Analysis of a Wheelchair I Found

my apartment is small and has too much stuff in it. i don’t think i’m a packrat, it’s more that i’m a goldfish whose bowl size has changed a lot. i was living in a townhome, then an apartment, then a small house, then a bigger house, and now a very small apartment. so all this nonsense i’ve accumulated, nonsense i’m attached to, has just piled up in here. and maybe the attachment is the problem.

i’ve got this great piece of furniture that i use as an entertainment center. i found it by the side of the road. i used to use it as a sort of alter. put a bunch of candles and gemstones and my tarot cards on it. that was a different time for me. i’m still spiritual but there’s an activeness to it. i think the spirituality for me is born out of flexing the muscles in my soul. going on road trips. quitting a job i hate. putting myself in uncomfortable situations. forcing myself to reckon with unknown parts of me and how they interact with unknown parts of the world. so now that alter is an entertainment center. maybe that’s symbolic, but i don’t think so. i still read the tarot. i do love that.

i’ve also got this metal frame shelving unit. i found that in an alley near my apartment. it was rusting in the rain, but i love that too. it’s very industrial looking and beat up but when i moved to south broadway, i started to pick up this affinity for the grit of the city. i found this dirty beer sign by the trash and i just grabbed that too. in my bathroom there’s this sign for a concert that i just ripped off a pole in my neighborhood. it’s got packing tape surrounding it and it falls off all the time. you get sick of beauty, i think, or at least the normal idea of beauty. i love the shit out of van gogh but i wouldn’t want his prints on my walls. and it’s not the most innovative thing to find the gritty city stuff beautiful either. i’m familiar with heroin chic. i’m also familiar with the idea that a homeless person’s life shouldn’t be your artistic expression. these items don’t come to me in some sort of interior decorator mentality. they scream at me. take me. it’s rare but when they scream at me to be taken i take them.

most everything i own for furniture i found or was given to me. my bed and bed frame were gifts from my former landlord. he lived upstairs and i think he pitied me for the breakup i was going through when i left so he threw me that bed. and also he’s just a genuinely nice person. i’m glad he came into my life. he’s your traditional red-blooded conservative, but i also was around while he sat at his computer for hours researching the judges up for election. i’ve also seen nothing but kindness from him. i also saw him give up alcohol to get the woman he loves back. i’m pretty proud to be the recipient of a bed from him.

on my wall is some drywall that my friend sarah painted a painting on. one night, in the twilight of this round of our friendship, her and my friend ivan came over and big surprise we just drank a little whiskey, listened to laid back music and painted to our hearts’ desire. sarah and i painted, ivan i think read. ivan is a person of integrity like that. so sarah takes this torn up piece of drywall and paints this magical barren frozen tundra of a landscape on it. with these harsh red streaks that look almost digital. and in the foreground, the focus of the painting is this polar bear, and it’s got red on it too. it’s dripping with blood but i’m not so certain that’s the case. she just did this with a piece of drywall. and now she’s off in vancouver with ivan and she just started her first day at a job that she hates and she’s going to quit on day two. she asked me what she should do.

there’s this weird cycle where i used to give shitty impulsive emotional advice, and then i gave empathetic advice based on what i would do, and then i started asking people questions to help them figure out what they wanna do, and now i just don’t think i know anything at all.

i found a wheelchair the other day. i don’t need a wheelchair, but i couldn’t stand to see a wheelchair, an old school wheelchair covered in sharpie graffiti, by a dumpster. i couldn’t let it go. i don’t need a wheelchair but this thought lingered over my head that if i didn’t take it, it’d be gone. so now it’s in my living room. there’s three chairs in my entire house. the armchair i’m sitting in, the wooden chair at my desk and this wheelchair. it’s empty but it feels like it’s here with me in person. like we’re two old men sitting by the fire shooting the shit.

i don’t think i’m going to keep it, but i’m not going to throw it away. this isn’t a moral story of one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. and some things are just trash. and these things i own i don’t know that i think of them as treasure. i think of them maybe as friends looking for my advice.

Lenny Chernila, from what i heard secondhand, would take objects from someone’s house and put them in someone else’s house. like this belongs here now. some would say that’s weird, or rude. but you don’t own these things, not really. and if they’ve come to you, it’s only fair to know that at some point they’ll leave you.

i don’t know how this wheelchair is going to leave me. i picture a scenario where maybe danger will happen, god forbid, and someone will be incapable of walking. maybe a stroke, maybe a broken leg. and i, walking by, will say, wait here, i have a wheelchair. i’ll run gallantly down to my apartment and grab the wheelchair. that’s too heroic though. this wheelchair doesn’t have a hero complex. but it’s not my chair either. and me, i’m just hear to give it advice, but the older i get, the more i see how unqualified i am in fact to give advice. maybe i should just listen to the wheelchair on this one.

