I suffer from depression. I believe it was 2008 when I was diagnosed; clinical depression, they called it. Though on the sheet they gave me when I left the appointment, it had been listed as ‘major depressive disorder’ which made me especially anxious–sitting in my car asking myself, oh no, am i doomed?!–as I was yet to realize they were, in fact, one in the same. In truth, I believe I have suffered from depression for my whole life. I remember sitting in my grandmother’s yard alone on a sunny Saturday morning and watching as about one car every few hours drove down her lonely Fairhaven street–Ocean Avenue–and wondering to myself, where are they going? And why am I not going there too? I recall going to the Silver City Galleria around the same time, watching teenagers and adults holding hands with their significant others, smiling and laughing. I remember walking by them and wondering where I fit in, or more accurately, if I would ever fit in. I remember being at St. Joseph’s church with my grandmother at night, watching the priest pontificate and wondering to myself how he could be so sure of something, and what really are the chances that there’s some big guy spying down on us and judging our every move? I also held a secret hope that if God really did exist, he hadn’t been watching my best friend and I as we watched the scrambled porn channels that barely came through on old basic cable, Channels 76 and 81 I believe?
In high school I managed that depression through repression and arrogance, oh and also a 3.5 year romance with a girl who I was too insecure to break up with. But in college, that was where it really came about. So, as I said, in 2008 I was diagnosed and put on some SSRIs–serotonin surge re-uptake inhibitors–a remarkable little drug that prevented serotonin from being reabsorbed after you did something pleasurable and your brain was flooded with it. The pills made me feel dull, like m typically sharp and snappy mind had been gently rounded off. My parents said they made me seem calmer and as if my naturally tempestuous nature had become more manageable. I stopped taking the pills after a few months.
To this day, I am not on any medications. Though, I do still experience depression, usually in short bursts. I used to be incredibly poor at managing it, preferring avoidance and other more nefarious methods of self soothing. But now, after some growth and life experience, I have become much better at working with the hand I’ve been dealt. Though, right now as I’m writing this, I am in the middle of what has been a particularly difficult bout of depression.
January is usually tough for me, probably a result of Seasonal Affective Disorder–the aptly named acronym, SAD. This year is a little different than previous years, as it is my first year teaching and managing a classroom. My responsibilities feel a bit greater, and my time to self-soothe has been significantly limited by those responsibilities. Combine that with the current socio-political situation and we’ve got a regular recipe for depressive paralysis.
Usually with my depression my triggers are erratic and difficult to discern. Given the recent election and the news coverage that’s followed, they have been especially so. For example just two days ago I saw a viral tweet from celebrity baker Duff Goldman calling out Donald Trump for having someone make the EXACT same cake that he had made for President Obama in 2012. I nearly lost my mind. It was the epitome of tastelessness. In that moment, that little fact about a stupid cake proved to me that the man taking the highest position in our government is utterly empty, wholly devoid of taste or tact or grace or any other positive human attribute. It proved to me that Trump can’t even be human, and must actually be some reptilian doing a poor impression of humanity. Now, as I write this, I realize that maybe he isn’t just a reptilian doing an impression. Maybe he’s a reptilian performance artist engaged in a satire, attempting to draw humanity’s attention toward the type of behavior which we value and (apparently) reward. But, regardless of the truth of the situation, a viral tweet turned my brain to depressed goo and made me want to crawl into my bed and wrap myself in sheets and tie them up so I can never get out and nothing can ever get in. Like I said, erratic triggers.
What I did to manage this feeling was put some headphones on and go for a walk where I listened to The Electrician by The Walker Brothers on repeat for about 15 minutes. This is how I do a lot of self-soothing, I create–or consume–art. In other words, instead of letting depression trump me–get it?–I’ve been upping my creative output and intake. Which leads me to what I had initially intended to do with writing this today: admit that as of late I’ve been really bad at managing my creative responsibilities to other people.
I started an indie publishing venture last year, Domesticated Primate, and we’ve been rolling out releases as rapidly as possible, six releases involving 4 artists as of today. I’ve got a few projects on the back-burner that I haven’t given the proper time, a problem which I hope to remedy starting this week. Between taking over a new classroom and dealing with the thunderstorms in my own head, it has been difficult.
