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!

Poets and Prostitutes


Image

He was a lover of street prostitutes;
not the sable-wrapped uptown girls
bathed in Chanel No.5 and punishing Daddy
by selling their tight-toned wares retail,
but rather those wholesale 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 semi-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,
chewing open-mouthed wads of gum –
but most of all, they would never, ever
fill 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 twenty-five, and he would pour them full shots.

Sometimes, he would write beautiful sonnets for them
and they would genuinely be 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.

Beneath These Stairs


Imagehttp://alastairsphotofiction.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/photo-fiction-sunday-june-16th-2013/

photo by Alastair

These are the back alleys
where destitute meets despair
and this is my journey.
The stairs call me from the bowels
of my misfortunes, beckoning me
onward and up…I shall not go.
At the top of these stairs
humanity stirs, and I am long
since far removed…my face
cannot bear the light, my fate
lies in the shadows of this alley.

I fell from these stairs years ago,
awash in drink and drug…I found
my refuge in this shaded vale
beneath the mortal blow,
below the pain and affliction
stirring far above.
My world is diminished,
as am I,
though the day will come when
when my tired bones ascend,
when my body fades upon these
cold stone steps.
Then, and only then,
shall my soul ascend,
Then, and only then.
shall I find my peace.

Fallen Angel


tear

He writes for a fallen angel
but the rhymes don’t appear,
not in words, but in stilted

verse, in outpourings of
watered down love. She spreads
her wings and hunts the night.

What the poet will not write is,
You hunger for your father’s love;
It never was, but may you find

through the spilling of my ink
Some noble affection upon
which to rest. But I cannot touch

your pain. He drinks a toast
to the memory of her beauty.
No one wants her faded

charms this night. She stands
beneath a waning moon

with a single tear, a cigarette
from her too red un-kissed lips.
The cars no longer slow

down to guess her meaning.
She traces a vein
to where the needles brought

peace a million times.
I hear your poem, thank you
but I must be home to
where the razor whispers.

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.

Faulty Reasoning


inmate

I was wrong about obscurity then,
hoping for darkness and a quiet bed;
but then the iron door slammed shut
and the cacophony of inmates filled my brain.

My crime was meant to buy me the freedom
from life’s incessant hammering; but I found
myself thrust into a discordant and never-ending
screech of men bemoaning their false innocence
and knives fashioned from melted toothbrushes
jabbing the life from unsuspecting fools.

I had hoped for the consistency of routine and
lights out early, but beneath the glaring ceiling
sconces that burned 24/7, each night slammed down
with new threats and opportunists to perish.

I longed for the numbness I had known in my
drink and drugs, but in here, they would only
give you antacids and an aspirin.

I had simply not thought this through.

Beyond the Blackened Veil


Homeless Man

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 myself
on love and other falsehoods.

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 or any other.
I am weary and resolved that there are
new worlds and better poems
beyond the blackened veil.

For Nickie


I feared myself alone, quite doomed
For copious amounts I had consumed;
In quantities beyond all measure
Liquid gold and opium treasure.

Indeed, my final days were near,
Perhaps an hour or a year.
But little more I was quite certain;
Put down the lights and draw the curtain!

And as I stepped into the shadow
Having all but lost this battle,
There then appeared before my face –
Herself in pain, yet full of grace,

A certain woman, appearing bright,
And fully bathed in healing light!
For every time her smile shone
My own afflictions seeming gone.

My darkness lifted, as well my pain
Her laughter poured like summer rain!
She rolled on wheels and made such faces
Allowed me in her personal places.

And though her eyes held vivid sadness,
She filled me with unselfish gladness.
While I could only hope she knew
How much of me she had renewed.