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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MY CREATIVITY by D.L.McHale


It is said that one of the prerequisites of creativity is to have had experienced childhood trauma. Read the works of any great Irish writer (Frank McCourt, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce) and you will clearly see that youthful pain and suffering fueled much of their creative genius.   And while I do not claim to be remotely on par with these incredible storytellers, to read any of my writing is to know that  childhood trauma played a significant role in the determination of my creative voice.

To be honest, my youth unfolded like the discarded first  draft of a story that could have been so much better. There simply weren’t enough stretches of peace or joy in it to attend to the edits necessary to have made it bearable.  It isn’t that I am filled with regret for all of the things that might have been.  It’s more that I am blanketed in a sadness for the sheer waste of it all.

Intuitively, I know that my broken juvenile years  can’t be the full measure of why I write the way I write.  Something deeper, more sinister, is afoot. Something bigger and more malevolent presses my pen to the paper.

For me, the value of nothing out of nothing comes something. The nothing started even earlier than the moment when I began to write.  I have no doubt that what little creativity I possess is the function of some neurological quirk; that I have just enough of psychosis or depression to fuel an interesting poem here, an article there. That creativity (if that’s even the word for it)  is not, in any circumstance, the product of “talent” or creative muse, but rather arises more as a testament to a damaged mind that perceives the events of life from a slightly more skewed or twisted perspective.

Perhaps it was the combination of the two: an injured adolescence and a form of brain damage.  When I was four years old, I fell down the stairwell of the two story duplex my family lived in while my father was stationed in the Navy.  I was rushed to the hospital because the fall had resulted in a crushing blow to the frontal temporal region of my skull.  Surely, my brain was impacted, if not forever altered because of this accident.  Combine that blow with the endless physical and sexual trauma that rejoined the family the day my father retired from service, and then, perhaps  I can begin to put my finger upon my “creativity.”

Ask yourself…what can be more creative than scrambling daily throughout your entire childhood to find a place to survive.  Out of necessity, the damaged mind constructs a false reality in which to take shelter. It is this false reality that takes form in the expressive arts.

I may never know what truly fuels my creative process.  The sands of time that fill the hourglass of my life have nearly run out.  While I am by no means an old man, I am, nonetheless, a tired man and my time upon this tortured plane of existence called “life” can now be measured in moments rather than years. I will leave behind me no great works of art, no lasting legacy of poetic genius.  Even the memory of me will fade before the ink is dry on my final written word.

Mine has been a lonely walk: solitude whispers a silent story. And as we all know, life and living require interaction. But I was born alone, have lived alone, and will undoubtedly die…alone.  And that doesn’t require creativity.

seagull

THE SEAGULL AND THE MOON by D.L.McHale


seagull
Moon night

I had a dream last night where I watched the moon swallowing the stars,
greedily ingesting the sparkling tapestry of the heavens, asserting a vain primacy,
ever becoming brighter and brighter until I could no longer look directly at it.

Silver clouds, in whispered wisps, shrouded this celestial midnight consumption
shape-shifting across the evening sky, spitting regretful droplets of sorrowful rain.

Abruptly I awoke,  bathed in cold light, my face caressed by a bitter breeze
wafting through a carelessly open window, and there, on the windowsill,
quietly sat a majestic seagull.

His waterproof coat of feathers was luxurious.  His animal spirit was fierce and strong.
The red dot, like resilient drop of blood, accented a brilliant yellow downward-curved beak
as his stony black eye fixed upon me with knowledgeable contempt and exacting judgment,suggesting that in my waking I had somehow slandered the significance of this extraordinary night.

One by one, molting black-tipped feathers fell like accusations upon my pace-worn wooden floor until the whole of it was carpeted and this noble scavenger fell naked backward into the nocturnal void squawking in his naked, downward death-spiral…

“I am Life! I am Death” …words whispered like dank petrichor with dawn’s rising light.

What was I to make of this?  Was I awake, or was this my awakening?

I could not the discern what was real and what was not, but in that way of knowing that cleaves not to understanding, I knew.

I knew this was my last night.

I watched as meandering rivulets of rain painted my window like random-flowing veins,
transparent rivers of pain creating artfully disturbing and distorting prisms through which the lunar light filtered into my bedchamber swaddling me in hazy sheets of bewilderment and appalling fear.

I, too, was being swallowed into the voracious belly of the moon.  My final breaths, like puffs of steam, floated before my sleep-filled eyes and like the stars ingested before me, my light faded into nothingness.

And the moon, she smiled.

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HOMECOMING by D.L.McHale©


The royal robes of winter’s night
tightly bind me in its blue-black grip
The shadow of majestic purple mountains
kneel upon the fields of frozen graves
ancient tombstones, like granite faces
hemming the barren valley floors

An amber moon spills its bitter glow
through naked branches like brittle
fingers clutching a button-less cloak
Icy winds whip swirls of fog across
lifeless lakes, and on broken wings
doves fall from a voiceless sky

In a distant village, old ladies warble lullabies
to their dying husbands; soft verse cutting
like jagged blades through thick cherry smoke
bleeding from pipes clenched in broken teeth.
The children, with bellies as round as their joyless
eyes feed upon fermented peaches and dance
on knitted bones, playing hide but please, don’t seek
for we are tired, for we are weak

I have walked a lifetime to return 
to this is, my kingdom, stretching as far as the blind
eye can see. Built upon the shifting sands of hope lost
This, both kingdom and the shoveled grave
My head crowned in a spray of dying stars;
my spirit drowned in muted prayer;
my hobbled feet cut upon jagged stones.

