We Pretend to Be

nearing perfect form
do i pretend to be
something of gentleman

top hat
lovely pocket square
long tailed coat
newly shined shoes
i do look the part so well

and beneath
classic human skeleton
blue veins
red muscle
tendons fibers skin
hair nails eyeballs
i do pretend to be

and watch me walk around
the party

watch me
as i
looking across the ballroom
(wood floors, glass windows
chandeliers, fire, wax, wick, etc.)
spot a female
flowing long dead hair
large breasts
red dress the amalgamation
of ten thousand machine-placed

watch as i approach
muscles pulling leg
tendons working in conjunction
the cardiovascular system
in tandem with the human heart
it all moves footstep by footstep
in newly shined shoes
across the wood floors of the ballroom

and now we
meeting eyeballs
pupils expand
let in chandelier light
a legion of cheek muscles active
and we talk and smile
we pretend to be

and we dance
to mathematical sound
recognized by ears as pleasant
two human beings
in sequence through time and space
until the song
the mathematical gathered sound
and then more

and more and more and more

and we pretend it all

watch us as we pretend

and then no matter the trajectory
of following hours
eye balls rest
beneath eye lids
automatic breathing
automatic bloodwork
and we believe we somehow changed

we believe we somehow not what we were

and maybe we believe wrong
but we believe
what we pretend to believe
and that’s nice


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To a Crooked Old Man

the past
dies slowly

it clings on

its nails
buried deeply
in skin

to find a strangle

through wind
and weather
it lives on

but in slow due time

it will die

starved for attention
it shrivels up
and sinks
into the waiting mud

there is no funeral
for the death of thoughts
that never should have lived


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Ambulance Song

i am hungry and restless and full of fire

the trees outside are dead
not seasonally dead
they are chopped down
the trees outside are brick houses
and grumpy people at a bus station
and ten million ambulances

there are so many ambulances that come down lincoln avenue
so many heart attacks and strokes and so many states of emergency

i’ve learned to sleep to the sound of them
to close my eyes during never ending catastrophe
cuddling up with a baseball bat

because the ambulances just keep dancing down the line
like some weird concrete form of synchronized swimming
the most efficient and expensive taxi cab you’ll ever take

it’s fascinating to think that i might ride in a hearse someday
and never know

or maybe i’ll be elsewhere
picking apples off the heaven tree
stealing third base with Eve
in the shade

and peeping down through the marshmallow heaven clouds
i’ll say hey – i’m riding in a hearse
and i’ll say hey – now these fuckers care about poetry
i’ll say hey i never said that! i didn’t even like that guy

because everyone is best buddies with a dead poet they knew
everyone is thick as thieves with the man in the casket

i do have to say it’s worth it
this life
if only for these moments
a grilled cheese sandwich
a first orgasm
sleeping in when you’re a bitter shithead adult
and pissy at your inability to live the life you want

you could drown in it
you could down it like whiskey every day

life is a love song for the hedonist
death is a parade for the realist

margarine is butter for people who think death isn’t real
a grilled cheese made with margarine is like a sad handjob

i’m euphoric for the opportunity to live each day
i am blessed and kind to be in this dream
the protagonist scrolling across this 4k television
i will live hard and eat the things placed before me
but you bet your ass i will burn the fat off my heart
i am holy and desperate and full of moonlight
i am hungry and restless and full of fire

i couldn’t sleep for shit last night
i just tossed and turned

i closed my eyes and died in psychedelic bursts of raging color
like spirits in the river styx reaching out their decaying hands
death is the final revolution and most definitely not televised
i closed my eyes and saw a ballerina dancing on a lake of fire
she floated across the flaming pond but did not succumb to it
bulletproof to the heat she moved in rhythmic time to a song
to a song that i could not hear for it was not my song to hear
she heard something i did not know

i couldn’t sleep for shit last night
i just tossed and turned

and caught up in headache i pulled out the old timey calculator
and i tallied up my problems one at a time cross-categorized
and i dug in to see what the algorithm was numbers floating
strange algebra and cosines and lines of best fit floating through
the air i realized i had a metric shit ton of problems and then i
counted my blessings

and i got too caught up in the poetry of my blessings
to care about the math of my problems

i couldn’t sleep for shit last night
i just tossed and turned
i guess i’ll sleep when i’m dead


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Five Lines then Good Night

sometimes it’s ten thousand pounds of silence
sometimes it’s hail storms of white noise
it’s all too much to bear
and too much to translate to time
it’s far too reasonable that we’re all found in scattered fragments of bone



i can see the you that lives in your head
eternally folding and mending your bed
i can see you laying and counting the sheep
restless and worried and empty of sleep
i can see you waiting for some kind of spark
lying alone on your bed in the dark
lying alone in the dark on your bed
of course i mean you that lives in your head

i too am someone who lives in my skull
with cupboards of china awaiting the bull
and when the bull comes the whole damn thing rattles
in grey panorama it battles and battles
in Guernica in restless in blood on the floor
but it’s the silence come after i truly abhor
i traipse through the shards on my bare swollen feet
and the me in my head hides under my sheets
and lying alone in the dark in my bed
i think of the you that lives in your head

and maybe one day i will open my door
and throw on my rucksack and go to explore
the great range of skulls that make up a range
of mountains with faces so real and so strange
their eyes always blinking and sleeping at night
and while i meander these mountains i might
look in your eyes and see all the magic
that seeps through like beauty seeps through all the tragic
i might find a door at the cusp of your eyes
and crawl through your pupil to find you surprised
that someone has entered the room in your head
and i’ll lay down beside you on your newly made bed
and i’ll kiss you and love you and we’ll fall asleep fast
and i’ll tell you the distance i’ve traveled is vast
i’ll tell you my stories of bulls and the war
and the light shining brightly through the cracks in your door
and the sound of surrender and the breath of the dead
because i see the you that lives in your head