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Honnold Express

over night everything became urgent
the words weren’t even about my fleeting humanity
they were about something else
something i knew i alone couldn’t save
but i had to try
i had been taught that i had to believe i could succeed
but that wasn’t the truth
i thought we’d probably fail
and that was the strange comfort
i used to psych myself out before interviews
tell myself i didn’t want the job
one time i asked my cousin if he’d stop looking at my cards during a game of poker
he was sitting out
you fold under pressure huh he said
it was half true
i felt i could do anything
but if i thought about the stakes it would swallow me whole
the stakes are always high i think
in a world where everything can be devastatingly loud or painfully silent
everything mattered
i seem to surround myself with nihilists
maybe if nothing else just to remind me of the alternative
so what now

there’s this man who freeclimbs these incredible rock walls
hundreds of feet up
no harness
crazy muscles developed in his fingertips
they ask him
what do you do when you get scared?
you can’t
he says
you just can’t
there is no fear

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Hypnic Jerk

as i lay me down to sleep
let be the won wars and lost causes of the day
to leap into strange worlds

worlds where emotions glow like second suns
worlds where eyes see behind them
worlds where truth dives off tongues
like alphabetic letters into the deep end of endless pools
onto swingsets that sway up to the moon
floating above writers clacking at desks in eerie woods
swimming birds and flying fish

and in some true ways
something more sensical than this real real world

i find balance in dreams
the cosmic butter for my charred toast
i find serenity in the letgo
the fallout of power
the disappearance of clocks that tick
sixty seconds in a minute

in dreams
i can be an old man at last
sitting on a rocking chair on the rings of saturn
reading hemingway and drinking irish coffee
and in dreams i can do this forever
and not be late for tea

in dreams
i can find love without politics
my skin absorbed into the wallpaper
and i so unmistakably part of the foundation of the house
babbling on less about oneness and more about allness

it’s all too much in dreams
and that’s why sometimes we keep it there
like a hidden drawer of a music box

it’s all too much in dreams
where the news channel flickers and spins
and it’s november 21st, 1963 forever

in dreams
where gunshots exist like capguns
and cops and robbers ends for almuerzo
a feast of childhood friends

in dreams
where i can finally be a child again
where it takes so much less business to be a child
where i close my eyes and i’m a child
no more business to keep us busy
in dreams where we all can be a child

in allness
in solidarity
in surreal shopless malls
in purity
in strangeness
in death but never ultimate
in always ultimate and fleeting
in unexplored chambers of the dark night of the soul
in love unthought of
in manifesto! in epiphany! in orderless government!
in one billion goofy goddesses and gods
in chains
in freedom
in memory

in deep deep memory
in resonance from all directions of time and space
in dreams

in daring

as i lay me down to sleep
i find myself jolted by a hypnic jerk
a kind of shock
an electric bolt
feels like falling
in that moment just before
you enter the womb of dreams
over and over
a jolt
a shock
a pain
a pain that comes in dark electric waves
over and over
each time i try to enter these dreams

and i tell everyone i meet about this hypnic jerk
about this something
keeping me from dreams
keeping me from half of myself
and everyone says it’s okay
that it’s okay
that it’s okay

and it’s not okay

because in dreams
i am my best spirit
and how now am i to pull that form
that form which i cannot reach
into the poetry of this ticking life?
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Mailman + Dog

Rowdy the dog
just stared
as the mailman
walked into
the liquor store.

“hey bud,”
said the mailman.

Rowdy just stared
and watched him
as he delivered letters
to the liquor man
behind the counter.

there wasn’t a single ounce
of liquor in the bottles
that swayed even a bit
while these two polarized forces
of the universe
meandered a shared space.

but the mailman left
and Rowdy was put at ease.

it was okay.

they both knew
what they were taught to know
about one another
by history
stories passed down through time
but they didn’t have to be those stories.

we inhabit strange spaces
with strange company
and if we can let our guard down
we don’t have to tell the stories
that they expect us to.

