For Better or Worse


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For better or for worse, I am a dark writer.

 It isn’t something I wanted to be as I grew up…it is more something that had to be done to give my inner grief a voice so that the pain and suffering did not consume me. The events of my life have consumed me like maggots feasting on the carcass of a dead child. Have you ever wondered why the best of Irish writers are so dark and depressing? It is because they were consumed and compelled by lives lived in abject poverty, disease and general disrepair and despair. Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Frank McCourt, …all suffered from severe moral disintegration, from morbid ideations brought about by the unrelenting ugliness that this so called “good life” thrust upon them.  

 The French poéts maudits;  François Villon, Baudelaire and Rimbaud?  These were simple men forced to live  their lives outside or against society, awash in the abuse of drugs and alcohol, insanity, crime, and violence. They all died pitiful, painful deaths. Or how about the Americans?  Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Bukowski…each caught up in what life does best…grinding their souls to dust in the absence of any lasting hope until the merciful fist of death grabbed each by the ankle and pulled them under.

 You may think I’m just cynical and indulgent…but I tell you, for every ray of sunshine you can conjure, I can show you ten bolts of lightning that rip and destroy.  I am glad others have happiness….but I myself was pushed through this veil of insidious despair without my consent, and I’ve learned to navigate life in the absence of hope.  And yes, I find some comfort there.  It’s what I know.

 People are always saying, “try and look on the bright side,” and to them I say, “ Look around you, for fuck’s sake!”  There is an ocean of pain, agony, and suffering washing over the majority of the earth’s population…and you think platitudes  and sweet rejoinders make a difference when the crows peck the eyes from a dead child who has starved in the Sudan? Or when 20 beautiful innocent children in Sandy Hook have their precious lives snuffed out, or when entire populations are being systematically wiped off the face of the earth for political expediency?  Get real.  Take off your rose-colored specs and take a deep look around you!  Evil flourishes upon a people’s unwillingness to see.  They are blinded by their blazing sunshine and forced optimism.

 Yes, we live in the same world, but I see the shadows where you see the light. I don’t write this kind of crap because I have something to say…I write it because something which must be said has me to write it. My apologies for the rant…but I get so ill in my gut when people say, “there, there…the world is a beautiful place. Just try harder to be happy.”

 The world is obscene and delusional. And it hurts.

The Skirt


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You laid your plaited skirt
on the foot of my bed,
neatly folded as though
in doing so you could somehow
retain your virtue.

In the midst of our fleshy thrashing,
I kicked it to the floor, and you began
to cry, deep sobs that rattled
the mattress springs.

I moved, too reluctantly, to retrieve it
but you said, “Why bother? You’ve ruined it.
You’ve ruined me. You’ve ruined everything!”

Making love doesn’t always
mean making sense,
and so I threw my feet to the floor,
pulled on my jeans, and looked back,
although I would never be able to see.

“So that’s it?” you sobbed.
“You bastard!”

I smiled In affirmation, buttoned my shirt,
and turned toward the door,
and as an afterthought, picked up
your once plaited skirt, tossed it
carelessly over my shoulder,

and left.

 

Letting Go


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Slip away my son, your night has come
As this day unwinds the sorrow
And do not fear the bells you hear
They ring a bright tomorrow

See the stars above, shining bright, my love
It reveals a path for you
Take one step to be heaven bound and free
Your spirit’s been renewed

It has been my boy, the utmost joy
To hold and love you true
If I must let go, you must surely know
How proud I am of you

Take my hand my dear, and feel me near
Let go these earthly hollows
Feel the light within as you now ascend
And know that I will follow

 

Smoke and Fire


smoke and fire

 

Smoke and fire, my heart’s desire
Stoke the flames a little higher
Dancing in the flickering flame
I find my mind’s gone quite insane

Burning with a fevered pitch
All my thoughts are loosely stitched
Visions scatter like floating embers
Incensed moments I remember

A life consumed by selfish lust
Now reduced to smoldering dust
No regret to stave the heat
My soul’s destruction now complete

My faith is set to flaming torch
Beliefs once held are darkly scorched
Yes, fan the flames, incense the fire
Let this be my funeral pyre

Full of failure, drinks of Gaul
Life has been a tortured haul
Let my bones cremate most slowly
Scatter my flesh, let strong winds blow me

To another time, another life
Full of promise, less in strife
May I rise one day again
More in grace, less in sin

 

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Defeated


defeated

 

I reached for fame,
but my arms too short;
disappointment reached
back and embraced me instead.
I pushed off fear and tried to be strong,
but the effort sapped the life in me,
and I fell asleep.