Before I push onward, I wanted to give some written time to the projects which we have already published and go a little in depth about each one of them, so I feel as if I have put a satisfying pause on them while I move forward and generate some more output with these artists. I’m going to go in chronological order by release:
*dinosauriaRIDICULA by DR*
Domesticated Primate release DP001: This was my first written release ever. After finding out that I–along with essentially every other employee– was to be laid off from a non-profit that I had willingly left a high-paying sales job to take on, I started to write things. I had written pieces in college, the longest of which was a screenplay with two friends, along with probably a hundred-ish songs and these short, disturbing, and highly confessional pieces (I don’t feel totally comfortable calling them poems) were my return to the written word. I wrote and published them anonymously in booklets made of copier paper and left them around New Bedford for people to find and read. Once the decision was made to start publishing more stuff, including essays I had begun to write, I decided to research binding and how I could go about getting more professionally done copies made, eventually compiling the pieces, designing the cover, formatting the book and releasing it as dinosauriaRIDICULA: The first 50. Below, I have included two short pieces from it, entitled “a moment,” and “dead in a ditch”:
lying on a trampoline, a young boy, looks at the sky:
sweat, now growing cold from the night air, draws a pattern down the sides of his shirt.
as he inhales,
the sweet briny smell of the beach
tickles his nose.
he pictures small waves dancing onto the shore.
in the morning he will walk down there
with his dog
and collect sea glass.
the sky has faded to a dark blue,
most stars are obstructed
by the bright lights
of a nearby city.
his father prepares steaks on a charcoal grill.
his mother is driving home
after working a double at the restaurant.
His dog lays
curled up by his grandmother’s feet,
who in her bathrobe
wheel of fortune in the living room.
the type of moment
so intensely simple
so fiercely peaceful
that it haunts you
for the rest
dead in a ditch:
A fleeting, flitting, fumbling thought
tumbles and turbules and flagrants
and ties in a cinch.
and collapses asleep
on a bench.
It buys a newspaper.
It steals someone’s hat.
It resents both its parents for making it fat.
It dirties the sheets.
It goes out for brunch.
It files its taxes and drinks coffee
But mostly this thought, it fleets and it’s flits
and one day will die in an
*False Profits by Nick LeBlanc*
Domesticated Primated release DP002: As I wrote the short pieces that became dinosauriaRIDICULA, I found myself wanting to write something longer. These longer things became essays, almost 50 of them. They were unedited and written in a conversational style. After collecting them and giving them a once over, I decided this would be the second release. Though, the essays weren’t long enough to alone constitute a book, so I began stretching my shorter poems and pieces into longer short stories, and I even took a long-gestating idea for a graphic novel about a guy getting high and doing his laundry and committed it to script form. I compiled all of these pieces and released them as False Profits, a title taken from a short story I included in the collection and which I have also included below. This was a cathartic book to write and compile, and I credit it with being the thing that proved to me that I was capable of committing to long-form writing, something that would finally appear with my next release.
Words furiously burst from his lips, his eyes burn like flickering stars, his gait long and confident. An hour in already, and he’s still fascinating.
“Does any of that compute? And how does it make you feel? You are eight times more likely to die at the hand of a domestic police officer than to be killed by a foreign terrorist, yet the ratio of anti-terrorism programming on basic cable programs to news coverage of police brutality is 8:1.”
I sit, gaze transfixed, mesmerized by his performance. His radiates an intense energy, as if his tightly buttoned collar is the only thing preventing him from bursting into millions of tiny pieces like some humanoid supernova. True, I was invited to this conference and yes, I nearly declined. But, oh how I now regret that initial doubt, how embarrassing my lack of faith.
The pamphlet had taunted me, “Come see Shadow, a voice of the New Consciousness Movement.” It advertised his many meetings with dignified characters, and even featured a quote from the Dalai Llama praising him as ‘just about the closest thing to a modern-day street prophet.’ I was intrigued, but suspicious. Boy, was I wrong, this man, this Shadow, he’s it. What a speaker, what a perspective! He’s the real thing!
He stops his pacing at the front of the stage and turns outward, facing us, “Perhaps strangest,” hands waving across his chest, arms outstretched, “In Canada during the 1970s, there was an incredible drought, and the longer it lasted, the higher sales went for Norton Simon and his newly acquired soda brand, Canada Dry.”