This is my destiny, my hell, my home.

Hasty

To Angel(a)


I can feel your pain, like the falling rain

it washes over me leaving me damp and cold and shivering –
but the thought of you warms me like a cup of hot chocolate
and I know it’s going to be okay.

I see through the glaring light of your smiles, and while
you try to hide what you feel inside, I know, in that knowing
that only love can reveal.  I want to gather your tears
in the well of my understanding, and pour them 
upon the fire of your fears.

I don’t have much to offer, just my heart and my love
but love won’t pay this rent, when you are spent
within the crucible of self-doubt.  How can I reach you
and teach you what I know…that you are perfection;
I don’t want to heal you, just reveal to you the beauty
that is you.

You don’t have to let me in, but you, my friend
will always be in me, like a broken sparrow whose wings
will heal, and I know you will fly again.

DEPARTURE by D.L.McHale


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Plant my sorrows ‘neath soils deep
I will not pray, nor shall I weep
    bitter secrets, mine to keep
    bitter harvest, mine to reap

I dreamt of the rapture, dreamt of the pain
I dreamt of the fire, of the iron chains
This tortured heart beats cold and quivering
This tortured soul, fatigued and shivering.

Into the waters my steps descend
For this is the beginning of the final end
     Let the rivers wash my tired bones
     Let the currents carry my body home

understanding

UNDERSTANDING DENNIS by D.L. McHale


 

***TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains small mentions of self-harm and institutionalization.***

Today I want to talk about something that has been swimming around in my head for weeks. I guess you could say this post is an accumulation of high emotions, stress, and some really tactless things I have heard from people who meant well. There are a few in my life who actually understand where I’m coming from… thanks Jeri and Susan and Julie and my sweet Nikie. I’m not going to unleash 40+ years of preteen, wannabe rebellion drama on to you; please know that all of this is coming from the heart; an excerpt from my life.

Following this post, I share a poem I wrote that attempts to sum up my dysthemia (chronic depression) in an easier, entertaining format. Depression is hard to put into words for those who have never experienced it. Sometimes a poem helps. Maybe.

To start off, I have been struggling with depression for at least 45 years. In middle school I had some issues with my classmates. A lot of them thought I was strange because one day I wanted to talk to everyone, huge smile on my face – and then the next I would withdraw or lash out angrily at anyone who dared look at me the wrong way. It was a time when I was just starting to realize that I was different, that something akin to a sezure was going to assert itself at random moments in my brain and in my life.

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There was never relief at home for there was horror in that house visted continuously upon myself and my five siblings. I avoided going home at all costs. For a while, I had no way of coping besides throwing ridiculous tantrums to push people away; I stopped talking. Nobody knew what to do with me, so my mother started making me read and write to bring my grades up. When I actually became interested in reading, and especially writing, it became a coping mechanism. To this day, writing is my one place I can retreat to be heard and to find peace..

In high school my depression quickly escalated, especially during my sophomore and junior years. I was still reading and writing to cope, but I had absolutely no motivation in my education. I didn’t skip to be rebellious, I skipped because the anxiety of walking in to class was too much to bear. I can remember seeing the doorway to any of my classrooms, knowing there was a teacher and other students on the other end feeling like my lungs collapsed.

It took little to no thought, almost as if on instinct, for me to turn my feet in the other direction and skip my afternoon classes until the day was over. I was not bullied, I wasn’t hurt in any way by any of my teachers or students, there was no substance abuse when I skipped, but my parent’s couldn’t comprehend what was wrong. All they knew was that I was very quiet and withdrawn and nothing seemed to be helping.

Around this time, I started exhibiting self-harm behaviors: climbing rooftops and jumping, running away for a week or two at a time, taking full bottles of whatever was in the medicine cabinet. Once, I even took all of my mother’s birth control pills. But perhaps the most alarming was locking myself in my bedroom and choking myself with a belt until I passed out. I practiced hanging myself. Anything to escape the fear, the anxiety…the darkness.

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By junior year I was continually self-harmful and hiding it from my only friend and my family. When my best friend found out she told her mother and she contacted my parents. The result was several trips to a psychiatrist that I absolutely loathed, and a therapist who was so unbelievably optimistic she could have been in Legally Blonde, but wearing baby blue 24/7 instead of pink. I stopped hurting myself (for a few years) but I still skipped class daily, read books to the detriment of my social life. Naturally, I gravitated to dark writers…Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Sylvia Plath, etc….and continued to be either withdrawn or aggressive with my family. During this time I was on medication, under the guidance of my psychiatrist.

