Tag Archives: death

Rehearsals, Practices, And Dry Runs

I have ended my world
countless times in my head,

so often and so completely
that to walk into the sunshine
of a November day 
feels the same as crawling
through the heat of July: 

the former is the aftermath,
the world become a table
swept clean in anger;
the latter is a memory of 
a solo holocaust,
and of how I burned.

In my head I’ve ended my world
so many times in so many ways
that I can tell you how to use
any of fifteen easily acquired items
from kitchen or bath to bring about
your personal apocalypse
without even consulting a list.

It has become so normal,
I barely bother with being alive any more.

So when the world feels like it does today,
when it feels like I needn’t work hard
to end my world –when it feels like
all I have to do is speak out loud
of who I am and what I believe,

or just silently be myself
while someone in anger and fear

puts the gun or knife
or bomb or fire to me
for that alone — 

I see it as the next turn
in the game I’ve played
over and over for most of my life
and I can say that
whatever the way forward,
whether it leaves me dead or alive
I’ve been there before,

and I can work with it.

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Johnny Loves Tech

Johnny loves tech,
say all of his work friends. Knows a
shitload about it. They ask him
to fix stuff all the time.  Just a week ago
no one could print, Johnny
figured it out before the help desk
ever got here. They don’t even call the help desk
any more. They just ask Johnny.

Johnny says ah, it’s nothing.  He learned
a while ago that all there is to tech
is sitting with it and thinking, asking
a question or two, following up, being patient.
He learned that from his mother. She knew nothing
about such things but would
solve everything else that needed solving
by asking a few questions
and then sitting with the answers, and it always
worked for her, so…

Johnny still lives in the house he grew up in.
His mother’s long gone.  It’s still neat
and clean there, the way she kept it, would
have liked it.  He sits at night and never
touches a keyboard at home. Sits and
asks questions, sits with no answers,
sits and sits and falls asleep sitting up
in her old chair. 

Johnny loves tech, they say at work.
Johnny thinks that’s nothing, loving tech.
He sits at night and loves his mother
who didn’t love tech at the end, the beeping,
the steady pump of the machines, the knobs
on the consoles, the way it all looked so clean
and foreign to her body as she melted away.

That’s what Johnny says to himself
while he’s sitting and sitting and sitting:
it all worked perfectly and still, 
she melted away. 
Some tech
isn’t worth loving. Some tech never
answers a single question. Johnny 
sits there in front of an error message
on a screen and screams inside
about how easy some people
must think this is for him.


Thinking Ahead

If today were to be
the day, 

it would be good
to close things out
as a white muzzled dog
lying on a couch
below a window full 
of lemon light,

but if that’s not to be
for me, then I want
my own departure
to offer something
that makes such peace
available to all, to more
than those who had it 
before I came here. 

When I go I want
my eyes to shut
slowly as I release
the final breath and
let that air carry
my memory off
to the unknown.

If it is not to be
that I fall in such
serenity? Then let
the violence pull me
down, let me take it
with me, let it sink away
from view as I sink away
from view.

What I think I want
the most from my death
is that it should mean something
for the deaths that follow mine —

that it may ease passage,
end suffering, shut down
as much inflicted pain
as possible — that it may
offer in its finality
the same comfort as is found
in the thick fur of the old dog
sleeping deeply in the sun,
waiting for waiting to end.


Would-Be Suicide Seeks Spiritual Guidance

Originally posted 3-23-2012.

Into the heat of the night to chase Lazarus.
I have something to learn from him:
how he got over his anger at his friend
for pulling him back into the struggle. 

I want to ask him how long he held the grudge
and if he led with it whenever he and Jesus talked,
if indeed they ever spoke again after that day,
which seems likely though it’s unrecorded.

How do you have that conversation
about him not just saving your life, but pulling it
all the way back from bankruptcy and liquidation
to deposit it right back where it had been

as if nothing had happened at all and anything 
that soul had seen while it was gone could be forgotten?
I know it can’t.  Know it for a fact.
And I need to know how to speak to a friend

who brought me back like that, though 
in my case I really wanted to go.  I want to know
how I’m supposed to be his friend again.
I want to know if it’s even right to try.  If anyone

should know, it’s Lazarus. How did he and Jesus
get past it, if they did at all?  
They never tell that story in the Gospels.  
They never made a sermon out of that.


Taking Stock

My body,
deceiving me
in some new way
daily.

My main diseases?
Sugar sludge blood, 
moods lurching
from death sludge 
to joy stomp, sleep
a series of strangulations;
each of these a wee bomb
waiting to rend me.

My brain,
pummeling me
as it always has.  

My approach to life,
a recalibration loop
barely held together 
at a weak seam.

My upbringing,
gentle horror show 
wrapped in
soft white bread.

My heritage?
Half worlds away from here
in two opposed directions,
the vacuum in my core strong enough
to suck at them, too weak to bring them
smashing together into a good
cold weld. 

My understanding 
of that history?
Half book learning,
half frantic triage, all 
of it guesswork when 
push comes to shove
on the edge of the void.

