These pills are small and delicate, helpless little orphans,
and my body is a temple. Ain’t nobody got it like
this little bottle of mine- white little capillaries
pills of death that pulse and keep me
One every four hours, do not exceed six.
I’m sixty nined from bars and dimes every minute so
I dose in doubles, puffing silver linings
on a rummy cloud. I am The Great Pretender,
forgetful historian, a series of bullet points
on what it means to be listless. I am the vague biographer,
caustic chronicler of the categorically insignficant.
But it’s not so bad. These woes whoa me no more
and dreams feel more real when I’m awake; I call it
lucid living. Though I’m still full of envy
a the bravery of corner vagrants, shouting crack-ed lungs
at pigeons in the park. But now he fades away, vague,
I don’t know where, like ripples in a pond. At least
he doesn’t linger in my mind and ruin me any more.
My heart no longer brags- no more
I am I am I am’s– it sighs.
But twice every four hours, my smile comes
easier, and I can see the faults in our starlit eyes
and badly thatched hearts. Stale highs eventually swing
violently low and I have to stop myself
from smashing something delicate. A bottle, or myself.
And I would, if only I could get a grip, but when
the night grows teeth and digs into the heart and
memories, what is there to do? Set the alarm
and try again tomorrow.
“It’s getting late in my city and from my window I can see the people shuffling from the warm Summer air to their homes, bars, beds or orgies, and I wonder where their life is taking them. Also sometimes the color of their underwear.
I like to count people in public and anti-socialize. Today I’m at 103 and a lady who asked me what I was writing called me a faggot under her breath when I walked away, so I must be doing something right. It takes a while to get self efficient, to really enjoy anything if you’re alone doing it. Kisses are nice but I prefer letters, because intent has a wider palette than the tongue, and I’ve got the cowardly heart of a man which makes me prone to sex and bad decisions. So now I spend my afternoons wandering the lust away instead of dulling it in a bar or bedroom.
While I’m walking I can’t help notice there’s something so unnatural about cities: paved roads along concrete sidewalks with giant, monstrous buildings that tower over you. They make you feel so small, how they loom over you like that. And the trees, so thin, and miserable. Branches so small they might fall off with the next strong wind down Park Avenue. Trees out of breath and just about shaking from how sick they are. Besides, from what I read they aren’t even really trees. They’re decorative; some advanced faux-wood, constantly trimmed and cut and probably kept on a drug to keep them from ever growing too much. Everything about New York is artificial; dressed up, disguised. Flashing signs on stores and awnings, marquee billboards. Bright lights, dull city, overexposed to the man-made elements. Like Plato’s burning cave, but with neon lights and too much tits on magazine covers.
It makes them complacent so complacent, all 103 of them. So complacent they don’t notice anything. Like sometimes, I see snow. I’ll be out on Madison Avenue in the middle of Summer and I’ll see snowflakes, tiny and quick, flurrying all over the street. And I’m obviously shocked, but when I look around to see other people’s reactions, nobody else seems to notice while they power walk down the street in a rush to absolutely nowhere. Snow, in the middle of god damn Summer, and nobody seems to notice.
But if someone were to ask me about it, I’d probably call them a faggot under my breath when they walked away.”
That morning I had called in sick to work on my way there, because something about subway posters at 7AM can just be so fucking depressing? Those wide, grinning, dead-eyed actors trying to sell you college courses, some stupid movie, or Old Navy cargo shorts. Baby crying in a stroller, some asshole blasting music through the speaker on his iPhone, some sixty people crowded side by side with nobody saying a fucking thing. Just the hum of the subway train burrowing to Manhattan.
Kachung, Kachung, Kachung,
“Stand clear of the closing doors, please.”
It was enough to make a man exhausted, too tired to clock in and pretend to give a shit about Bridget’s new baby or an Excel spreadsheet. And if you can’t relate to that, well, then this story isn’t for you, bud.
So I sent a text pretending I was sick and got off on 96th street, booked a room at Carmine’s like I used to when I was more degenerate. I wanted to get away, needed a low cost escape and bottom shelf liquor type of abandoning ship, and not knowing where to go, I went back to Amsterdam Avenue, where I had traumatic and yet awesome times in my youth. An instinctive return to chaos and creation; natural, the way sea turtles go back to die or lay eggs in the same beaches where they’re born.
There’s also such a safety in what’s familiar, how easy it is to slide into old habits like a pair of your favorite jeans.