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I stuck to this uncertain way of life for a while, finding two friends struggling with the same situation I was. They were my support system, one of which I still talk to today. By the time I finished high school and started college, I had stopped taking my medication. I didn’t think there was a need for it anymore.

My first year was academically successful, but my mental state was getting increasingly worse and more unpredictable than usual. I was suffering. I managed to walk to my classes without freaking out about being watched until I sat down, and the dark fog would envelope me, but I was learning to function even in that darkness. It was a huge step forward. My academic advisor, however, was not happy with the lack of motivation in my education and prompted me to take on more classes. I’m not shoving the full blame of my ensuing emotional breakdown on him, however I do feel that my need to please him and avoid conflict was to take on 19 credits, an internship and an on campus job….all of which led to more depression.

I barely made it through my first semester before I was so emotionally and physically exhausted I could barely get out of bed. I was forgetting to eat and getting 3 hours of sleep on a daily basis.

During this time I talked to several different people to get help. I talked to the free on campus counseling, to which some of my friends went with me for support. It was great to have that outlet, but it wasn’t helping enough. I was so malnourished I lost nearly 25 pounds in the span of a month. Finally my roommate took one good look at me and told me if I didn’t get out of bed the next day by 12pm he was going to send me home with his mother if he had to. I ended up dropping out of college my sophomore year and coming back home.

I took the rest of the semester off, just focusing on eating, sleeping , and most importantly, not killing myself. This later thought was new…and I thought about it a lot. I spent most of my waking time trying to gather my courage to end it all.

By next semester I was re-enrolled in a college and went back on medication.

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Therapy appointments were twice a week until I was back at a healthy weight and attending school on a regular basis. But I discovered a way to participate in all the social mayhem that one encounters in college – alcohol.

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I had no way of knowing then what a devastating role alcohol (coupled with depression) would eventually have on my life, and in time, my marraige. But for the moment it worked. I experienced the false happiness of being under the influence. I could talk to people. I felt happy. And I had sex. A lot of sex. It numbed me. But the consequences of drinking began to assert itself: I was placed on academic probation for missing classes or going to classes under the influence. Two weeks later, I dropped out of college altogether.

This began a vicious and arduous cycle of failures that, unbeknownst to me, fed my depression: get a job, lose a job because of my drinking. Date a girl who could not keep up with my drinking. Lose a girl. Over and over and over. My self-esteem was shredded. And all along, like shoveling coal in a hungry furnace, I was stoking the flames of my disease. But as long as I kept drinking, I escaped the onslaught of a full blown depression collapse. The alcohol was killing me and saving me at the same time. I was committing social suicide by drinking as I did so that I did not commit actual suicide locked in my dysthemia.

Because of the alcohol, I was now somewhat liberated from my withdrawn state. I started noticing the strange reactions I was getting from people when I talked to them about my situation. Some of my friends were getting exasperated with my emotional outbursts and my depressive withdrawls, wondering why I couldn’t just “get over” what was bothering me. I tried to describe to them what was going on in my head but “It’s a chemical thing more than an emotional thing” didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere.

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I started noticing that people who have never experienced deep depression were rather tactless when talking to people who suffered from depression. There seems to be this really blasé attitude towards those who are struggling with living their lives as normal people. Having my struggle with depression spelled across my forehead was too much to ask from me in order to get a somewhat understanding reaction from someone else… sorry…it wasn’t worth the effort. I’ve been institutionalized once and ever since coming out and getting my life back together people have been expecting me to just “get over” everything that comes my way. I couldn’t comment on something that was a little frustrating to me without someone telling me I’m “making too much of a big deal” about it.

I could not understand why people felt the need to react this way to someone who has been more than blatantly open about his emotional problems: WHY on earth would they instigate MORE problems and demand answers because they don’t know what’s wrong with them? If I told someone I had cancer, no one in their right mind would even dream of saying “Oh, it’s just cancer, get over it”. They wouldn’t have to know anything about my past, my family, the struggles I’d faced or anything of the sort to act like a decent human being, so why is it okay to say something like that about depression?

Sometimes I’d really like to give people a piece of my mind. It’d go a little something like this:

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Things I’ve heard: “Oh honey, we all get a little sad sometimes.”

My reaction: “I’m pretty sure wanting to kill myself on a daily basis isn’t a little sad. But sure, I feel so much better now that my suicidal thoughts have been completely downgraded, I’m gonna go find a 7 story window to jump out of. Have a nice day.”

Things I’ve heard: “Why can’t you just tell me what’s going on? I’d be so much easier to deal with, I don’t have time to do this with you every day.”

My reaction: “I totally love living in emotional turmoil so I just keep it to myself. The chemical calibrations going off in my brain make total sense to to me but I don’t feel like sharing. I’m sorry I forgot to tell you I had an emotional breakdown scheduled this month and it’s set to go until the middle of December. I’ll put it on the calendar next time.”

Things I’ve heard: “You didn’t look or sound depressed at all! How was I supposed to know?”

My reaction: “I wasn’t trying to tell you. And if I could, there are no words to describe the darkness that envelopes me. Next time I want the world to know exactly how I feel on a daily basis I’ll tattoo it on my face so it’s impossible to miss. I love knowing my personal business is so blatantly obvious to everyone in the world.”

