met you
yours was not the first grown-up house i’d been in
but it was the first one i loved
modernist table, concrete
cracked glass top; taxidermia, your last can of faygo
we showed each other our driver’s licenses to prove that we weren’t
both horrifying in their own right
writing this is an ode to, not just you-
but the blog i abandoned that you still ask about,
when i think of you i think of- george stubbs,
our favorite band, your cousin, the t-shirt, the scooter
how viciously we hurt each other
a lion attacking a horse
you told me once that you were tired of being a funeral director
everybody’s grandmother looks the same after a while, tarted up
your livejournal title was what i was spanked with that one year in paris;
eventually we just grew further
you can never really stop loving what you liked
or love them again, right?
you can’t go back to high school, can’t stop watching them grow, can’t stop accelerating in third gear; earlier this summer you got married-
we were close, but not that close, but i like
knowing that you’re there, somewhere out there