I awoke with a whisper of hope
but drowned that with a cup of coffee.
My day is better spent walking silently,
alone.

My thoughts bounce
from the pinnacles of possibility
to the depths of despair,
turning back and forth by the minute.
Restless yet spent,
I stumble through each and every day
seeking only a moment
to catch my breath
(secretly hoping it will be my last).

Life is not fair that way.
It will pummel you,
but it won’t let you quit.
You have to do that on your own time,
whenever that might be.

If I had the courage to end it all,
wouldn’t I then have the courage to live it all?
You would think.
On both counts you’d be wrong.

So until breath departs and sleep descends,
I keep stumbling along.
If you see me in the road,
cross the street.
The stench of defeat
can wilt an angel’s wings.

The Insidiousness of Life


Sorrow

The insidiousness of life is that it constantly presses upon you;
it is unrelenting in its demands that you nurture and refine it.
It evolves, with or without your consent, so there is no rest,
no time to simply put it on cruise control enjoy the passing of time.

For me, every breath is a nuisance; every step is a cursed journey
saddled with failed expectations and societal derision.

I never belonged to this world, nor has it offered itself to me,
and the contempt with which I hold its false promises
eats at my guts like ravens nibbling away at my meaning.

Where others are guided by the soft-bent wings of angels,
I am weighed down by the relentless nagging of demons;
wicked little imps who mock my waking hours and torment my sleep.

There is not a grave dug deep enough to bury my sorrows,
nor do I seek any forgiveness for my sorry state.
I will wash away the stench of my miserable existence
with endless cups of liquid absolution, and in my drunken state,
I will stumble through somehow.

Tomorrow’s sunrise may warmly embrace the multitudes;
each with their cheerful dispositions and infernal optimism.
I, on the other hand, will wither beneath the heat,
thirsting constantly for the darkness beneath a waning moon,
for it is in darkness that my soul finds its true voice.

Wishes


wishes

I wish I could have given her more.

More of my time, myself, my love.
But a man cannot give what he
doesn’t possess, unless you count
the empty promises. Of these, I have
given beyond measure.

I wish I could have loved her more.

More deeply, more sweetly, more completely.
But I hated myself too much to
truly love another. I cared, but that’s
hardly the same. And the love I received
simply gave me permission to misbehave.

Until it was gone.

Above all, I wish I had more wishes.

 

One Foot in the Grave


one-foot-in-the-grave

pressed beneath the broken bones of solitude
stumbling drunk within intoxicated wavy parallels
of self-derision and unbridled rage against lost time
a shattered vessel of my mother’s dreams
absent when the arch of forgiveness bends mercifully
over purpose-broken and diminished men
my unwinding days a gentle push toward the grave
with nothing left to secure my grasp
pulled asunder by the wrath of fallen angels
when the shadows of my sins, like a burial shroud
wraps me tightly, a corpse descending
into the darkened void of eternal sleep.
this, then is my slow descent; tossed upon a funeral pyre
engulfed within damnation’s perpetual flame
condemned for lack of conviction as the cold winds
of judgment kick up and scatter my weightless ashes

The Poet and His Prostitutes


whore

He was a lover of street prostitutes;
not the sable-wrapped uptown girls
who sold their tight-toned wares retail,
but rather those working-class girls
perfumed by the sweat of their labors;
standing beneath broken streetlights at 2 a.m.,
in cheap, colorful makeup and Wal-mart lingerie,
with asses bubbling back and flaccid breasts;
those colorful painted whores of the night.
In his youth, he had been scorched by the beautiful
and he would never again have the fevered yearning
of lying with flesh more pliant and comely.
Street-walkers fed his pathos and filled his inner void.
They would let him kiss them on the mouth,
and wouldn’t complain when he couldn’t get hard
because of too much beer and whiskey.
They’d always wait patiently, filing their nails
and filling the silence with meaning-less chatter.
If he couldn’t function, they didn’t condemn him,
but would play with themselves upon request
so at least the failing of the hour felt sexy.
Most of all, they didn’t lie.
They wouldn’t tell him what a great lover he was
or offer up false platitudes on his endowment;
They used their real names and would share their coke
for an extra five, and he would pour them shots.
Sometimes, he would write beautiful sonnets for them
and they would be genuinely moved to tears.
If the sex was lousy, they took it in stride and didn’t bitch.
They didn’t conspicuously spit into folded Kleenex
or stuff their mouths with wads of spearmint gum
after he had come, just to lose the taste of him.
Rather, they swallowed because they, too, didn’t care
if they got one more filthy, fucking disease.
They were like him; defeated and empty,
just grateful not to be judged and discarded
like yesterday’s rotten fruit.

