Wed/Thurs, April 10-11, 2019
These heavy eyelids. TARP bailouts testifying on Capitol Hill back in Washington, D.C. Opening another beer…
The heat was getting to me today. Spent most of the day inside, working. Working as a copywriter. Having a digital meeting around 2 o’clock with some people from all over the world—south China, Turkey, Egypt, and wherever the hell else. New teaching gig. My sweaty mug, a young, bright face. All suntanned. Not giving a shit about the outside world. Sun coming in from the window, shining on the largesse of flowers expatiating oxygen from the third floor, down to the second and first. All green and pink and red. Rosy shit.
I got done the work. And before I had to do a demo class, I was drinking a can of 333. (Vietnamese beer.) I was talking to my girlfriend about our upcoming trip to Berlin, and then the rest of Europe. We’d done some fighting about me putting pressure on her to get our tickets last weekend. She claimed I’d placed some modicum of pressure on her. She intimated that I made it seem like I wanted to go without her. Really, I knew the game. If you waited to pounce (to buy your tickets in a business-like fashion), the prices would get jacked and you’d be left with sore nuts.
“Listen, baby,” I told her, “I’ve been here before…”
She kicked me right in the cajones!!!
She didn’t wanna hear any more of my mansplaining.
After that, I started in on … aw, shit. No. That’s not right.
It was just after I’d finished working on another self-published book. Rejections. Volume 3. I spent four days on it. Lots of drinking. It’s weird going over your old mistakes. Hey. There’s an idea for this issue. Mistakes.
Why not? It’s a scintillating and evocative pathway, this week. My eyeballs are sandpaper and I’m going to drink plenty of beer. Let’s drink to quirkiness, sore nuts, working hard, and mixing your palette up so your girlfriend doesn’t get pissed at you for being a SOLO ENTITY.
I guess I’ll just add that it’s tricky to write so much shit and to realize that it’s just for one person: yourself.
we know about poems
we know you’re a star
we know you played hero today and you’re waiting for an award
that won’t come
we know you have an awesome family
we know you got the promotion only to be sacked like a can
we know you love your kids
they got spleens, livers, testes, and armadillos crawling
outta their assholes
you use makeup to make the boys shiver
we know you got tattoos, bad breath, a hyperventilating father
we know you just got married, he’s an ace
he has a social media presence that makes all the other politicos
thread the needle of their own unworthiness, we know
we should all live, breathe, eat, shit, talk, fuck, dance, work like
we know since your last race, you figured out the answer to
your whole life is a supreme being, untouchable, first place
you like to make fun of other people where it’s safe behind
we know about poems
we know about death
we know about financial ruin
we know what it’s like to lose a family member
on the spokes
we saw that pretty girl, too
we saw her climbing into dark corners, shaking, shivering
for a way out
we know all about her, we whistle and whisper
under our breath
we know you missed out on that new job
we know you’re too afraid to cross the country because of
what you’ll be leaving behind
we know about the potential you keep encased in glass
because you’re afraid
of what others
we know about your scars, pimples, deodorant, sex changes
we know about injustice
we know about the cages on the border
we know that these are all mistakes that will one day be
and my big
I lived on a small street near a school. There were tennis courts behind the school and there was also a big field. In that field, I used to see a bunch of kids playing wiffleball. Two birds, every time they played—those fucking kids—came out to watch them on a telephone wire out front of my house. Actually, it was my parents’ house. But they were dead. (I told people they were dead. They really lived on Long Island. Sometimes, they vacationed to the Hamptons. Both of them had gotten rich as Wall Street brokers for mutual fund companies. I didn’t know what any of that meant. But I welcomed the empty, directionless household.)
It was summertime. And I’d just gotten in a new batch. (Oh, by the way. I’m a drug dealer.) It was good stuff. I’d spent all weekend smoking it and binge-watching old episodes of Full House, the Walking Dead, Step By Step, Charles In Charge, and I forgot the other one.
“How do you get all this shit?” one of my friends asked me, passing me a blunt. We had two of them going. One went east to west, the other north to south.
“Don’t worry about it,” I told him. I had a big red beard. When I grew it out for three or four weeks, it really itched. Especially in the summer. I scratched my beard, sitting in the living room on the L-shaped couch. My friend delivered pizzas at the pizza place nearby. That’s where I’d met him. In fact, I worked there too. But only to sell weed.