My homeland?
An experiment in something.
Steal a medium and grow
a culture on it. Pretend
we don’t know 
what it feeds on.

My future here?

I’m not alone in the game,
in the approach to it,
thank all the small stones
in the earth and sky
for that; thanks for
a hand to hold while I wait;
thanks for the hope that
I make it easier for them
in my own way;

but I know I will have to
run it in alone, diving down
a slip and slide built with
rust-fouled water and 
undercover stones;

I know
I’m coming in too fast,
too hard, and in no shape
for the finish,

but I’m coming in. It’s
something to do, the only thing
to do; confusion and conviction
in action;

here I come
smashing in.


Warm Salt Water

Spent this life sipping
warm salt water
in drops, only

warm salt water
and only in drips and
drops,

yet am expected
to taste sweetness
easily and reject

the only taste 
I’ve ever known
at once, with no thought

as to how all those
dribs and drabs of salt
may have burned

my ability to taste
anything else.  You do 
not understand how

oceanic it is in here,
how such trickling
pleasantry and joy

disappear into
that sea with no 
trace; meanwhile

warm salt comes
relentlessly, in bits and
blips, filling, spilling.

Spend a life sipping
those and see
what happens when

another flavor offers itself
to your tongue. See how
it feels to understand that

what you are meant to love
cannot touch you now.
See how you cry then:

it won’t even
feel like a loss as you
sip the drops,

as you shrug off
the suggestion
that there could be 

anything else for you
but the sip and the 
slipping away.


How We Keep Time At This Age

There are moments common to all of us
when we wake from sleep and do not know
the time or even the day, moments 
when we decide not to find out right away.

I know that just as I do, you lie there disconnected
and think of all your firsts:  first pet, crush, love, cigarette, 
drink, blood, kiss, sex, death. All your recents:
current pet, crush, love, cigarette, drink, blood, kiss, sex. 

You consider death separately, right before 
the moment (common to all) when you choose
to look at the clock and remind yourself
what day of what week we are in. You consider

death separately as it means something different now
to contemplate the idea of the most recent death
in your world. You have to count on your fingers
and then get to know the calendar again, asking

if it was Todd or Joan or Aiden or Mike that was
the most recent. This is how we keep time now, how we
pull ourselves out of the blur. We fumble for glasses and phone,
asking: are we still here, still in recorded time?


A Drink With Death

I sat on the front porch with Death
and shared whisky. 

Death has a rep for terrible taste
in booze but all things considered,

I took the glass and choked it down.
Not horrible, not great.  Sometimes

mediocre is the worst option
but being the only one available makes it

the best option as well. 
Afterwards we shared a joint. Mine, of course;

Death can’t roll to save a soul
and my reputation for that skill is known in Heaven and Hell.

Death settled into the chair
and took a larger pull than was strictly 

polite, but arguing makes no sense
when you argue with Death. (Before this all

becomes “Princess Bride” parody, 
understand how serious this was

underneath the smiles and proffered drugs:
I was drinking and toking with Death

as if it all hadn’t been that for my whole life,
as if I didn’t know what might be at stake, though I did.)

Buzzed and worried,
I asked Death for a momentary reprieve — not for myself,

but for some random person. I wanted to tell myself
that I’d made some difference for someone

without regard for who they were. When Death
nodded and said it was done, I swallowed the drink

and the burning, dragged deep, fell asleep.
Someone didn’t die because I’d had that drink,

I told myself.  Such a wasted life as I’d had, 
I had to justify it at least a bit, even if I’d been in a fog

the whole time.  Even if I didn’t know 
that the saved person was worthy.  No one’s worthy

enough, really. It’s all a drunken plea
to stay alive for each of us. I didn’t do anything, 

really, except hope it would work to my credit
to have done something not for myself.  It’s what

every drink shared with Death is,
of course. A bargain. A deal, a commodified prayer

with indeterminate answers. Fire swallowed for heat,
chased with a hope for no scarring.


Ground And Pound

is working.

I haven’t been upright
in months. I feel
only head shots and body blows.

No blood in my liver, my limbs
cold and stiff with coagulate,
certainly none to be spared for anyone else. 

Opening my eyes
through the spray of little cuts
on my face is too hard.

Each one’s a distraction
I can’t manage to disregard
while trying to get up or at least

trying to try for that.
I’m not much to look at either,
and forget being loved; no one loves

a slab of meat, soft marble chunk of 
red and white, shaking tub
of bad decisions lying puddled on the mat.

Ground and pound it is for a wrap:
take it, fake it, don’t cave, don’t tap.
But it’s working. No denial here. Working

like a charm. No knockout blow
in this lifetime. From outside
it may look like I’m sleeping,

but from ringside you can’t know how
the roaring of my heart at my failure
keeps me awake for now.


A Few Things

In memory
are a few things
worth preserving:

deep sunshine taste
of a particular Key West mango;

scent of eucalyptus trees
through the windows
of a hotel

in Rancho Santa Fe;

one sharp pang of disappointment
at gray night skies

on the hills above Albuquerque
on the night of
the Perseid shower;

voices of friends, lovers, and
random phrases
overheard from strangers;

cannon hum
of an old Gibson 

against my chest;

a slip of the tongue
that eventually made
for one magnificent line

in a mediocre bit of poetry;

a song in my head
that I never learned to play

or sing, but which gave me hope
every day I picked
at my strings

or my paper and pen.  