Self-Reflection


death

I am the ripe red apple,
plucked from Eden’s garden
Contemptuously bitten,
no hope for God’s pardon.
I am Achilles heel
that hobbles my stride;
Odysseus’ curse,
my insufferable pride..
That lock of hair
that claimed Sampson’s life,
And the brother of Able,
I’m Cain with a knife!
I am the snakes coiled
in Medusa’s dark mane -
Like a lance to the boil,
my mercy is strained.
I’m the brew in the cauldron
of deep-forested witches -
The ugliness that comes
from Frankenstein’s stitches.
I am alone and afraid,
but to stubborn to change;
Hopeless and lost
and most certain deranged!
I’m broken, defeated,
and reeking of sin,
The lowest of cowards,
the most evil of men.
A life, ever wasted
on cheap wine and women,
My descent into Death
is just now beginning.
This ghost will remain
as my spectre of shame -
I’d rather be dead
than live more of the same ~

A Failed Seduction


seduction_of_innocence_700w

in the cool black-velvety jacket of midnight
she threads her hair with purple lilacs
her lips licked lightly, eyes half-closed
arching breasts filled with urgent breath
dancing under the moon with wild abandon
no care for which way the wind blows
or where the water flows
each step held lightly
pressed upon dew-soaked blades
of summer’s green grass
she sings a broken verse
whispers each refrain, to bury her meaning
while cool rivulets of passion’s sweat
run like melted snow down
from her brow to her rapturous breasts
rivulets dropping like rain on the
broken down-beat wings of angels
dripping to the parched palm of earth
gathering into puddles of sweet supplication
echoes of forbidden memories
perfume the nighttime air
places and spaces filled
with the frivolities of youth
she comes to me on bended knees
reaching for my turned up face
in the ticking of this hour
no time in my disgrace
I push away her yearning


Her face is frost etched glass
floating in the blue-black winds of the night;
She illuminates footsteps hushed
on decayed and dampened leaves,
and grieves for freshly planted souls
who have turned from the light of day.

Her midnight corset is tightly laced
by the dazzling tails of falling stars,
and she moves in phases
with the hushed and tempered grace of a
childless empress wandering forlornly
through the cold shadows of winter’s garden.

She seduces the wolf and the poet with
equal ambivalence, each of whom
compose for her dream-soaked arias
and haunting sonnets that speak of
promises which will not be kept.

She mourns her powdered reflection
as it ripples across frozen lakes, and
hides behind silver-lined clouds when
she can no longer bear the loneliness
of her shadowy journey across granite
mountaintops and sleeping meadows.

At last, in the cool, grey light of morning,
as the sun softly caresses her porcelain
cheek with warm fingers of breaking light,
she sighs but once, then slowly fades into
the rose colored blush of a new day.

Lady of the Night

Beyond the Blackened Veil


The long days, the forgotten nights
have left me scarred and depleted;
I’d consumed my fill of sour cabbage and
cheap whiskey and slept on damp piles
of rotting leaves, wrapping myself in
regret and self pity.

There were, of course,
lucid moments when the wind would
caress my cheek softly, like the touch of
an angel, and in those moments, I made
vows not meant for keeping.

My coat, now threadbare and reeking
of last night’s vomit and rain, has been my home;
I dwell deep within its folds, seeking
some comfort there and finding none,
toss it to young mulatto boy, who will be
dead before winter finishes lashing his
heroin scabbed flesh.