Tiny pockets of muted chuckling are heard across the room, I remain quiet, fully absorbed.
“Why do I tell you this? Why does any of it matter? I hear you. I do. You aren’t saying it, but I hear you. ‘Spurious! Spurious! Spurious!’ you say! ‘Irrelevant!’ I can feel it in your gaze, your mind absconds at the thought of these strange connections, these synchronicities.”
A pause, then affecting a comically serious intonation, he continues, “All your life, you have been fed, ‘correlation does not imply causality.’ Pish-posh, pish-posh, right? Well not so fast, weary travelers, I’m here to tell you that’s true!”
He drops down to his knees, this Shadow, he lowers his voice to just above audible, eyes fixed outward, unflinching, looking through his audience, “But,” he raises his index finger toward the ceiling, punctuating his speech, practically hissing, “Where it does not imply causality, correlation does imply correlation.”
We, his witnesses, erupt in cheers. Applause and whooping rings out from the banquet hall’s rafters. We are enraptured.
“The English definition of correlation is, ‘A causal, complementary, parallel, or reciprocal relationship, especially a structural, functional, or qualitative correspondence between two comparable entities.’ How perfect!”
He pulls down a screen from the back wall of a stage, four large, crimson words emblazoned across it.
“The parts of that definition that we are going to focus on are, reciprocal, parallel, structural, and complementary,” he says, slapping at each word on the poster with his index finger.
“We are going to look at both the How’s, and the Why’s. But first I want you to imagine a deep blue pool of still water.”
The lighting changes, the room now cast in a gentle cerulean, angry red words now pitched in a placid purple glow.
He continues, mellifluously, drawing his witnesses in, “into that pool, we drop something—what the something is, is of no concern, only that the something is of substantial weight.”
A pause, dramatic.
“When that something is dropped, it sinks to the bottom and tiny waves ripple outward from it, right? We’ve all seen it before, the concentric circles gradually increasing in size…now imagine, imagine if we dropped two things at the same time right next to one another. What would happen?”
No one responds, we weren’t expecting this question.
His hands rest by his side, palms upward, awaiting the response, “Well, what would happen, who has an idea?”
I quickly shoot my hand up as if I was struck by a lightning bolt. Practically jumping out of my seat, I engage with him, this Shadow, “I guess, uh, the waves would hit each other? Like, bounce off one another?” I stutter, unconfidently.
“You sir,” he points directly at me, glare sharp, smile wide, “Have just discovered the origins of existence as we know it!”
He speaks for over an hour, weaving an impenetrably thick tale of synchronicitous happenings, burying his aforementioned correlations in layers and layers of complex, manifold significance. He tells us that each one of us is special. He tells us that each of our lives is utterly meaningless. He inoculates us with confidence in the infinite strange loop of existence, comforting our deeply harbored anxious fears of the impermanent.
By the end of the monologue, he is sweating, we are breathless. I am enlightened, edified, thrilled. He has taken us from this poorly ventilated banquet hall and dragged us across the universe. We have been made privy to the parallel lines of time and space and the reciprocal relationships that fortify their configurations. We have been learnt in the structural rigidity of our perception, and taught that just by slightly altering it, we can change all of creation—and we learn that it is called ‘creation’ as it has been created by our own minds which are in itself creations of a potentially unconscious mass super-consciousness that may or may not be hiding from itself by breaking up its perceptions into little tiny pieces called our ‘minds.’ Utterly fascinating.
“Thank you,” Shadow responds to our rapturous applause at his conclusion, “Are there any questions or clarifications needed?”
I reflect on his words. I consider his personal story of growth; from privilege to resentment to selfhatred to awakening. I can’t find anything to ask. He answers a few clarifying questions, takes a bow, and exits the stage. The lights come up around us. Glasses clink together and echo, getting taken away by waiters sweating in their standard-issue hotel neckties.
An hour or so later after socializing with some of the other attendees, I am leaving the banquet hall and stumble across Shadow walking to his car in the parking lot. He is carrying a box of rolled up posters and informational pamphlets.
“Can’t get someone to do that for you, Shadow?” I ask, being friendly, hoping to strike a conversation.
He catches my eye and smiles dismissively, pressing onward toward his vehicle. I follow him, curious. It is an older German wagon, trunk full of boxes similar to the one he carries.
“Your presentation was great, thank you.”