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Kansas City

somewhere in kansas city someone might be saying these words

my friend sarah is locked up in alberta
the bars are birch trees
they surround her
and day after day she draws them
these spines that spring from the earth
she draws them
as if maybe she can work her way through them

she draws her lover beside her
and she draws us again in denver
or together in the birch trees
she draws them as if she can conjur something
or someone
to another place

lost in conifer
i walked through an endless field of evergreens
and miles deep into my head
playing a long tricky game of object impermanence
i stumbled onto this great field of birches

holy
and unbroken
i stepped into them
and i was not there
i was with sarah and her ivan in alberta

sarah asks me
do you believe in time travel?

somewhere in kansas city someone might be saying these words
and there is a currency too valuable
to knowing that my breath has traveled as far east as it is west
into the mouth
of a stranger
that i met in another life

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Rodolfo

so i just disappeared
i took off to vegas in a yellow pair of aviators
i changed my name to rodolfo
i grew out my mustache
and i disappeared into a cloud of cigarette smoke
and bottom shelf tequila

sitting fat
at some slot machine
i chugged at the handle
like a trucker on the horn
and i watched my play money disappear

rodolfo
king of the strip they’d call me
in the gutter
asking for change

rodolfo
with a pregnant girlfriend in reno

rodolfo
flipping a chip in his knuckles

and meanwhile in denver
they missed me

my friends
my family

they slapped my face on the sides of milk cartons
until the milk went bad
and then they held a vigil for me at cheesman park
just a hundred or so candles

he just disappeared
they said
swallowed up by some sort of sinkhole

and they talked about my poems for a minute or two
said how i changed them
how i influenced their lives
but they were still alive
and they cared
but there were bills to be paid
weekends to be planned
life just keeps on without you

meanwhile rodolfo was in deep with some cardsharks
a few bad bets
and now he’s being thrown around some back room in old vegas

my mustache swallowing my entire upper lip

you can reinvent yourself
i prayed into the rearview mirror
down highway i-15
into the mouth of vegas

you can be whoever you want

and then i, rodolfo,
probably said some more stupid things
and they hit me over the head with a hammer
they buried me in the desert
and no one came looking because i never existed

i don’t know where i’m going
but i like my name
brice
it’s got a nice sound to it i think

and the vigil might have been small
but a hundred candles or so
beats being nameless in a desert
pouring your heart out
into a big gulp with a hole in the side

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Date Night

halfway through dinner they took off their rubber masks

the cannibal & the vegan

he chewed on the blood desperate for her flesh

she snapped carrots in her teeth like an anxious neck

forks clanking against plates while hip bones went unbruised

when the check came, it didn’t move

they both wanted to eat, but neither person wanted to pay

 

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Phil

my apartment was extremely empty so i escaped it
threw on my jacket threw my hands in the pockets and walked
for miles and miles down south broadway towards downtown

and in streetlight i walked by a man who asked me for a dollar
and i said no sorry man i got nothing on me
and he asked me how i was doing and i told him and he told me

his name was Phil and that he was kicking himself because he
spent his last dollar on a beer and now he had to walk home
and it was a pretty cold night and i told him i was sorry

we walked beside each other towards downtown like some
strange manifesto on how strangers could be friends too
and he asked me if i had a cigarette he could have

and i said no sorry man i don’t have a dollar and i don’t
have a cigarette all i’ve got to offer you is conversation
and he said oh that’s okay that’s better

i went into the seven eleven and i got some cash out for him
and he said he’d better hang back so the cops didn’t think he
was panhandling and that made me realize something new

that we’re all humans but we have these weird bad rules as
as a world where we can classify people to treat them differently
but the truth still remained that we all were just people

and Phil reminded me of that fact because we just talked
and sometimes he didn’t hear me and sometimes he slurred
and it was hard for me to capture what he was saying but

i still felt it

i still felt that there was a human being beside me and we both
were lonely and walking towards the city we loved and it was a
little too cold but the difference was i had everything i needed

Phil and i ate a couple taquitos as i walked him to the bus stop
and he asked for my phone number so i offered it to him but
he didn’t have a phone and i didn’t have a piece of paper

and part of me thought we should walk back and get a piece of
paper but our walk was over and i wished Phil all the best and
as i walked away he said God bless you and i said God bless you too

because i’m no atheist but i’m close enough sometimes to know
that we all have moments of believing in God and that the world
wants to tell you what that means but God is whatever you think

and for me God was whatever brought me out onto that street
and for me God was Phil and was a brief moment of real humanity
and then i had to let God go and he had to let go of me but it’s still with me

it’s still with me

i still feel it

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Bust

when i die
i want to be made into a bust on a plinth
thrown through traffic
and then put in some arthouse
on display
my bald head
and my grizzly beard for all to see
all this so in turn the top third
of this bag of flesh may be eternal

we shadowbox through time
but turbulence is a bitch
faces get marred
black road rash
deer blood on flailing canvas
teeth leaving a mouth in slow motion

you already know how this will end

you already know
the triumphs turn to rubble
the defeat
floats up into the sky
on fire
like chinese wishing paper

in a museum of heads and faces
everyone is watching everyone
everyone is scratching at the surface
trying to break through
brick walls behind thin paper
thin paper behind stale air
stale air behind a dead gaze

seventy sets of eyes

forgetting to breathe

trying to remember what it’s like
to be a human being

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