But listen, my friend, I have known joy and love,
and those in copious measure, when I was young
and foolish enough to believe that even the
wilted rose retained her charm. I have lain with
princesses and chambermaids with equal
passion, the rusty moon of autumn casting
night shadows upon our secrets.

I once handed out ten dollar bills because
the roll in my pocket was so big it chaffed my thigh.
Now, the cold jingling of pennies and a nickel
mark the cadence of my stumbling gait.

In my youth, and folly, I read Yeats and Eliot
and took solace in their pretty tomes; they
hung bejeweled words around my neck and filled
my boyish mind with infinite possibilities. They
lied, of course, but still I welcomed the deceit
and even scribbled a few haughty poems on
love and other falsehoods myself.

Don’t misunderstand…I do not rail against the
imbalance of life. Some ride the festooned
dragon across velvet skies, while others bathe
in the shit and piss of their miserable existence;
and certainly we will all go down together beneath
the broken sod.

Today, I just look for a patch of yellow grass
upon which to lie down, close my blood stained
eyes, to catch my final breath and let this
bitterness go. I have no fight left for this life

 

(Sketch by Josef Rocha)

Bourgeois


You,
with your aphoristic charm,
dancing without a care as you sip absinthe
into the sleepless hours of dawn -
all smiles and laughter within your elite,
esoteric gaggle of bright-eyed friends.

You,
in your stupor, your haze
of self-absorption and carefree bon-vivant,
cannot bear to acknowledge the footman and the maid,
whose lives run parallel to yours;
captivated faces, reflected sullen and destitute
in the polished silver trays they carry -
each truffle thereupon which would deliver them,
and those they love from their blighted existence
drenched in hate and self-loathing.

Dance on.

There will always be pain gilding your merriment
and hunger lacing the edges of your cornucopia.

The Night She Called



I was so drunk
the night she called
I thought the phone ringing
was a song in my brain -
I hummed along
and laughed that empty laugh
that is found at the bottom
of well drunk bottles.

Later, she came to the door
and knocked, knocked, knocked
while I stared
at the crack spreading
up the wall,
reminding me of her varicose veins.
I tapped my foot in time.

I will most certainly die
on this side of the door one night,
and all the ringing and knocking
won’t bring me back to life.

An Addict’s Indifference


Those were the lost years
when my days were bathed in
the hazy, soft glow of fentanyl
and tomorrow never came.
Those were the stacked hours
of feeling nothing
and floating lazily
down the opium river.
I neither belonged there,
or here,
for more than one lucid moment
between applied patches -
On with the new and hungrily
chewing the old.
I was then a woken mummy,
wrapped in dirty layers of
chemical indifference,
stepping haltingly from
light into shadow.
In those years,
my world spun on a shaky spindle,
my North, my South, my East
and West tossed into a
dark, bottomless hole.
Saturdays were spent in
sweat stained sheets,
clothed in smoke and asphalt
as the withdrawals descended;
counting the seconds and praying
Death would gather me in its
dark bosom.
Every four weeks, the pharmacist
would call my name and I would
lather, rinse, repeat.

We Shall Remember (An Ode to Dan)


Your night has fallen;
the brilliant light
of the new moon
filtering through the
broken mass of clouds,
a brilliant ray reflecting
upon your tongue-kissed works.
Your verse remains standing,
redeeming the world from darkness:
they seem to move and
we are filled with awe.

Your words were mountains;
iron-like masses thrown heavily
against the somber sky -
and as the dark blue deepens
into purple and purple black
we reflect upon your poems,
which were gurgling streams
of naked visceral truth
cutting through our consciousness.

One never thinks of velvet
when the light is cold and thin;
when snow lies deep
and the intense light dazzles the eye.
But your lines were velvet in their
silver light and inky blackness
and we shall remember.

The Void


A breaking dawn does not mean
a new day has begun;
my life is spun in hours that
never advance, and I do not
even bother to rise in the mornings
of the whippoorwill.
I am filled with an emptiness
that stretches into nothingness.
and when my name is called
I do not answer.
Yesterday, today, tomorrow…
they are all rolled into my despair,
and I have stopped fighting for a
meaning that never comes.
My brittle bones are ground into
the finest dust, and when the wind
kicks up, I am scattered
through empty streets.
I have surrendered to bouts
of liquid reasoning
for the grave will not dig itself.