Things I’ve heard: “Why can’t you just stop feeling that way? I mean thinking about it won’t help so just move on.”

My reaction: “Ooooooooooooooooh! You’re so incredibly smart! Let me find my automated ‘off’ switches for my mind, my brain, my heart, my depression and anxiety and I’ll get back to you. Thanks sooooooooooo much for the suggestion. I’ll just add that to the growing list of things I have failed at, and get right on that thank you note for such a thoughtful piece of advice.

-insert loud sigh here-

The point is, my tolerance for people’s complete lack of understanding is getting smaller by the hour. No person who has ever felt the pain that depression brings should ever have to feel guilty for it, especially when the people around them don’t understand anything about what they are going through. We don’t share the same language when it comes to depression. Words to describe what it’s like simply don’t exist. We need to start by having an open and thoughtful national conversation on the topic. And that is not going to happen.

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I’m starting to realize I’m going to have to cut some really important people out of my life because of this. In one way, I cut the most important person in my life out forever, because of the behavioral side affects of my dysthemia and the attempts to quiet the nightmare through a series of alcohol relapses. I will never forgive myself for that. The repercussions of that will echo for years yet to come. I couldn’t save myself….how in hell was I evervgoing to save my marriage? And what in God’s name was I thinking ever letting someone get that close to me. It will never happen again.

Being alone with depression is going to hurt, but I’d rather go through a hurt alone that I can grow out in three days or a week than ever suffer again by havingin my love, my heart, and myself as a person discarded because of the fallout of this savage disease. I cannot long survive a life of having who I am as a person suffering from depression thrown back in my face every day by a world that is afraid to understand.

DYSTHYMIA (CHRONIC DEPRESSION)
by D..L. McHale

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It does not speak English, Spanish, French, or Italian, or any intelligible utterance known to this world.

It is a darkness devoid of spoken words;
a tongue savagely ripped from the mouth of the village idiot.

There are no pressed pages in braille
to sensate dull fingertips, to tap out the iniquity and the pain.

No painting of fingered words in the still air whispering into deafened ears.

It is the molten ashes of Vesuvius, cascading behind clenched eyelids; a scorching of the inner self. It is the babbling madness of Babylon chanting chattering confusion.

It is the silent scream that pierces the morning sky, the shrieking wind that rips the sparrow’s wings from its tender breast.

It is the desperate gasp for air from collapsed lungs, the tortured artery that bleeds the brain.

Beneath the ocean’s swell, the riptide that pulls one asunder to the blue-black abyss,  a dark star consuming itself, devouring light into the shadows of its belly.

A twisted comfort in the unfeeling, a slap in the face of the unsmiling.  Distant and cold eyes – unfocused, unseeing.

A banquet of burning bone and marrow before demons dancing to noteless music.

MY SECRETS


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“I have secrets I shall take to the grave with me. But don’t despair…once I am dead and deeply buried, you can grab a shovel and dig them up to your heart’s content. I promise, I won’t mind.”

– Dennis McHale
from “Echoes Across Time”

WHERE I LIVE…AND DIE by D.L.McHale


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How temperamental is the man in me
who misses you but will not call –
because I find the thought of romance
more alluring than actual love?

I drink to burn the voices in my belly
that mock my tenuous hold on sanity.
I buy my smokes one at a time because
I have no vision of or faith in tomorrow,
and I make my living scratching
the underbelly of this wretched world.

This desolate city, crumbling beneath the
broken wings of blackbirds…it is my home.

It is where I live. It is where I shall die.

My pen scrapes past its veneer of civility shedding light upon the ugly, the lost,
the torn asunder.

I take my walks at night under clouds
all dressed in muted black.

I am callous with the hipsters and the tweakers camped by the muddy rivers;
the hookers and the pimps and the holy man and the goddamned garish fluidity of this headache world.

I live in a city of fifty thousand accumulated flesh tombs pretending about the news
and the weather, their minds drifting always back to the same goddamned thing.

How pathetic to be so far away
in space but not in time?

How desperate is the faith convinced by two arguments; both to be and not to be?

When I stumble, I lean against the wall or the lamppost, reading a page of Plath or a passage of Hemingway, and all I can think is how courageous their exits were.

I yearn for their knowledge of the final crossing. I read words, not novels, because words are better spit than woven.

I accept my fate,  gazing at my expiration date
and pouring another drink as I turn off the radio and sit silently in the dark chambers of my thoughts.

I remember you,
but implore you to remember me not.

DYSTHYMIA (Chronic Depression) by D.L.McHale


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It does not speak English, Spanish, French, or Italian, or any intelligible utterance known to this world.

It is a darkness devoid of spoken words;
a tongue savagely ripped from the mouth of the village idiot.

There are no pressed pages in braille
to sensate dull fingertips, to tap out the iniquity and the pain.

No painting of fingered words in the still air whispering into deafened ears.

It is the molten ashes of Vesuvius, cascading behind clenched eyelids; a scorching of the inner self. It is the babbling madness of Babylon chanting chattering confusion.