He nods his head, acknowledging my praise, dropping his key as he fumbles to unlock the door. I reach down and pick it up for him, unlocking his door on the way up.
“Thank you,” he responds, resting the box on the roof of his car, collared shirt now unbuttoned, a sweaty yellowed-white undershirt beneath it.
“You were a great presenter. That must be exhausting. Do you enjoy it?”
“Honestly,” feigning an exhausted smile, “not really.”
Surprised, I respond, “That’s unexpected—”
“Do you know the story of Pagliacci?” he spits out, interrupting, loading his box in the trunk. Is he trying to shoo me away?
“Not that I can remember,” I say.
How could he not enjoy presenting like that? He seems so passionate, so informed. To have that knowledge, to be able to share it…I envy that ability, and I am certain almost anyone would, conscious or otherwise. And if he doesn’t enjoy it, why do it? It would seem violate his whole philosophy to not enjoy sharing his knowledge. I’m having a very hard time buying his assertion.
Now sitting in the driver seat, window rolled down, he looks up at me as he lights a cigarette, “Thanks again for—”
I just have to know, I can’t hold it back, “Why do it? What more cause do you need to enjoy that experience? It was enlightening, and I spoke with the other attendees, I know that’s universal, doesn’t that feel good at least?”
He remains silent, staring up at me, flicking the cigarette against the window, ashes falling to the pavement below.
I start to feel sick, almost, stomach churning over. What’s that they say about meeting your idols?
“Doesn’t it?” I nervously repeat.
He huffs, annoyed, “How much did you pay for a ticket?”
“Forty-five dollars, why?”
No response, only cigarette ashes.
I continue, nervously craving Shadow’s reassurance, hoping there’s more to the story, “Given your philosophy, and your whole presentation, wouldn’t that be the only motivation you need, to help wake others up, isn’t that true? That’s has be true.”
He takes a drag and drops his cigarette, lit end still burning by my feet.
Blowing out smoke, “False,” he pauses, eyes fixed on the steering wheel, “profits,” he concludes and drives away.
*OTHER PEOPLE by Nick LeBlanc*
Domesticated Primate release DP003: This release means an awful lot to me. It’s my first full book. More a novella than a novel proper, this little beauty of a book bursts with so much energy and thoughts that have been flying through my brain for years. Inspired by attending parties out of obligation and being forced to watch people mill about, you dive into the minds of nameless attendees at a random holiday party and weave in and out of their consciousnesses until it all swirls together and doubles back and forms the wacky piece of a darkly comic puzzle. Very proud of this work. It even has an amazing cover done by the artist Meaggsy, our first collaboration. Below I have included the first two chapters. If I was forced to recommend you read one thing that I have written, this is that thing.
You’re at a party. It’s the sort of party where everyone seems just oh-so appropriately attired, like a scene from a competition where the winner is rewarded for appearing the least threatening.
The type of party where the eggnog is purposefully spiked, imbued with just enough brandy to lubricate the crusty bread-ends of stale conversation, yet not enough to risk the social liability of an individual delivering a romantically exaggerated soliloquy on the complicated nature of his reality and how it all just matters, man.
It’s the sort of shindig your upper-middle class grandparents may have gone to in the 1950s where discussing religion and politics was explicitly frowned upon but smoking indoors was socially acceptable. Where a lime JELL-O mold bundt cake stuffed with pineapples and sour cream represented a high watermark of American culture, and the warm familiarity of Bing Crosby’s voice crackled out of the old Victrola positioned thoughtfully adjacent to the wet bar, complete with faux crystal carafes displaying an ambered rainbow of mystery spirits.
It’s the type of get-together where obligation encourages your attendance, where your absence would make for a reputational scourge, but your arrival goes unnoticed.
You’re alone and your hands are cold, you left your gloves in your coat that you hung on the antique-looking, walnut-stained rack by the entrance. The welcome mat was dusted with snow from the guests’ boots and peppered by pine needles fallen from a wreath framing the heavy wooden door’s pineapple-shaped knocker. With every guest’s entrance, the door swings and another batch of needles falls from the wreath. Judging by the size of the pile, this party has quite a few attendees.
