SUNDAY AT THE PIER

Weaving between the mass of smiles

along the Santa Monica Pier

is a reminder of how wonderful life is

when it can be shared with strangers.

 

The creak of aging wood underfoot

could barely be heard over the laughter

belted by children tasting the salted air

as their parents shell out dollars for rides.

 

The hum of the street players

singing and dancing to the tune

of their heartbeat and the ocean

fills the last crevices of loneliness

nearly every afternoon.

 

But I can still remember one dark Sunday

in the rainy mid-Autumn sloughs

where the only noises to accompany me

were the distant swallows of the sea.

 

The mist was heavy then, thick

with the remorse of a broken country,

and the players’ last song had gone out

long before the cloudy sun had risen.

 

The rank sickness of mortality

seemed to creep from the slits

of darkness hiding under the planks,

and the evil kept at bay by purer hearts

slunk out, unafraid of the silence;

rotting the wood and metal alike.

 

Those towering straights of humanity

forged in the fires of dreamers

turn to blighted nightmares, spoiled

without the people who loved them

to keep it fresh and wholesome.

 

And I was filled with the same dread

of a man, not much older than you,

who had felt his world slip away

in the trenches of a peaceful life.

——

 

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Quick mentions, I found this cover photo on Dirty Lens Photography, and I don’t own it.

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THE LAST SIP

I always loved looking in the sinister whisky glasses, with two clear, fat ice cubes barely contained within the small, cylindrical walls of the cup. The satisfying pop of the stopper, pulled from an equally extravagant crystal decanter, builds the anticipation of the moment. The first splash or two of the amber-gold liquid sets the tone of the pour. If the ice is cold enough, it will crack in half with a satisfying crunch, then those shallow splashes create tiny arcs off of the ice, until they eventually settle into the base of the glass.

I always prefer the glass left half empty, especially to start the day. Any day like today is full of wonder, tranquility, and anger. Whisky will pull in a similar sense of self-hatred. Strong, powerful, and above all else, contained. The first sip always stings, which is why I swallow it along with the second and third all at once. It slinks through the throat, like magma through the canyon—burning and renewing the land in one fatal swoop.

But it’s always the last sip that always gets me. Most often, people forget the last sip. They see a fleeting ounce left in the glass, and down it quick, like an actor in an old western film. They typically follow it with a satisfied Ah, and perhaps even a quick wipe of the chin to catch any excess the slipped through their lips. It’s dignified, hearty, and full of meaning. But the last sip still clings to the sides of the glass, drifting back into the base of the glass, forgotten beneath the melting cubes inside.

The bartender will pick the glass up, throw the residue to melt away into the sink, along with all the other forgotten memories. Quite the waste of perfectly good booze. One that, after many downed glasses and agonizing headaches later, I have learned never to miss.

The last sip is watery and cold. I like to catch each ice cube in my mouth, lick it clean, then spit it back out. If they split clean apart when the glass was poured, I might even chew one down to cleanse the palate. Catch the glass in your lips, and tilt your head back. The little droplets will form together, then slide down the side as a team, like a group of fish joined to impede the approach of a predator. In excitement, you might lift the glass in the air, as if to say to the onlookers “this moment is mine.”

And the drop will dangle, afraid, or perhaps teasing you there to build anticipation, before falling for ages in those inches between the glass and your outstretched tongue. Your throat might feel dry, as though this were the last drop of water on Earth, until it coats your mouth with the strength of a thousand oceans. Then finally, your glass is empty, and you might realize you’ve become an alcoholic.

——

 

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OUR AMERICA

So I mentioned last week that Tuesdays would be about dreams from now on, but after the travesty in Las Vegas yesterday, I couldn’t in my right mind not say how horrible I feel over the subject. So I did what I often do in that circumstance and wrote a poem about it. Before reading it, please consider donating to Las Vegas. Here’s a link to a GoFundMe. Ok, here’s the poem. Feel free to comment:

Our America

We may not be slaves

to the sins of our fathers,

but we are certainly born

out of the wombs of their actions.

 

And while we may not bear the chains

that granted them power over men,

the scars they inflicted are still fresh

on the skins of our history.

 

The flesh of this America

still burns with the toil of war,

where brother fought brother

so that our brethren could be free.

 

The first tears broke over the face

of the American Dream in 1830

when Jackson uprooted the free

in the name of freedom.

 

And again we see the strength of arms

spattering our lands red with blood,

to protect the egos of the fearful.

 

From Orlando to Las Vegas,

that river runs deeper than the oil pipelines

those dream eaters feast their pocketbooks on.

 

Well I say to them:

We do not like your America.

 

Your America is not

the land of the free

and the home of the brave,

but the land of greed

and home to the slave.

 

So we have come to take it back.

With pitchforks and torches,

with iron and steel,

with the bodies of our comrades

gunned down by the bullets

of your deranged militia laws:

we are coming.

 

Like the beating heart of the mountain

and the roaring calls of the ocean:

we are coming.

 

Like the lionhearts of Europe

come to claim their throne from John:

we are coming.

 

For this is our America.

 

Not a land of destiny and perfection

but nonetheless a home

to those who would strive

to see a more perfect union.

 

Not a country unsullied by pride,

but nonetheless a home

to those who would strive

to see the error in their ways.

 

Yes, this is our America.

An America where men can be queer.

An America where women can dream.

An America where blacks do not fear.

 

This is our America,

an America that has never been,

and yet I swear this oath again—

our America it will be.

——

 

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WORDS AND IRONWORKS

I wasn’t born to be a poet.

With a name like “Smith,” one is only fit

to work over a hot fire with iron and steel,

and yet somehow the words chiseled their way

into the forge of my life.