It is the silent scream that pierces the morning sky, the shrieking wind that rips the sparrow’s wings from its tender breast.

It is the desperate gasp for air from collapsed lungs, the tortured artery that bleeds the brain.

Beneath the ocean’s swell, the riptide that pulls one asunder to the blue-black abyss,  a dark star consuming itself, devouring light into the shadows of its belly.

A twisted comfort in the unfeeling, a slap in the face of the unsmiling.  Distant and cold eyes – unfocused, unseeing.

A banquet of burning bone and marrow before demons dancing to noteless music.

UNFORGIVEN


love lost

That I could walk in peace, though past sins grieved,

Or look upon the morning sun with relative ease.

My path is writ in time sharpened stones, and

I cannot find my way back home; indeed found

Lost amidst the bitter fog of yesterday’s deeds.

I cried out loud, will forgiveness descend, or strike

Me now my bitter end, and none did hear but the

Raven’s caw; portend my shame and final fall.

Oh, that I could rewind and once again live as though

Merciful God would kindly give; but He would not,

And time is waning. My downward spiral is near complete

And draws now deep and final sleep. I shall not waken to

Tomorrow’s light, I cannot make what’s wrong now right.

And so my words, as sure they must

Eulogize me as they would the falling dust.

light through trees

Love Fulfilled Beneath a Dying Light


When the sun sets, when its dying rays
filters through my bedroom window
I get the full brunt of this powerful star.
It is beautiful and blinding.
I feel its warming fingers softly caressing
my cheek; it dries the last traces of my tears.

Today, as the sun came into its latitude
to be shining directly on me,
I closed my eyes beneath its warmth
remembering brighter days.
Was this the same sun that kissed us
on our first walks upon the beach?
Was this the same sun that cast
its light on our wedding day?

Many people have expressed their love
to both of us throughout this process,
and many people have let us know
that it may be God’s will this, or God’s will that.
And it may well be.
But I know one thing.
We were both born of this organic, living universe.
Star matter is within us. We are forever connected
beneath the arch of its healing light.

I have never felt more in the presence of the supernatural
than today, with this mighty being shining on us,
me here, in my thoughts, you, there, wherever you are.
I can almost see the last breaths of our togetherness
in the stardust that once showered the idea of “us”
being pulled back towards that Sun.
It is as if the Sun had decided to choose this moment,
to envelop the two of us in divergent beams of light,
and take us back, separately, back to the stars.

In a way, it is beautiful.
This Sun, our Sun, reminds me
to live more fully, more appreciatively, and more happily.
I won’t think of a marriage that has died.
I’ll think of those moments we had to dance in its light.
With much love and sadness.

Of Love Lost


 All the dreams I dreamt
Will vanish like the morning fog
When at last I awaken,
And something tells me that day is come.

Still that final goodbye echoes fresh—
Oh, how we, both she and I
First kissed as the sun went down.
Will she ever return? I cannot say.

The door creaks.
A sudden whiff of the lost and familiar…
A day with her lost among the days without.
Once more the door creaks.
Who is it?
I have no voice left;
The last candle is almost out.

Painting by Adrian Calin
Painting by Adrian Calin

Genie, You’re Out! (Or Reflections on the Death of Robin Williams


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I am devastated about the loss of Robin Williams, as are the millions of his fans, and more so by the fact that he took his own life.  Despite all of his money and all of his available resources, depression reached its bony fingers into his life and dragged him to an untimely death (as it certainly has for millions of others!)  Drugs and alcohol are certainly a part of his story, but make no mistake…this is a story about the savage blow of depression.  The pills and booze were only a symptom of Robin William’s sad demise.  Depression was the death blow.

If you have never suffered from the savage effects of deep depression, you might find it hard to comprehend his decision to take his own life. Depressed people don’t kill themselves out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life isn’t worth living. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. Depression is an invisible agony that for many reaches a certain unendurable level where life and death are near equal terrors and death becomes a lesser terror than living.

For those who decide to take their life, they spend their final days and hours in much the same way a trapped person eventually chooses to jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.  For the depressive suicidal, it’s not the desire of death, it’s the terror of living. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

In this same way, a person who doesn’t suffer the agony of depression will never be able to understand the torments and terrors suffered by those afflicted. Never. Just as depression is an invisible agony, so, too is the understanding of true depression invisible to those who do not suffer it.

We can, and should, have a conversation about depression, but unless you’ve ever stood on a ledge with flames coming closer and closer, you will never truly understand the agonizing decision to jump.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams..Genie, you’re out!

Self Reflection


“Such worthlessness has been the only truth spoken in his ear.”