You saw your own collection of needles fall from the wreath to the mat as a light skinned woman with hair of brunette-turned-grey and particularly soft features had opened the door and welcomed you as a guest. You thanked her. Surely she wasn’t the host? Who is hosting this party anyway? In fact, what was it that brought you here in the first place? That’s strange.
Oh well, just chalk it up to a lack of sleep, or a lack of caffeine. After all, these holiday parties start to feel white-washed after a while, like nameless responsibilities hosted by, and populated with, ghosts.
You can smell the gin on her breath as she opens her mouth. Her face is flushed, eyes glassy… maybe not though, that could just be how they normally are. When people have big eyes like that it’s sometimes hard to tell. Especially when they’re blue. It might just be the way the lights are reflecting off of her irises. Or maybe she just came back in from smoking and she’s readjusting to being indoors. She looks like she’s a smoker, you think. But what does that even really mean? That’s just you being unfair and judgmental, yes, definitely that. But it’s not like there’s anything really wrong with smoking, right? So why would you even think there’s anything judgmental about that? Or is there something wrong with it? Well, clearly you must think so if you assumed that you passed an unfair judgment without having any evidence beyond her appearance…and her breath. Well what is it about her appearance that made you think that? Was it her hair? Maybe her complexion? What the hell are you even thinking about? And why does it matter? She approached you, so clearly she must have something to say. Maybe she wants you. That wouldn’t be so bad… you don’t like smoking, but she’s attractive enough and who even knows if she’s a smoker anyway? At this point, that’s just an empty presumption. You’re surprised that you can smell the gin. There was that terrible cold that you just got over, you had to call out of work for two days because you couldn’t even taste or smell anything that you were making. You feel bad for whomever it was that ordered the Bolognese this past week, it definitely was under-seasoned. Who even drinks gin anymore? Isn’t that passé? That kind of went out of style, didn’t it? Whiskey’s the new thing these days. There was that article the other day talking about the imminent shortage of bourbon next year if sales keep increasing. That makes sense, you think. Gin really just kind of tastes like scotch tape and Christmas trees. Though you did have that gin fizzy drink a while back that was made with some small batch herbal botanical type gin-thing and egg whites. Who was it that made that for you? You were at some other holiday party, couldn’t have been that long ago. Actually…was that earlier tonight? Man, it feels like you’ve been at this party for ages. This woman’s breath definitely is more of the scotch tape and Christmas tree variety gin, some well drink from the bar over there. Hopefully she’s had gin and she doesn’t just breathe out this fiery booze smell constantly. That could be the sign of an illness, you remember reading about something to do with metabolism that caused people to have breath that smells like fermented raspberries. That’s definitely not what this smell is, but maybe it’s some version of that? Anyway, what does this skinny woman with glassy blue eyes want with you? Maybe she’s trying to get by you, what’s on the table behind you? Well those are some nice bottles, and oh…there’s the radio. That must be it. You skirt to the side to let ole gin breath here pass you by and get to the radio but she doesn’t move. Uh-oh, did she say something and you didn’t hear it? Had she asked you a question that you had inadvertently ignored while you were busy thinking about her smoking habits? Maybe you’re just making that up. It was probably a cough. Though you probably would have noticed her cough because you’re thinking about her smoking so much. Goddamnit, you’re so stupid, who cares about the smoking anyway? So stupid. Just let her get the words out so you can see what she wants with us anyway. Wait…Us? What’s us? Who’s us? Who’s this “us” that we’re talking about now? Shouldn’t it just be “I”? Or who was “you”? Am I you? Are we us? Great, we’ve, I’ve, you’ve really done it now. I guess I, you, me, we never really thought about it that way before? Have we been talking like this the whole time? What does that mean? Should I, we, be concerned? Are we…us…am I okay? Woof, take a breath. Man, we, I need to drink. But we, us, me don’t even drink that often now do we, us, I? Oh boy, you’re…we’re in a real pickle now. Oh no, how long have we, I been standing here? She must have said something by now. Apparently she’s interested in us, me, because she’s still standing there. Maybe I, we, us, me, you should offer her a drink? She definitely wants gin, we know that much. But where is the gin? How are we, I, you, supposed to find that, all we, I, us, me, have behind us are those gaudy whiskey carafes. And what if she thinks it’s lame for us, me to offer her that? Last place we, I, you were at only had whiskey. What is it that we’re, I’m, drinking right now anyway, and who made it for me, us? Was it him? That guy over there talking to the black guy with the scarf? He looked at you, us…I, me, in a way we, I, you didn’t feel too comfortable about. But it’s not because he’s black, I’m not…we’re not…you’re not racist or anything. Grampa was though, that vicious bastard. We like this drink better than that gin one I was thinking about earlier, kind of sweet and smokey. Oooh, smokey! Maybe she’ll go for that, I should try to find whoever made it for me and come back to her when I, we, us, you have it all put together a little more. But usually I’m, you’re, we’re successful when we, I, you just sort of let the words fall out of…
Tapping you, I, us, on the shoulder, the thin waif with the eyes of a blue million miles and breath like a gin-soaked daisy field parts her red lips and requests a cigarette.
