Observations Lifted from a Functional Heart


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,

(yes, you)

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,

and well

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.


One thought on “Observations Lifted from a Functional Heart

  1. chris case

    Wow! This is one of the most involving, truly insightful things that you have written. I feel the pain and the possibilities. As close as you are to the pain, you are still able to put it in perspective. Amazing work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s