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I am the ripe green 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
claiming 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 too 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 specter of shame –
I’d rather be dead
than live more of the same ~

 

Diagnosis


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moments of crazy
little peeks behind the sanity curtain
screaming like a banshee
binge drink-eat-screw
before being declared unsound
living under a microscope
then come the drugs
take the pills, follow the rules, and play nice
cue the side effects
a good doctor, a good therapist, and the right meds
the holy trinity of madness
find the knots that need untying and
the pathways that need re-wiring
navigate this world in different ways
or spiral into despair
a misshapen version of a human
a different way of seeing
easily wounded, and easily elated
weird, misaligned
lacking the candle needed
to get out of the dark

 

Where I Live


Image

How temperamental is the man in me
who misses you but will not call this because
I find the thought of romance more alluring
than actually opening myself to you?
I drink to burn the voices in my belly
that mock my tenuous hold on sanity.
I buy my smokes one at a time because
I have no vision of or faith in tomorrow
and I make my living scratching the underbelly of
this wretched world;
This desolate city, crumbling beneath the
broken wings of blackbirds…it is my home.
It is where I live. My pen scrapes past
its veneer of civility and sheds light upon
the ugly, the lost, the torn asunder. My people.
I take my walks at night under many clouds
all dressed in muted black.
I am callous with the hipsters and the tweakers
camped by the muddy rivers, and the hookers
and the pimps and the holy man and the
goddamned garish fluidity of this headache world.
I live in a city of fifty thousand accumulated flesh tombs
or more pretending about the news and the weather
with their minds drifting always back to the same
goddamned thing. How pathetic to be so far away
in space but not in time?
How desperate is the faith convinced by two arguments;
Both to be and not to be?
When I stumble, I lean against the wall or the lamppost
reading a page of Plath or passage of Hemingway
and all I can think is how courageous their exits were.
I yearn for their knowledge of the final crossing.
I read words, not novels, because words
are better spit than woven.
I refuse my fate gazing at my expiration date
and pouring another drink, I turn off the radio and
sit silently in the dark chambers of my thoughts.
I remember you, but me? I do not.

Letting Go


Image

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

 

A Godly Silence


 

silent god

I speak to God in silent phrase
And offer up my heartfelt praise
Yet silence is His voice to me
He shows no earthly empathy

My prayers are but a silent wind
And I a storm that’s lost within
A body crushed beneath the weight
Of loss, regret, and certain fate

In slow descent, the spirit ebbs
Entombed within this mortal dread
Yet silent still His saving grace
A void I feel within this place

No comfort shall I know this day
My God has simply slipped away
And in His place a dark despair
Hot ashes flowing everywhere

The pain increases even still
All that’s left is my free will
And so, I chose another path
Turning from His vengeful wrath

His Son was slowly crucified
So He might feel more sanctified
Though in the hour of my need
His sacrifice is lost on me

 

 

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The Tortured Scribe


block

Delusions scatter, inspiration dwindles;
how then shall I progress?
The world revolves on a shaky spindle
and the heart barely beats in my chest.

Having given so much to this wretched life,
I fear I’ve gone insane.
I awake at night with a sudden fright
and a fever in my brain.
I reach into descending light –
a trembling hand extends;
my fingers white, with no insight,
I grip the writer’s pen.

Words drip onto a page uncurled,
a scattering of thoughts still burning –
my soul calls out, “God, let me out!”
and speaks of desperate yearning.
Like splattered pools of fallen rain
that swallow my reflection,
I’m lost again and deep within
the fog of introspection.

And still no words to rise within
my consciousness this day –
expressions of this tortured scribe
Must find another way.

 

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i never had a plan for you


3

you push and pull, like wolves at the door,
and all i hear is this discordant humming.
you play only the black keys, the sharp keys,
and your music screams of pain.
but isn’t that the choice?

we’ve come a long and lonely way
to owe ourselves to wolves
each howl a dying little light of the soul
i don’t remember, did we take this road together?
did you see our wings fold together?

you have a wanderlust growing in your soul
and live where ashes take the form of houses
all around the grounds we see a flashlight metronome,
that skips to sleep in leaps, lock and key, or latchkey…
a house you tricked empty because
you knew they would take it back, piece by piece.

who do we let it in? do we have a choice?
you said you don’t even like to be seen
in the parking lot, beneath the moon
and the drinking of the glass…
whatever the hell that means

i’m sorry again for everything i’ve been
and all the things i wasn’t
i’d sink to your city streets if i wasn’t buried in your hands
there is nothing out there; i do not hear what you hear
regardless of everything, i came to know you as a relic
you are ashes falling between my burnt fingers

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A Midnight Violation


fear

Bathed in an ethereal light
this child has no skin in the game
yet her trust holds demands
she cannot bear.

The creak of her bedroom door
snatches the sleep from her eyes
and in the darkness, horror descends;
her pillow, once soft and warm,
betrays her and once under, now over
muffles her surprise.

Beneath his weight, she dissipates
her cries muffled in the night.
Her fright smothers – she gasps for air
and he’s still there, grinding her
fragile hips into dust.

God looks on, and in His fashion
does nothing to intervene;
a celestial voyeur.

Stuffed animals bolt to the floor
one after the other, and with them
descends lost innocence; her
face laced in spittle, and she’s so little.

He rolls over, spent and condemned
as blackness descends to fill her.
Nothing is as it seems, but not a dream.
Tears wash away the vision of
this violation.

He rises as she plummets;
this child painted with the smell of
cigarettes and cheap liquor.
Morning filters through frosted panes
but she finds no warmth in the rising sun.

