Adolescent/Middle School Sports Failures

When the only word you’ve written is “fuck”/16 times in a row/then you know you’re in it/a mental dead zone/not writer’s block/but all of your thoughts bottlenecked/fighting to get through/gouging eyes/clawing limbs/a deafening cacophony of thoughts/misery biting the ankles of happiness/lust punching insomnia in the teeth/10,000 thoughts with metaphors held up like limo pick-up signs at the airport/who to pick among the riot/this tide of yins and yangs?

The loudest?
The most profound?
The one that leads to the best poems?

Close you eyes and point/hear a scream of victory out of the mouth of a youth in the back of the room.

Read the name tag:

“Adolescent/Middle school sports failures”

Sigh deeply.

Then write “fuck” another 16 times in a row.

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A Caustic Summer (Excerpt)

What follows is an excerpt from the other new book I have coming out tomorrow, A Caustic Summer.

“Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”

These gods of mine have brought forth a season that brings madness with every sunrise. They have brought forth a season that will ruin my mind, before tossing me aside to a place where my own mind is an enemy, where my own thoughts are a disease that courses through my veins and cannot be plucked out on a whim. These gods of mine have used all the sickening colours of their palettes to craft a season of insanity and drought, a season that burns away all refuge, makes the prayers of the scorched useless, and leaves the strongest questioning. I am not at my strongest, and I am not ready for the season of madness.

Summer is a motherfucker.          

***

The resident of apartment 208 is sober.

The inhabitant of apartment 208 passes through the circles of hell, or swims through the slippery images of dreams as if he were part Dante part Virgil

Frames of one man multiplied by thousands of images from one vast photo album, a flipping stack of live drawings that plays through a hazy, hallucinogenic repeat. The inhabitant of these images is the constant. The only change is his different placement in the cycle. In this dream, this vision, he is in every state, in every frame of light. We see inside his soul at all moments, we are his thoughts, we are his miseries and we know how sick he gets when morning rolls around and he feels no better. A viciously enhanced and gargantuan scale triple exposure, a thousand films layered over one another.

We see him flip records, we see him drink glass after glass of water, we see him with different women, going through the same positions and the same tired lines, we see him eat the same breakfast every morning. He smokes. He reads. His routines are the same every single day. Sometimes, in fits of violence, he punches a filing cabinet; sometimes opting for a haymaker leveled at the top drawer, and sometimes a gut punch to the middle drawer that holds his old tax forms and all of the important business forms they can’t be bothered to go through and deal with.

So cue up. Tap the stick against the bandstand and wait

A musician picks up his instrument and begins to noodle around in a minor key. Mournful long notes drift through the air. If you stop and listen, you can hear the background soundtrack to a special kind of hell; Loneliness as a sound, not just a word.

***

There’s been no rain for months. There’s a drought in California that’s plastered all over the newspaper headlines, and a drought here in Victoria that’s advertised on every water rationing pamphlet that’s shoved under apartment doors and stapled to telephone poles. For me, it has been a season of drought in more ways than one; There has been a drought on liquor (self-inflicted),A drought on love (self-inflicted),a drought on decent sex despite all my efforts pursuing it. I sit around waiting for the smallest scraps of each of these things I lack to trickle through the breakers and through smog and heat down to me. I read about the fires in the hills of the interior, and look out the window to watch ash drift down onto the street from an orange sky that blots out the sun. I walk past smoking garbage cans that line the avenues of this city, set alight by a flicked cigarette ash or spent butt that I hope wasn’t one of mine.

There is heartache and heat, no drought on either, and both are so bad that you can’t sleep, and stand in front of your freezer running ice cubes over your forehead for relief. Everywhere I look are indicators of a special kind of hot Hell dreamt up by cruel gods drunk on causing madness. Everywhere I look are signposts that let me know where I am, but offering no direction out.

I am going against my gods. I am changing myself, and to change oneself is to go against one’s own personal gods. Zeus didn’t make the list, but Jameson Irish Whiskey did. You’ll find no Christ or Mohammad on my list, but you will find Johnny Walker Black and Lord Heineken. These were my gods for years, and I was a devout follower, who prowled temples with carpet flooring and neon signs, and who gave communion every morning and worshipped until sick every night. Now I have run screaming from those sticky temples where the bad country music gospel plays like a siren song, I have run away from the followers with hands full of damp change looking to buy one more round for the road, I have left a discipline I have peeked behind the curtain of to see only death, disease, and cirrhosis.

