Tuesday, September 19, 2023

I wish that I knew what I know now


In order to avoid sleeping on park benches, I applied for a space in a halfway house. When I got hauled to the ghetto BTT, my intake person was all about me getting housed. Calls here and there eventually resulted in a space.

I tested hot for THC, the only drug (other than tobacco) I’d done in months. A piss test was enough to get me a bed. And that’s where my novel started getting typed from what I’d free-written in marble notebooks for months. There were the bare bones of the first three chapters in those notebooks and my evenings (after my mandatory AA meeting) was spent typing away on my laptop, hotspotting off my phone to keep me wired for research.


Actually, it was you who demanded that I write my novel.

We’d just made love on an open sleeping bag, our cushion bared over pine needles and beneath the dubious shade of an old lodge pole pine. In our post-coital glow, you asked about my nights after the kids were abed. You got the bare bones of a story I was working on, the character sketches I was writing. “Holy fuck, dude, you have to write this story,” you roared as you slapped my sunburned chest.

It wasn’t until I was watching the old woman that I started putting all my ideas together into a narrative whole, skipping out to the patio to smoke and feverishly write in my marble composition books (three, one for each chapter I’d conceived). With time on my hands after the last AA meeting, I started transcribing then revising my scribbles into Word.

One of my fellow inmates mentioned that there was a writer’s group on Meetup, that I might want to run my stuff by them, see what other writers thought of my work. My first time, I brought poetry.

These stones don’t sing out here no more.

 Their dead song’s dead,songs 

don’t get sung no more

so there’s just nothin’

but a sound that don’t make no sense.


These stones don’t sing out here no more.


The bear, the poem,

the plastic flowers gone

got wind scattered and

torn from the white cross we planted.


These stones don’t sing out here no more.


A broken bike

that fell off someone’s truck,

someone movin’ to

some better place for speaking their names.


These stones don’t sing out here no more.


And so I sing,

for them and all of us,

bones above and below,

a song about the forgotten.


And I sing, sing,

tears like branding irons,

words explode on the wind,

“Rise! Fix this broken bike and ride!


3 Doors, Closed


Door #1

When you smash the pots I made for you,

put the shards tip up in the dirt, so they

look like the sails of small boats or

sharks’ teeth in a ravaging maw.


Arrange them in a way that you’ll never

see the pieces as they originally were,

an assembled whole where roots struck

bottom but pushed stems to air and light.


Door #2

If we’re too stiff to dance,

to move without arms

pinioned to priorities

and everyone on our Friends list,

then what the fuck are we doing with what time we have?


Door #3

In the end, you left me with nothing but

an unsigned card

molding in the drawer,


mawkish tropes, doggerel, words you

scanned and assumed

held weight or meaning


(or at least might mean more to me than you).


As days passed, memory decayed in dirt,

too late for burial,

the cards sentiments


an afterthought with a very short shelf-life.


I Miss My Ring


Muted peel, forgotten bell;

the broken seal

of a shotgun shell.


Skin unbound, denuded, free;

a bloodless sound

where your ring would be.


Empty pall, a phantom limb,

where leaves that fall

sing a dirge-like hymn.


Though the sting is fresh and new,

I miss my ring

but I don’t miss you.


The group liked my poetry, offered very supportive feedback. I don’t know shit about poetry, figured they knew what they were talking about. When I mentioned that I was working on a novel, they were insistent that I bring that work in for them to read. I promise, that wasn’t nearly as creepy as I made it sound. It’s because of that (and other) writer’s group that I have a novel finished and ready to publish.

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