They’ll be no accounting for this sin
and no childhood left within this shattered
shell of a child. A darkness, deeper than sleep,
envelopes her lost innocence, and the
night’s breeze carries the cry of angels.

 

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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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Death’s Warm Embrace


deaths-embrace

 

My dreams are fermented delusions
A kaleidoscope of meandering falls
Through time and space, while the
Screams of my infliction penetrate
And annihilate my grip on reality.

My waking hours, of which few remain,
Adds another layer of darkness to an
Already bleak existence, while the light
Of relentless self-reflection blinds me to
Any hope of reprieve or absolution.

I stand with one foot in the grave
And the other hobbled by uncertainty.
I do not fear this final step into the abyss
So much as I dread the act of departure;
The inglorious gasp of a final breath
Inhaling the petrichor of a wasted life.

A silent scream rattles from my gut
Cursing the sun of a new day rising.
I cannot bear another savage stroke
From a Sun that fails to warm me.
Let the final night descend and into
Death’s warm embrace enfold my soul.

 

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The Night She Called


alone-in-bed1

 

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.

 

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Half-Measures


razor cuts

I watch in morbid fascination
the quickening pulse of the vein
on the soft underside of my forearm;
each throbbing beat a silent protest
for the living of life, the loss of love,
the failure of faith in the future.

Warm blood trickles
slowly down my naked wrist
and into my loosely cupped open palm;
rivulets of life’s sweet essence
spreading out like the night-seeking
roots of a moon-flower plant.

I am amused that the heart beats unaware
of its complicity in this life-ending act,
this betrayal of self-contempt
and abject surrender.
Blood meanders across the slightly raised
scars from last year’s failed attempt,
and in that moment, I finally realize
what my father meant about the
importance of half-measures,
of keeping commitments.

So, I cut a little deeper.

Them Logs


logs

The logs that was put in that barn
are up there until this day, an’ it turns out,
they were made by my Gran’pa
an’ were a part of his home a mile up this here creek
where he lived an’ where my kinfolk are resting.
Those logs are older than my Ma.
She was borned in that house after they moved there,
an’ she was borned ‘round 1891.

Yep, them logs has been there some.

An’ the house was there an’ them logs,
an’ twice since we’ve taken over the land,
since they all be gone an’ sweetly passed away,
someone has approached me to buy them logs.
An’ the first one offered me eighty dollars for the logs.
An’ Lord knows, we needs the money
‘cept I can’t sell them. They’s history in em.

They are still sound ‘cept where they’re layin’ on the ground.
The ones that were axed an’ are in the earth,
look as perfect as the day they were put there!
An’ it was only last week that my kinfolk that live up there
said some man ask him to talk to me could he buy them.
An’ they had been there that long.
But I reckon I won’t sell them,
cause they has my Gran’pa’s sweat in them.
At least eighty-five years since I’ve been here.
An’ my Pa–there’s his axe marks
where he made them, on them very same logs.

Mountain Hogs


mountain hogs

Why, they would sleep, them hogs,
would stay right back in them mountains
and under cliffs and brambles and things.
But these old timers, my grandpa and my uncles,
would be whoopn’ and shoutin’ to the hills,
calling his hogs, to go to the barn, and buddy,
they’d come out of them mountains a flyin’!
He’d feed them corn, and just as soon as they et
right back in them mountains they’d go.
And they got learnt to that, they did,
and about feeding time every evenin’
they’d come out all by themselves.

But in the summertime you’d never see one.
They’d stay right where they could get plenty
of mast and roots and stuff to eat.
They’d stay right in them hills, them hogs would,
growing fat n’ orn’ry like!
And there’s bunch of wild hogs here,
and my mother, she’d sent me to school
and I’d run into a bunch of these old timers
going a wild hog huntin’ they were.
They’d have three or four old dogs tied up,
with plow lines, big long ropes,
and I’d go hog huntin’ with them ‘stead of school.

I’d follow and they’d head right to these tree stands
at the top of the hill and that’s where you’d find em.
I’d seen their teeth sticking out this far right side of there
and the dogs would run one down,
run him ‘til he got tired and he’d be fighting them dogs!
And them old timers would walk up
and they’d use an old caliber called 25.
And shot a shell about half-finger long.
They’d take him right between the eyes
and kill it.

Drag it out, two or three of them would,
right down the mountainside, and git it to the creek
and they’d come to the house all puff’d up on ‘shine,
get their mule n’ sled, and they would load him up
and haul him to down yonder to the house.
After a spell when they’d be all licker’d up
and sangin’ and hollerin’ and carryin’ on
they’d hang em by his feet upside down
‘bout shoulder high on a sour maple,
and they’d bleed him.

We’d be dancin’ and sangin’ and hollerin’
and eatin’ like kings come Sunday.

Before the Chestnut Blight (Part I)


chestnuts

 

Old people had them a sayin’,
that when the chestnuts bloomed,
they were so tall they stood straight
up above them other trees,
‘n they’d say ‘the snow is in the Mountain.’