The Bardo

it’s strange to think that there is someone above my head right now. that as i lay here in bed that someone is just floating above me, playing guitar terribly, maybe in a chair. it’s strange to think we’ve crossed paths in halls and that’s not significant, or at least we’ve decided it’s not.

i just passed by  a woman at the coffee shop watching porn. just neatly watching two naked lesbians go at it, her hands neatly in her lap. and i think maybe she’s allowed to do that. i’m not harmed. i’m almost indifferent, yet on the flip side it’s worth noting as i’ve never seen a woman at a coffee shop watching porn before.

the thing about old jazz music is you know that the people performing it are dead. it’s strange to think that their breaths were recorded. that i’m hearing their dead people breaths through brass. it’s strange to think i love it.

i don’t really think i know how to write a poem. a lot of days i sit down and i feel like how i imagine those people who tried to put together an ikea set on acid felt like. poems aren’t really tangible. old poems always sound angsty.

it’s strange to think that i watched a movie of an actor playing Basquiat and then after that, switched on, i watched a documentary with footage of Basquiat painting that painting. and now, years later, it’s strange to think i’ve seen that painting. they don’t want you to touch the paintings because they need to preserve them, but i think it’s probably for the best because i don’t know that i could handle it.

it’s too available. all of it. it’s all too available. i quit my job after six years and right now i could do pretty much anything and a large portion of my time goes to putting game pieces on the monopoly board for the contest my grocery store is running. it’s strange to think we can do just about anything. and we don’t just have the now. we have the then. the Basquiat painting, the brass breath of dead jazz musicians, the incredible freedom to call a poem whatever we want to. there’s indifference to a woman in public watching two previously recorded women have sex. we’re all one and we’re all connected but that’s not just beautiful. in a sense it’s kind of unbearable, like putting together an ikea set on acid. i am seven billion humans, a bunch of trees, a lampshade, an episode of “everybody loves raymond”, a Beatles song in reverse.

i am brass breath from a dead trumpet.

there might be someone over my head but it’s definitely not god.


Walk Careful, Young Man

walk careful, young man

choose careful where you put your fire
your trust
where you put your amnesty
be mindful of your side of the sidewalk

walk careful
choose wisely where you turn
which road you choose
which back alleys you duck down
who you call friend

and be aware
know what body is attached
to the hand that feeds you

don’t do anything
that might upset someone else

don’t do anything


young man, young woman
old woman, old man
old young anyperson
anybody anysoul any wandering heart
sick to death and seeking life
realize your breath is dream
and your footsteps dream
and each fist that comes slamming down
so real and so painful
that is dream too

fight hard with love and listening
move with purpose
do not die

take your prison sentence
and become the cells
in other people’s bloodstreams

walk careful, young man
strange systems surround you
but you will burst forth a radiant child
and spatter paint stains on every soul
on every single golden soul
that is paying attention


The Beginning is Assuredly the End

i crack the spines of the books i read
page by page i bend back the paper
wrap it back around the book
like a snake eating its own tail
and chapter by chapter
it disappears

and the days of my life
they feel so very similar
to the flapping pages of a novel
very textual and dense
and then washed away
in a small silent wave

but nearing the end of it all
you come to find that the pages
which once seemed to ember
and disappear into the ether
never did

they are in fact still with you

and upon realizing the last period
of the last sentence
of the last chapter
of the last book you’ve read
closing in on itself

what you come to find is that book
is there in your hand
exactly the same as it’s always been
each page in the exact same order
like well-trained soldiers

but the spine is cracked
the covers worn in
white cracks and a slight curve
the book tries to open but doesn’t

and i find my spine is cracked too
and though i am the same
i am slightly more worn
and those words that i ate one at a time
stick to the sides of my stomach



for James Baldwin

there is this microphone wire
and we do not know clearly
where it started
but we’ve been
chasing after it now
for so long
static pace after static pace
fingers dry as the sun
cracked and worn thin
the microphone wire
traveling through our grip
as we heave and hoe
in pursuit
of something

this microphone wire
they say
leads to something
to a great microphone
for this audience
that just sits
but does not move
that observes
but does not help
like a terracotta army
that’s never fought in this war

and still we step on
tangle after tangle
some days
tripped up
wrapped in our own heads
in dreams deferred
our finger tips
so close to the electricity
we are mostly water
all of us

still we step
wire in hand
and they say it’s there
that someday we will arrive
and standing at the podium
we will sing a song together
that booms through
the ugly halls of time
and shines bright gold paint
in the cracks
the paint below remains
the pain in our feet
our hands as dry
as a raisin in the sun
and maybe we’ll realize
that you do not need an amplifier
and you do not need a microphone
in a room
that is intimate enough
for everyone to hear