“CRACK!” We heard the loud sound of a wiffleball being crushed across the sky. In muffled tones, we heard, “YEAH! THAT’S RIGHT MOTHER FUCKER! YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD THROW ME THE HEAT! I JUST TOOK YOU OUT TO BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER, BITCH!”
“What the hell is that?” My friend asked. He was curious, looking out the window.
“Dude,” I told him, “we got two blunts going.”
“So what?” he looked back at me. “Why don’t you give one to Joshua?”
Joshua was my collie. I named him that after Joshua Tree.
“Dude,” I said, “let’s put these out and go upstairs and jam.”
My friend dropped the curtain, nodding. We went upstairs. He pretended to play the oboe while I strummed a C chord on my father’s old J-160. I think that’s what it was called. It looked like John Lennon’s old acoustic guitar. From Norwegian Wood.
There was a knock at the door. My friend sat, bolted upright.
“You mean Bolt Upright?”
“No,” I responded, “I mean, you’re too uptight.”
“You going to answer that?”
“You know my ex is getting married?”
“Man, so what? She was a crazy bitch anyway.”
KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.
“Dude, get the fucking door!”
I got up and, rubbing my beard, went out through the gypsy beads, green (neon) in my doorway, went down the hallway, climbed the stairs to the door, opened it.
“What?” I said, my eyes half-closed.
“Hey, Ching. You got anything?”
“Huh?” I had my hand over my eyes, the sun was blinding me.
“We’re looking for some chronic.”
I blinked. Twice. Three times. Then I noticed the shapes. One of the kids, I worked with him at the pizza place.
“Yeah, sure. Come on in.”
They walked in, shutting the door behind them. It was dark again.
“My ex said her new boyfriend was ‘elegant’. Can you believe that shit?”
My co-worker laughed. His name was Will.
“What’s that? Your girlfriend has a huge dick?” he said.
They both laughed.
“What’s your friend’s name?” I asked Will.
“This is Tuberculosis.” We shook hands. “We need some weed.”
“Didn’t you just ask me for some?”
“No,” Will said, “you asked me. Remember?”
“Oh.” I paused. “That’s right.”
We were standing at the door, awkwardly.
“So what happened?”
Tuberculosis laughed. “This is a funny story.”
“Yeah,” Will replied, “I know this girl. And I drove out to her place. Well, it’s not her place. But it’s where she’s staying with this dude. And I think he like, gives her pills or something. Anyway, we went there for some weed. And I paid for it. Left. And when we got back, we realized that it was shit weed. LIKE SHIT WEED. I mean, you wouldn’t grow a garden with this shit.”
I yawned. “Oh, right.”
“You all right, man?” Tuberculosis asked me.
“Sure, of course. Just smoked. This new shit. I just got it, it’s really tight.”
“Awesome!” Tuberculosis raised his hands into the air. Will laughed.
“I was just going to say something really dirty…” he said.
But I won’t.
The boys went upstairs to make their arrangement complete. The shades were all drawn and a lava lamp was the only light in the room, all purple, teal and shadowy red. A guitar was strummed, badly. Nobody said very much. A bag was handed over to the two dudes. They smiled, shaking hands, exchanging loot. Somewhere, a loud symphony was playing. Bach. Hmm. Not bad.
“Hey, man,” I said as they were leaving.
“You ever see those two birds outside on the wire?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, every time you come here, those birds show up.”
We all looked outside the front door. The light was inching toward our eyeballs which were now heavily reddened and opaque.
“Aw, shit. You mean those?” Will pointed at the sky through one of the panes of glass.
“Yeah, bro. They always show up, too, when you guys are playing wiffleball.”
“Right,” Will said, “okay, yeah. I think I’ve seen them before.”
I couldn’t tell if he was shitting me or not.
“That’s crazy, dude,” said TB.
“Yeah, now that you mention it. I see them all the time on your street. Always when I’m coming to your house.”
“By the way,” I began, “did you check out that story I showed you?”
I had found out from Will that he liked to write. We walked about it. I wrote my own poems and stories. But I never sent them anywhere, never really showed anybody.
“Why don’t you write one about the birds?” Will suggested.
He and TB headed out the door, thanking me for the weed.
“Fucking kids,” I said as I slowly shut the door behind them, welcoming again the darkness that surrounded all oboes, tenors, trebles and bass instruments.
“Man!” my friend shouted out down the hall.