After an hour of checking and settling in to my room I hopped back on the train downtown. I had to get to 79th, which was where the bars stopped and everything south became skyscrapers and big businesses. Suits, ties and bored housewives walking yorkies on their way to $200 manicures. Not my tempo or atmosphere, to say the least.
The subway was less crowded by then, only a handful of bodies too distinct and all over the place to categorize as 9-5’ers. Those wide, grinning, dead-eyed actors on the posters didn’t bother me as much. I felt better, knowing I was on my way to a good time I should not be having. I sat down and let the hum of the subway train burrowing through Manhattan rock me gently to all the irresponsible things I planned on doing. Satisfied, anticipating, feeling like I escaped.
“BECAUSE DISEASE IS NOT OF GOD.” A womans voice, booming, echoing. I didn’t look, because I didn’t care. Religious fanatics were pretty common at any hour of the day on any corner of New York.
“SATAN IS THE AUTHOR. HAPPINESS RESIDES IN YOUR HEART, BUT YOU SHRINK FROM THE LIGHT. YOU HIDE FROM GRACE. YOU WALK IN DARKNESS.”
79th Street came and I stepped out of the subway car, the woman’s voice echoing behind me as the doors closed.
“But what about your soul?”
Stand clear of the closing doors, please.
“But what about your soul?”
“But what about your soul?”
Kachung, Kachung, Kachung.
“But what about your soul!?”
There was a stale remnant of the weekend hanging on my breath, a dark and shapeless nag pestering against the flickering subway lights and dimming silver handrails. Thick and smothering between pressed buttoned shirts, noose ties and summer dresses huddled on the express Lexington avenue bound for midtown before a final stop to nowhere. My thoughts felt like strangers at a party, huddled close to one another but no one knowing what to say.
A small-suited man bumped against my shoulder and apologized. I meant to do the same, opened my lips to speak, but they did not make a sound. I glanced up at the dead eyed glare of an Asian woman baring her teeth in what some might call a smile. A poster for a college or language learning center. Bold, black marker graffiti obscured most of it, so that the only visible parts were the slender neck of a woman and a tagline written in a worn, exciting red.
“GENERATION AFTER G NE ATION!!!” It said.
I got off the next stop, sent a vague text to my boss about feeling sick and began to wander Manhattan. Everywhere was a feint, hostile, seething unrest bubbled from the gum spotted granite sidewalks; steaming softly from the city grates like vapor. While the oak and marble fronts of restaurants, businesses and delicatessens glistened with the unnatural sheen and polish of something new and untouched. Beautiful and prosthetic.
It was all so awful.
I wanted to be drunk, or dead, or anything except that feeling lingering beneath my tongue like a razor blade. To forget myself and all my troubles, if only for a little while.
It was only 7AM but in my heart it was twenty minutes to last call; and I had all day to no longer feel human. I have to forget, otherwise I fall in a pit of something. A madness and not the poetic kind. The mad kind. The kind that roams the empty city at 5am smiling at the air. The kind that wakes up in strange apartments and motel rooms wet in somebody else’s sweat without a clue or memory of how he got there. The kind that talks and wiles like it’s all just a clever little game, but is burning alive, is howling in laughs and I-Like-Your-Hair. The kind that’s quietly out to ruin something because a moaning in his blood compels him to, reminds him it’s all just a cosmic accident and that devils do not exist, were molded after men. And women.
Terrible for each other, and much worse for anyone else.
transmuted misery of too many days in bed,
and cold heart and stiffed hamstrings.
when does Christmas end
and the new year starts feeling
like an old one. Montauk’s
got secrets that won’t leave
Long Island. Behind the lighthouse
inside a dark home we made a
cozy indent of what’s familiar.
stretched and spread in shapes
that wind and coil, tense with sweat,
passion as a form of exercise.
exhausted happiness, out of breadth,
grinning and blessed in natural serenity
and gentle sin. done up in rhyme
such madness to enjoy.
subway door dings, headphones sing muffled songs,
a cough a sniff and shuffle of feet. shuffle
of coats, fumbling hands, a newspaper is turned and
a girl laughs at something that isn’t funny.
14th street escalator rising, humming stairs rising
again and again and again and an
endless loop. car tires sliding,
honking, footsteps everywhere, honking rising.
two men argue over stepped shoes and a boy
cries at something that isn’t sad.
ears cannot be shut and listening is a prison,
the most molesting of the senses