In memory are things
worth preserving,
and none of them
will be found

in my bones 
when I pass;

so on that day
or soon after

when they set me
on fire

may my ashes
signal no sadness
at the release of 
my spirit
from my matter

but instead
flag its flight
as it is dragged
and lifted 
on the kindness
of wind;

let it settle
wherever it wants,
in one or in many,
in new life
or aged lungs, 
upon stone 
or soft ground;

let it be true
that I didn’t matter
in life as much 
as I do in what
I carried within,
what little 

I leave behind:

song, flavor, 
sense, breath.


Ouija

I can’t sleep here
now.

I look
into it.

There was 
an accusation.

There was a hot iron and
a burned arm.

Death
of infants. Death of
a wife and mother.

He’s like a stalker
in
his own house. He

lived here and
followed anyone who
came in.

I know the man killed
the girl. I think he

killed the dead girl.
She was a living person
and

he was acquitted.

He is dead and refuses
to leave.

He is 
disowned and refuses
to leave.
He suffered terribly
and 

angry guy moved
to the basement.

Pretty private.
It hurts here pretty bad.

His intentions
are

pretty bad.

I don’t really believe in ghosts
but.

I don’t live in the basement
or go there
at all.

I lay my hands on the
planchette

and invite. I am

pretty private but
this needs to be

heard to be 
believed. I don’t

want to live here.
I am

pretty. I am

a living person.
He

is following.

He.
All about the angry
he. 

All about it.
The ghost.
The angry guy,
like a tough guy.

He is always in
the basement
(leave me alone).

Leave. Leave.

It’s a warning. 
She’s
a living person.

Leave. Yes.

Yes.


January Dreamers

The sleepers wake in January
and wring their white hands.

They turn to each other,
pale and damp, and say,

did you feel that? A sort
of wave in the air, 

a plunge in the temperature?
Maybe we dreamed it. 

Maybe it will go back
to how it was. Maybe, even,

it’s still the same and we know
it will go back. Yes, we’re sure

of it. Let’s stay up a little while
and wait for that and then

we can fall again to sleep
under the warm cover.

So they sit up and wait
until the air cracks even colder.

They shrug and go back 
to sleep, dreaming 

they will always have enough cover
to stay warm, dreaming

of spring’s return,
of fire on the hearth at home,

all the way to Beyond The Cold,
back to the Used To Be;

when they do not wake,
their dreams having been  

trumped by the cold,
they are eventually pulled

from their beds and tossed
alive and unbelieving into

newly built pyres
of an ancient design.


Studies

What the just-born have learned:
how to breathe. How to 
sleep and wake. How to be terrified 
and then be loved. Hunger,
cold, how to cry for all apparent
and invisible reasons and 
have no regrets for being alive. 

What the just-deceased have learned:
how to fall asleep and stop
breathing. How to be loved,
terrified; how to surrender hunger
as they cool. How crying works;
how regrets do not. 

Somewhere in between,
some days closer to one,
some days the other, you will find
the rest of us, grading on the curve
or praying for pass-fail.  You will find us
hoping for an incomplete, a make-up,
extra credit. You will find us as we
rarely find ourselves:

working too damn hard.


Immortality

I fell off a mountain
while reaching for
the next mountain

I fell a long time

and when I landed on 
the same mountain I had fallen from

I lifted my head from the ruins
of my body
and was free

to go leaping
peak to peak
through the range

When I saw one last mountain before me
I touched one toe upon it
for closure then
plunged into 
the trenches of the ocean

and slid through those waters
from depth to shore
to depth again until
with this path
I’d stitched all the planet together

and when I’d done this

there were so many stars overhead
and so many worlds left

You lie to the children
saying
be afraid to die
stay forever safe

while I speed among the stars
and 
you can’t even tell 
that I have died


Frogs (Sprung)

When I was a boy I walked often
to a pond near my house that was full with debris
and car parts and dark water and duck weed
and frogs who made a deep “sprung” noise
at intervals.

Later on I built a shelter not far from there
with a small fire-pit and I’d sneak away at night
to drink or smoke by myself when I hated people
and I’d listen to the “sprung” noises of the bullfrogs
going on all night.

I am often afraid as an adult to open my eyes
right before dawn or at any time really 
because I spend so much time listening to those frogs
going “sprung-sprung-sprung” in my head
wherever I am.

It is at its worst when I dwell too long in places
that remind me of the oil-shine and stink of the water
in that little pond, really no more than a drain-off
from who knows what past failed industry, thick with
the “sprung” of poisoned bullfrogs.

I expect one day a frog will leap out of there and into
my hands and take over their function and instead
of writing or kneading bread or making a guitar work
some magic they will turn reeking and oily and from them
will issue a “sprung” sound

as I shove a gun into my mouth.