By the time one has learned how to live,
there isn’t much time left to profit
from what one has learned.
And it’s too late to still be learning,
too late to still be burning,
to come to terms with the past
by learning the easiest things last.
I can feel time passing me by,
speeding up as I slow down,
creating the kind of deceptive, reflexive glory
that happens when the speed of the past
overtakes the slowed down present.
I was riding into the promise
of a life without limits,
infinitely rich with possibilities,
when the future suddenly turned into the past.
And looking back upon it,
it wasn’t hugely satisfying.
Why is it that I only ever notice my gut in motel room mirrors?
Perhaps obesity is contagious in these parts,
the natural result of pride and fear.
And why am I not noticed here?
Barely branded by sidelong glances
in one dead-eyed town after another
by a populace whose chief talent lies in the ability
to instantly distrust anything they don’t understand.
The feeling is mutual.
I have passed like a ghost through your cities,
scavenging for scraps of the past.
I have rambled, ambled, bled your cities dry,
arriving at the end of the trail of trash,
weighed down on the great white way,
on tired streets of dead blood-red brick.
And I have found the old buildings,
in all their purity, perfectly preserved, in paint
on the sides of new buildings
in towns like silences
that need not be filled.
And there is nothing left anywhere
that hasn’t been turned over and undermined
For in this tarnished day and age
the luster of everything must be restored
and celebrated with meat and sugar,
and a soundtrack of feigned emotion.
There’s a lot of ugly laughter in this world:
stranded in other people’s reality;
trapped by freedom and vexed
by pointless innovations in a homogeneity
somehow born of distance and inconsistency.
Discovering myself again
as a useless member of society:
belonging nowhere, only wishing
I wasn’t wishing
I wasn’t here.
Meditating, amid ruins,
upon the ruin of myself,
realizing that the decline of all I hold dear
can be traced to the exact moment
that I first became
Published in Dialectical Anthropology Vol.34 No.2, June 2010
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.