Contact with anybody
who has produced work of quality
fills me with a thwarted yearning empathy,
an implausible sense of fraternity,
a melancholy sting. Regret and resentment
gnawing at me, eating me alive.
This is what you reap
when you haven’t sown anything.
Contact with anybody
I don’t understand people
who claim that they have no regrets in life;
who insist, out of gratitude, pride or ignorance,
that they wouldn’t want to change a thing.
My life is a raging river of regret, flowing
into a sea of shame. There is very little
I wouldn’t do differently if given a second chance.
I always knew I’d end up feeling this way:
It was a setup. Regret was something
I worked towards, something I felt I had to earn.
And now, naturally, I regret that too.
I measure my life by other people’s milestones.
All this evasion, absorption and accumulation
provides a foundation in tradition,
a rich vein of consolation.
Art, like death, makes life more interesting.
And without it: as unthinkable as love
without pity, or a selfless eulogy.
But the bondage of receptivity
compares most unfavorably
with the selflessness of productivity.
I am the stale receptor, the superfluous accumulator,
the redundant completist trapped
in his cave of musty retention,
buried under years of absorption… unaborted;
decades of consumption… consumed,
sacrificed at the altar of other people’s art,
while everything else fell apart.
Pondering, at last, all the pointless consolation;
questioning if it was really necessary
to devour entire genres until I was crapulous
from gorging myself on culture,
As if it were some kind of achievement
to accumulate all this knowledge
that will die with me.
So that on my headstone it will read:
that I read and lived a lot of fiction…
that Art ruined my Life.
Snow falls outside the hotel window,
floating carelessly through the air…
and I don’t care.
The town spreads out below me:
A sprawling red brick dream,
with white capped peaks beyond.
But I don’t respond.
Crushing boredom, grueling emptiness,
This is exactly what I came here for.
There is nothing more.
The snow brings silence with it,
sinking into the frozen darkness of a Sunday night.
On these tired, sour, leaden streets,
the bitter desolation is too much to take
for very long. I return to my station:
Stretched out on a bed,
gazing at a distant mountain range
or staring at a faucet in a trance.
It’s not refreshing, it doesn’t seem strange
and seductive, as it appeared in advance.
Far from the City of Refuge,
with no practical scheme,
constantly ruing the latest version
of what might have been; emptying myself
into the emptiness, negotiating the rush,
as a pick-up truck plows through the slush;
and I resign myself to another night, another day,
serving out a sentence.
I told myself I’d stay.
Outsiders here are quickly identified:
they’re clean shaven.
I observe the bartender’s warmth
with other customers.
Surrounded by laughter,
I watch the bubbles in my beer,
shooting from the bottom of the glass
to a rapidly nearing surface, evenly spaced,
like asteroids in a primitive video game,
and leave unthanked.
On the street a creature is drawn to me:
A vicious black dog, grudgingly restrained
by an unapologetic owner.
These excursions strike me now,
as they always strike me at this point,
as being selfish and pointless.
What am I doing here?
When will I learn?
Despite all the goodwill I brought with me,
the place gave me nothing in return.