 

The sound of my pen spattering paper

rung out like an imagined hammer,

shaping the letters of Apollo

into a work more spectacular

than those creations I’d made for Vulcan.

 

For though the glint of the ironworks

could be heard throughout the village,

it was the letters sung between drinks

that filled it with happiness

and when the time came for another pair of sons

to be whisked away on bloodied spikes

the solace of words meant more to the mothers

than the stained return of mail

to be buried with the bodies.

——

 

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THREADS (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Threads

One thread cannot hold

the weight of a broken tree,

no matter its strength.

 

Up Late

The sun is up high

yet my eyes have just opened

in a groggy haze.

 

Dish Mountain

The pots suspended,

precarious as climbers

hanging without ropes.

 

Lying Beneath Trees

Trees look like angels

silhouetted in sunlight;

their leaves are their wings.

 

Five O’Clock

Shadows on my chin

feel like dry blades of grass

before they brittle.

——

 

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DOGGED

Behind the dirty glass window panes

of the scratched French doors

are two pairs of vacant, lonely eyes

staring back with child-like wonder

 

and looking into their eyes, I find the darkness

ethereal, as if I had fallen through endless stars

into the deep plane of non-existence

hiding behind a black hole, to a time

 

where the only words that mattered were

sit, stay, come, treat, and good boy.

 

where the only worries in our brief life

were whether our family would make it home.

 

where the outside world was left behind

and we lived in the sanctity of our four walls.

 

To run free again, with the wind pulsing

like the hot breaths of a lover

through strands of golden hair.

 

And I wonder if, staring back at me,

they can see the light of our city on a hill,

shining bright with beacons of false hope

for the rest of the galaxy to see,

 

or perhaps they just see me,

their loyal friend,

stepping away from the window now,

not knowing whether I will come back.

——

 

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OVERCAST (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Overcast

The faded roses

wonder what their red was like

before the clouds came.

 

Thin

Looked in the mirror

and saw how my innocence

had grown thin with age.

 

Right Wing

Age begets wisdom

yet somehow those wise people

abandoned reason.

 

Lonely Sweat

I tossed the blanket

from our overly small bed

in a lonely sweat.

 

Dancing Trees

The twisting branches

entwine like tango dancers

suspended in air.

——

 

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HELP I NEED A NAP

So while I was fumbling around my mind today, watching Casually Explained videos, I decided I should talk about sleep deprivation, mostly because I’m functioning on a cool three hours sleep, and had to get up to wait for the gas company guy to get her (spoilers, I’m probably going back to sleep after writing this). Sleep deprivation, according to a quick Google search, can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness, weight loss, and weight gain. To which I’m thinking…duh? Daytime sleepiness? What the h*ck kind of symptom is that (like my use of censorship on “heck” there)? Of course you’re going to be tired if you’re tired. That’s WHY YOU’RE TIRED.

So let’s just skip the symptoms, because I don’t feel like talking about them, and focus on why I stayed up in the first place. Yeah, I was binge watching T.V., and no, it was likely not a good idea, but hey we all make bad decisions and just because I can come clean about them doesn’t make me a bad person, right? RIGHT?

Wow, my brain feels like a mess today. Anyways, sleep deprivation makes you feel like you’re brain was baked on high in an oven for a minute, quickly doused with a soapy water mixture, then finally tossed in a blender for a quick go, before carefully being poured back into your head. It is not a fun time. It can make you feel sick without actually being sick. So with that, I’m going to cut it a bit short today to get this all set up, and take a (hopefully) short nap.

Oh, and let me know what your sleep patterns are like! Do you get all loopy and weird like me when you’re tired? Or are you one of those high functioning people that can just power through it?

 

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A DAY AT THE FAIR

Emerging from under the shadowy tunnel

into the blinding sunlight of the September fair

builds more child-like suspense in me

than any movie soundtrack could.

 

Suddenly, all those twenty-two years

melt back into the sevens and eights

where oceans of cotton candy and

rivers of soda pop were mine to sail through.

 

The loud hums of the stereotyped amusements,

from Mexican dancers to redneck farmers

whistle through the air like a swarm of bees,

and I hadn’t a care in the world.

 

I roamed about like that, in half a daze,

so filled with the happiness of the afternoon

that I nearly forgot the Ferris Wheel,

and anyone who knows me knows

that I’d never forget the Ferris Wheel.

 

There’s something beautiful

looking out over the plane of the world

at a point that no human was meant to see

where the air tastes fresher than spring

and the Earth seems perfectly still.

 

Even if it is just for a moment,

before the basket of humans makes another spin

and we all have to step off the ride

to go home again.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #57 – THE WONDERING HEIGHTS

Do you ever wonder what they say

in the midnight hours when you’ve gone away?

 

I left her legs shaking, but I couldn’t tell you

if it was from the sex or from the déjà vu,

because when I packed my bags that night

she was still hot-blooded from another fight

where I had called her a fork-tongued bitch

and she’d ran at me swinging a willow switch.

 

Which marked the bloody end to our bloody marriage,

though it’d been over since the first miscarriage—

where they’d doused the fire in her eyes

after filling her heart with doctoral lies.

 

But on the empty road with dim street lights

my mind will take me to the wondering heights.

That place where people want cell phone passwords

even though they’ll regret it afterwards.

 

I was thinking about how in June

I walked in on her with a man in our room.

They was only talking, and only for work,

but there was a look on her face I couldn’t shirk.

A guilt, a silence, an unsaid thing,

like a child caught losing their mother’s ring.

 

I spent my night there, and the morning too,

waiting for our court ordered adieu,

wishing that we had said “I’m sorry”

and talked out are troubled inquiry

rather than avoided each other with vengeful hate

and been unable to set things straight.

——

 

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