You have become an inert person.
This was not your intent.
You are stuck, in the slowest form of denial.
You note, over now-cold coffee at a local cafe, typing on a MacBook,
letting your eyes do all the talking, picking at banana bread,
you note nothing.
On the side of my hip there are thumb-prints, in gray dust
from the ghosts of the cities I used to live in,
tacked bus schedules and rote cross-street memorizations
histories remade over blood-red happy-hour specials slipped in plastic,
left on wooden tables, in the booth a ghost and I claimed as our own,
telling stories of routine failures, dire circumstances
and strange encounters.
The best minds of our generation are not beset
by something as formidable (or interesting) as madness
but defined, and then encouraged
by something as temporarily beatific
and ultimately meaningless,
as hollow-armored irony.
A generation with nothing decimated,
no deserved, punctuated vociferous death-rattle of your life,
no screaming, no curdling remorse and disavowal,
there was a shrug and a laugh,
and since nothing impersonal has value,
you figured it was about time to step outside for a smoke.
The parting gifts you left me with:
treasure shocks, drunken sketches on napkins
fall-down laughter, photographs of the house with crooked walls
and crooked floors.
Promises made with no eye contact, a half-smirk and a nod,
a tennis racket or a skateboard borrowed from the trunk of a car,
or waif’s spun quarters on a drumhead,
humming a nonsense tune
(they are all nonsense tunes, that why nothing is remembered,
there is no evidence, no declarations)
and identities shift just like the cities,
the boundaries and zones identical, the names shifting
and the ghosts are like a prolonged Polaroid,
developing for months after their last appearance,
all deeds brokered different in the magic-world of hindsight:
because just yesterday I was reminded I once had a different name.
My personal expiration date on my milk-carton-environment is typically one year.
It takes only a moment for the sour smell to invade the room
and I can’t even walk into the house,
it’s like trying to talk to atheists about something they don’t know about
but they are sure they do (they are always sure),
behaving like a twelve-year old denied chocolate before bed
to the point they go deaf as clocks,
a showing silver of this uncommonly recognized personal observation
of this still-functioning heart:
that people infallibly, (1) trust their senses to the degree
that they believe they know everything about you
but actually only know traces of facts,
the way a seldom seen uncle’s opinions depend on secondhand-information,
and this hypothetical uncle gets an ego rush over this inside knowledge
more involved with their own knowledge, than the knowledge itself,
the way people prominently display overly long or obscure books on their shelf
not knowing much about the contents,
the blurbs on the back: the best parts.
or (2) with nothing beyond an acquaintanceship, a minor meeting,
tangibly knowing nothing about you (no intellectual kinship or biographical etchings)
(they don’t know about that one time, or that one place, or who you were two years ago)
they can even just watch you have a conversation,
and can sense everything about you
with nothing to say.
The estrangement from your body has been under no certain terms.
It began with a lifestyle screen-test on a mandatory vacation,
just sort of stuck.
The progression now inert like your nature
like a candle without a wick
irreconcilable and dull
with hesitations built around appearances and briefs
weeks-old hand-written letters of protest written to your body,
gone and abandoned, somewhere in hiding,
your body off the grid
likely stumbling on the shoulder of some unknown highway
piss-drunk and hungry again (this is what it has come to expect
because of your behavior)
because you were too busy thumbing through records,
and corrupting your posture in front of a screen,
instead of doing your body a favor
and planting your feet into the sea.
Love turned into wake-up calls from the front desk:
you’re late and you’re not sure if it ever happened.
Some left impregnable expectation we give each other
to act as if we care about one another more than we care about ourselves
and if you balance it wrong (which you do)
because everyone is horrible, and not worth that much attention,
so in effect
you lose sight of yourself, an orphaned seal
gliding through murky uncharted waters
and then you’re walking out of a hotel
slumped shoulders and unkempt hair
desperate to be moving,
unsure of the day of the month or the year
or the nature of your natural interest
why your hands sweat and shake
why there is a gulf in your stomach
why the physical overcomes the mental
the way eating pie or chopping wood
eradicates doubt and nagging thoughts.
Fashioned appearances become transparent and silly
like walking dolls made up to play house, or other games
brought to life by bigger hands.
Your senses are telling you not to trust your senses.
I prefer the company of my future self,
but when he is present,
he is anything but.
He smells and he is hungry. He says the wrong things.
He’s impatient. He doesn’t floss.
He’s cynical and out of shape.
He smokes though he promised he wouldn’t
but he mostly doesn’t though he still does smell.
He wastes his time.
He reads Nietzsche and eats horrible things
and pisses off the balcony facing Lake Union
onto passing cars and umbrella-less pedestrians.
He is of no use to anyone but himself.
The future self looking more and more like the past self.
So I give myself another chance
purified myself of my mistakes and regrets
catalogued my anxiety under a microscope
and classified them with tape and a black sharpie
“bullshit” “ridiculous” “usually while high”
and I redrew myself as myself,
the one you know me as,
in my new bedroom
by the beating light of a coming day,
walls affectless, bare, for you to fill.
You had made written arrangements
for the passing from you to yourself.
From known hypocrisy
to daily chore.
The keepsakes of a sidewalk,
bartering its own gifts for my presence
an open fire hydrant,
wind uttering on the surface, in a sequence
like coasters at a bar.
Making yourself more distinct, more personal
than trash bag purchaser #46 from store #302
on whatever day it was you last bought liners.
Sympathy should be something no bigger than a breadbox,
if you have anyone to share sympathy with
besides your parents of course
who are always a simple phone call and 3/4 tank of gas away
which is what I am thinking
during the hollow moments of our last phone call.
So, how is it that you define the word
When you say no one will take care of you?
Do you mean no one that you want?
This is the inertia
coursing through your bloodstream
taking hold of you
pinning you down the way my old ghosts
know my once-sore heart
and relapsed territory of youth
wearing dunce-hat labeled helmets
the morning after,
when I mock myself and everyone,
my heart and skin sheared and shorn
worn socks and missing money
and we are laughing like children
the way everyone does in the morning.
Pinned down because
we let our definitions only be one thing
and today you understand
you have to become empty
in order to understand
what it is to be wholly fulfilled.
And like the night’s my ghost slept in the city street,
like the nights your pulse travels into your stomach,
I understand now it’s worse to watch someone suffer
then it is to suffer yourself.
So go easy on your inert heart
if nothing else.