Yet, I miss it.

***

I want whiskey

I want gin

I want screwdrivers

and a good screw

I want mini liquor bottles

I want bottles of beer

green bottles

brown bottles

growlers of high proof rum

rum and cokes

heavy on the liquor

cans of cheap beer

cans of good beer

towers of empties to litter my desk

mickeys for my jacket pockets

two ice cubes in a glass of good scotch

one ice cube in a large glass of Irish

bottles of wine

straight from the bottle

here comes a regular

an old skilled pro at this kind of thing

martinis ordered and consumed

the rule is to chug the first two and savor the third

singles

doubles

I want a Heineken

and champagne if it’s New Years Eve.

 

That was the night I quit.

 

I.

June 1st/ 28 degrees / Cloudy

 

June starts with a cloudy day this year. I don’t remember what the weather was like on this day last year, not that I usually have a glorious memory for such things. I am sober today, going on six months, and I know undisputedly that I wasn’t sober on this day last year. It’s not difficult to have a good memory about the days I was drunk, as I was drunk every goddamn day.

A fan turns in the corner of the room. It is the only thing moving in this heat, and it pushes about the room a mix of hot air and a stick of mint incense I lit earlier to drown out the smells of sweat, a one-night stand that still clings to the sheets somehow, and illicit bathtub cigarettes.

On top of my filing cabinet is a vinyl record with all of the corners curled up from being left out in the sun too long. The heat outside is more powerful than rock and roll.

I examine my warped copy of Who’s Next and consider using it as an ashtray, except there’s a hole in the middle, and I feel that the Pete Townsend would be mad at me for dropping ash into all of his carefully manicured record grooves. We’ve never met, but on the off chance it happens, I play it safe and return the useless record to the top of the filing cabinet.

I make a mental note that when I go out I have to remember to close the blinds, otherwise whatever record I left on the turntable will be a ruined by the time I return home.

I empathize with my copy of Who’s Next, for I know what it’s like to be molded into a distorted version of my previous self: to not play like I used to, to send the needle skipping back to the cradle. My sobriety is now six-months-old, and I don’t know yet if it is something to celebrate, or something I have forced myself to endure like a march of attrition. To celebrate the day, I go outside and light a cigarette.

I’ve been smoking too much and I know it; there’s that constant feeling in my mouth of my tongue being turned into steel wool and my fingers stained a sickening yellow. Yet, none of those wonderful beautifications of my oral health and digits stops me from plugging a filter between my lips before breakfast and lighting one up to greet the day. I have my reasons, I tell myself. I have an excuse, and I pardon myself, as I take a long drag and exhale.

I smoke because it’s the only thing that keeps my mind off drinking in the mornings; a quick trick played on the vice offices of my brain, to make the staff feel like I’m giving it what they want.

Never mind that I’ve now switched out the fear of liver failure for the much healthier inevitability of lung cancer. Whatever, I say as I glance into the orange forest fire sky of late afternoon, the whole province is smoking and alight, so I fit in just fine.

It has been summer for a month and I’ve been hiding indoors trying to write poems and not drink.

The poems are about the same cyclic misery that I’ve written of before, and it seems that it’s still impossible to escape from a certain way of personal thinking when writing, even in the aftermath of the quitting drinking and coming to terms with the frayed and scorched ends of most of my major relationships. Strangely enough, the sober poems have seemed to be more of a downer than the drunk ones, as if the cold light of a reality free of substance and boozy haze was harder to describe and endure than one drowning in screwdrivers.

I drink glass after glass of water out of a glass milk bottle. I eat nothing but fruit and stay up for 24 hours as sanity slips, then reason, and after that a decent night’s sleep.

I miss drinking. It’s like they tell you about people who have had a limb cut off; they still feel the twitch.

 

 

 

 

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Nice Couches, To Be Fair

This poem is from my upcoming book, Side 1/Side 2. The book comes out
tomorrow!

I bound down the stairs
just in time to see a past version of myself
head out the basement door.

I follow
and come outside to see
that I have become
two abandoned couches
covered in cat hair
and left beside a telephone pole.

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Birds of Victoria

This poem is from my upcoming book, Side 1/Side 2. The book comes out
tomorrow!

There are the ducks of Beacon Hill Park
the seagulls that perch on the windowsills
of the Strathcona Hotel
there are the peacocks that preen and dance
by the fountains on Government street
there are the crows that haunt Antique Row
in search of easy dinner
and there are the October gatherings of all flights
that meet on every available surface
of the construction cranes downtown.