Well, we had chestnut trees,
before the blight come in.
When my daddy cleared the ground,
you know to farm –
it was covered with chestnut trees.
He’d sifted out about an acre of chestnut trees,
for our pikcin’ up use.

‘N when they would get ready ‘n start falling.
We would get our sacks ‘n buckets ‘n stuff,
‘n the men would get up in the trees with big poles
‘n they’d thrash them out ‘n we’d pick em up

But, when they fall, usually the burrs open on the tree,
‘n they fall as they come down.
You don’t ever touch that burr,
you get those needles in your fingers, that’s bad.
You stay away from that.
You just pick the chestnuts up. They’re on the ground.
Now ‘n then you find a burr open with the chestnuts in it
‘n you can take your foot, if you got shoes on,
‘n step on them, ‘n they’ll come out.
After it frosts, they’re easy.

Anyways, we’d get them in them sacks
‘n take them to the chicken house, ‘n hang them in thar,
the empty house, it had been a chicken house,
but we had et the chickens, ‘n it were empty.

You hardly ever, at that time,
a chestnut with a worm in it.

 

I Am Ready


Old Man

The years have swept my face
carving time in deep crevices
thinning my skin with relentless cold
Like a child pushing milk teeth
my smile is likewise gapped
though my innocence lays broken
like this child’s backyard toys

These days, I pretend that I’m busy
that I’m working, that I’m writing
but I’m not doing anything
I just wanted not to look too artificial
in these my final fading days

I have known my moments of fame
where my words stroked the hearts of man
and my poems filled a woman’s soul
but all these things mean very little to me
I am so much into the finality of the now
the past is such a strange thing for me

Oh, loving her was an incredible journey
a wonderful everlasting treasure hunt
I found emeralds in her eyes
and sparkling diamonds in her smile
golden coins tinkling in her laughter
but like all treasure, she lies buried now
and I am castaway upon these lonely shores

My life is a dead space, a dead time
if you describe it in colors, a grayness
The seasons no longer cut by
snow and rain and sun and falling leaves
but rather, like clouds pushing darkly
against one another in a stormy sky
my days blend beneath a blotted sun

I know the number of my evenings are few
and my remaining mornings fewer by one
but I am tired, and I am alone,
and I am ready

Defeated


defeated (1)

Like most people, I am caught in the web of learning  to navigate the constantly changing twists and turns of today’s fluctuating societal ups and downs.  It seems every day someone achieves their dreams while another is blown to bits by a terrorist’s bomb.  I celebrate a birthday with friends at the same time a mother buries her child.  This insidious balance of good and evil renders me near catatonic with a mixture of soaring joy and abysmal despair.  It just doesn’t make sense, and I am completely lost in a world I no longer understand.

The shooting at Sandy Hook and the resulting flood of grief as Death descended on this sleepy community left me in tears and shaking with sorrow.  No sooner had the bodies of these innocent children been pulled from their classrooms then I found myself out shopping for Christmas gifts in anticipation of a joyful family reunion. I watched the mix of loved ones waiting at the finish of the Boston Marathon, full of love and pride as their champions crossed the finish line, suddenly blended with the explosions of hate that laid low the lives of three people, one, a child who now joins the bitter fruit withering on the vine of life, not yet fully blossomed.  I have found that I am incapable of processing this confusing blend of despair and bliss.  My psyche is not wired to route the neurons of my emotions bouncing back and forth within my soul so randomly, and my mental landscape is muddled beyond words.

I am left feeling that I have personally failed in my journey upon this earth, this blue-green marble that spins wildly on a shaky spindle.  I don’t know how to proceed. No sooner than I fall on my knees in prayer that word comes of another senseless act of violence.  Is this how God answers desperate prayers for comfort and understanding?  Am I a fool to think that a simple act of Divine intervention might be suggested amongst all this violent loss of life?  So I stop praying.  God must be a sadistic voyeur for the silence of His absence in all of this is deafening.

My life does not slow down, however, to properly mourn, for no sooner than my heart is laid low by the killing of a dozen Syrian children, then the phone rings and I’m invited to a party celebrating the engagement of my best friend.  What cruel and atrocious mocking of life this all turns out to be.  Where do I find understanding amidst the laughter and the tears?  How do I proceed with any semblance of balance?  I retreat into the only sanctuary where I find an ounce of control: my writing.  But as the words pour out upon the page, my sadness and confusion only becomes more evident.  I start to write of hope and love, and in moments my words become dark and sullen.  I am the world I live in. And like that world, I am confounded  in both mind and body.  My pen stops and weeps uncontrollably.  My writing is exhausted and no longer makes sense.

I am caught in a bubble devoid of clarity, floating mindlessly through each demanding day. I cry out,  “Please, someone, pop the bubble!”;  explain this senseless woven tapestry of life so that I can chart my course, so that I can find meaning in this tower of babel.  To God and His perfect plan I say “Fuck You” – this pain is no longer bearable.  I cannot trust the joys I know when lurking behind the next corner is just another tragedy waiting to crush my spirit once more.  I need to get off this see-saw and find shelter.

I can no longer play His celestial game of ping-pong.  I will not!