“What?” I yelled up at him, walking across the foyer and into the kitchen to grab a Kiwi soda.
“THESE BIRDS KEEP SMASHING INTO YOUR WINDOW!”
“So what?” I said to nobody, opening the soda.
Will and TB passed around a joint out in the field. There were red solo cups scattered about, cigarette butts, extra wiffleballs (some were dented) and various virtuosi with chops that coulda cut down ten fields of dandelions with their purity, their splendor, their humility.
“Yo, lemme hit that,” one kid remarked, walking up to them.
He dragged on the white paper, inhaling. Coughing. Spitting.
“Who’s got an extra cigarette?” he wanted to know.
“Here,” TB handed them out.
They went back to their game, two very large hawks circling above.
mistakes, on (this stupid mag ain’t gonna write itself)
I guess my biggest one is that girl I left behind that night
when I was too stupid to understand what it meant
or maybe it was the time I thought I was in love
and cried for 1,000 years on the floor in my parents’ basement
back then, I didn’t care for Jimmy Eat World—
I guess that was
or the karate kicks when I was three years old, giving my twin
switches in the back of his head
and skipping rocks across a lake some years later
I guess an even bigger mistake
would be not saying anything—for years
even when I knew
my back (about me)
I got drunk, drunker than piss and I
I got dizzy, those mistakes
hugging the floor
hiding in basements
drugged out in cars, playing video games for hours and hours and hours and hours and
studying the inner self when I got
I felt like
I was entering
how could that
that made my stomach
and what about those protest signs I held
one that read: OBAMA IS A WALL STREET PUPPET PIMP
some months before his
I mean, it’s all such a waste
or maybe I could get cute and eager about it
and think about the many years into the future
where I meet a Chinese girl, beautiful, smart, funny and sweet
some kinda miracle
telling me: IT’S HUGE!
and taking pictures of
the clothes I folded and the food I cooked
that lead me
Jimmy Eat World
in Da Nang, Vietnam
at 11:52 PM?
will my mother and father remember
the poetry I listened
to from my younger brother
“depression,” he said, speaking of
flaws—what about them?
I won’t get into
some people live their
lives and others waste
so fuck it
I’ll breathe the way I want to
it’ll give me something to write about, I’ll have
as the YouTube algorithm switches
to New Found Glory
and it all falls
“or so goes the
delusion,” I say to the beer bottle.
it all led me here
too many tabs open
and I don’t mean the bar
I mean, just sitting here being a stubborn workaholic
too much skinny bullshit
good sex though
I get to see her glistening skin in the shower, her true smile
she listens to me when I talk
even when it’s repetitive
even when I’m telling her instead of talking to her
I feel sometimes like a scallop, overcooked and flavorless
so I take my time to regroup, get some Zen
in my gutless soul, pretending to be something
being that way
it’s who I am
she deals with the piss and vinegar
of my beerdrenched soul
the strong winds that turned my skin into leather
she cries when we fight right in front of me
and I cry when she turns her back
or maybe when she goes for a walk
and I listen to a song
that hits me
on the elbow
we are here, in this city of sun, tourists, cheap beer
and good food
and I am look-
she is smiling
when I tell her how beautiful she is
when I cook for her—“oh, that was so good! I wanna
“where?” I ask, stupid like a fox after his grub
yes, the couch
the couch, the couch, the
and in the morning, when I bring her a plate of
watermelon dragonfruit (after making her some coffee), she tells me:
“you’re the sweetest
in the world!”
when I am recognizing my mistakes
I get up
to ask her
“hey, do you need any
“yes, baby,” she tells me, “that’s so
and that’s when I realize
that I have done
it must be done
it cannot be
so don’t tell me
I’m done with
the end of
the only mistake I made this morning
is in the bathroom where she’s now singing
and there’s a dog barking across the street
not unlike the street here where we stayed five nights
a street lined with red Vietnam flags, that yellow star
in the middle
and I’m drinking coffee now, a mug white with the name BRYAN scrawled across the top in black it’s a mug I got
in South Florida when I used to travel up and down the coast
for premonitions, I retreated back north and then I went
to get here
she’s out on the front porch, little
stretching in her pink silk pajamas, nothing
“life’s too short!” a song sings
in my ears
“do what you feel…” a love song, to be
and that’s what I’m thinking
about, unplanned, unpracticed and
unrehearsed, ready for the
with hot liquid, steaming
no problems but a second
cup of coffee—somewhere else.