However,
my favourite birds of this city
have always been the finches
that sit on the telephone wires outside my window
who sing and chirp
to welcome me home
to wake me up
and let me know I’ve slept in too late.

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Bus Advertisements

This poem is from my upcoming book, Side 1/Side 2. The book comes out
tomorrow!

Chambray shirt
damp from the rain
cigarette stains on paperback pages
and me cracking jokes about bus ads.

Cold chill in the spring air
winter still clutching the days with
a death grip
that refuses to loosen off.

“Don’t Give Up on Today!”
screams a bank slogan plastered on
the side of the #3 bus
and I take its advice and return to my book
lost in hallways of image and thought
but only while I stand outside.

When I return to my room
there is nothing
and thought withers like a double major’s houseplants.

My progress report would read:
Lacks: motivation
desire
“spunk”
initiative
“can do attitude.”

I confine myself to my comfiest chair
like a hospital visitor waiting in a hallway with IV drip bags of peppermint tea
and late day coffee.

“Don’t Give on Today!” asked the #3 bus
but I let it down, and it does the rest of its route in disappointment
and misses two stops.

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“Hey Brady”

This poem is from my upcoming book, Side 1/Side 2. The book comes out tomorrow! 

“What’s a haiku?”
5
7
5
Motherfucker
Easy one
I am the single greatest poet in this entire room.

“Okay cool,
so what’s a soliloquy?”
I adopt a blank stare
and my eyes roll back
and my mind becomes a bare room
with tumbleweeds billowing around it.

“I have no fucking idea,” I say.
“I thought you were some kind of poet?”
“Yeah, I am, but yeah, maybe it’s something to do with lines?”
“What about a limerick?”
“Definitely Irish, probably dirty.”
“That doesn’t sound like an official definition at all.”
“Hey go crack a fucking dictionary, I’m not a goddamn linguistic jukebox.”
“I just knew you claimed to be a poet.”

I am.
Proof:
This poem.

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Post Mortem

I am again stuck in the vacuum that comes from finishing things. As of today, I have completed work on two new books, and right on cue, possibly the second I hit the send button of the email I sent to the book publishing place, the feeling of, “everything finished, nothing left to do,” swarmed me.

It must be a question of direction and thinking; for months now my thoughts have been dominated by these two books: what state they are in, how to best edit them, how to make them better, what will be on the cover, what will I do about the problems I’ve found in them, do they suck, why do they suck, am I saying”fuck” too much in the poems, how to distribute them, how to pay for the proofs, how to pay for the copies, who to give them to etc.…

Now all that thinking is finished, and my mind is a blank canvas once again. In a nominal situation, I would immediately be overjoyed with this, for now I could work on literally anything, and any pet project could now become something to put rubber to road on, and to tear into and start doing the job on.

Alternatively, I could now sit back and relax and not think about anything for a while; kick back and enjoy some downtime without an avalanche of thoughts about not working hard enough clouding up any moment where I sit still for more than ten fucking seconds.

Except both of those situations seem elusive in this, the first moments of nothing.

To make matters worse, right after I finished sending off the two books to the magical place that makes them into things I can hold in my hand, I finished the book I had been reading as well. Now there was a hole in that area of my life, and a whole wide world of books I could choose to fill it. Which is terrible! How am I supposed to decide what to read now? I could literally read anything! Anything in the history of literature is open to me, and I’m supposed to just pluck one tome off the wall and have at it? Ugh. What misery.

I know, I know. This is all just a bunch of sniveling whining that nobody needs to read or hear about, and that many people would just up and stab somebody to be in this same position. But goddamn it, this shit bothers me, and I’m sure someone else has felt the same way in their time. Also, there is always that worry of, “okay, now I’ve finished something, and that might mean that there is nothing else.” That the books I finished might be the last good ideas I ever have, that the blank slate is not a canvas, but a barren wasteland, and I would be better off just heading back to work, cashing the checks, and waiting on a white picket fence and listening books on tape and going to be early and buying a Prius and buying new socks and knowing where my money is going and getting a credit card and watching talent shows and not caring and saying to people at parties that I wrote a book once etc.

It just sounds all so adult. Which is the antithesis of what I want in my life. So I need to find something to do, and fast. Or I’ll end up writing more self-focused dreck like this fucking blog post, and nobody needs that.

Oh, those two books should be ready for everyone to order by the end of the month. Keep your eyes peeled.

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