*Lark Lurks by Josh Vidal*
Domesticated Primate release DP004: This is a 100+ page poem by a writer/musician who chose to credit himself as Josh Vidal for this work. It’s hallucinatory with heavy imagery and a strong rhyme scheme cleverly obscured by the formatting of the stanzas. The cover was done by artist John Steele. I have collaborated with this artist many times, usually musically. This read is a real trip, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of tangled up imagery without many answers. Below I have included a few stanzas from the beginning of the book.
Working word. Chirping bird. Pleasantly complacent. Three times. Dirty socks. 9 short of 30 knocks and shouting.
A vacant place to blanket space. No temptation. Slow sensation. Random man. Tandem plan. No thank you.
Jubilant parade of mass. Gentle as a blade of grass. Wait for the charade to pass. Even all destruction can be building. Translucent figures pass your eyes and tally to amass your lies. Judged without a wig and robe & nudged about a hidden globe. In and out, you pass and go. To some, it’s just a fashion show but I have seen the passion glow and grow in all and nothing. Participate. A cycle known. I won’t need a microphone or microscope or spite to cope. A telescope or telegraph. A telephone or metronome. Just a home. We’re nesting.
Happy trails, sappy tales and hats off!
Carted to infantile spin. Leave me to my gentile skin. I won’t partake in blood or meat for idols.
Dicey knees and pricey fees. Sighing for relief. Date like a countdown.
Crawling on the carpet. Sectioned from the hardwood. Mom hit a pothole. Arm got scarred good.
Around a grave matter.
Gabriel has made me still. In mountains of saints like dogs. By the tracks. I eye the stacks. Smothered dragon. Covered wagon or a plane. Sure to gain an entrance. Maybe on this afternoon- I’ll be hearing laughter soon. This game is tedious. I’m glad it’s over. Tree of life. Forbidden fruit. Digging for the hidden loot. Pass the shovel. Dusty boots. Shaking off the rusty roots. Rain can mingle on about with metal. Sepulture low/High on God. Defy on, odd. So righteous.
You Try my best.
When time comes.
Repeating. Deleting. Defeating. Depleting. Official.
You know what they do to such kind of men who knew too much. Well at least they try.
*What’s Next? by Nick LeBlanc, Brandon Cabral*
Domesticated Primate release DP005: Brandon is a photographer who works solely with film. I wrote the play that accompanies his photographs about information theory and the role that time, decay, and relativity play in the processing of information. Much of my inspiration was taken from quantum theory and philosophical thought experiments such as Maxwell’s Demon and Schroedinger’s Cat. Brandon’s work with expired film was the basis for this theme, where he explores the effect that decaying film has on the capturing of a given image. Meaggsy again collaborated with us in creating clay figurines of the two main characters that were used in an installation version of the piece. This release is an 8×8 coffee table style book and is one of the more conceptually ambitious pieces we’ve done. The idea was to bring the experience of a stage show to a book. Below I have included one image and it’s corresponding dialog from the release.
ERWIN: (sarcastically) You’ve convinced me. I’ll leave a nickel on the table.
MAXWELL: These kids…don’t even know what they got now.
ERWIN: Adolescent hope.
MAXWELL: In the air. (sniffles)
ERWIN: I know, I know, I know.
MAXWELL: The shadow of a giant.
ERWIN: My mistake.
*OUROBOROS by Nick LeBlanc*
Domesticated Primate release 006: OUROBOROS is a poetry collection. The poems are all thematically linked through discussion of time, hidden intentions, memory, the infinite return, and some other strange ideas. It’s a collection I am very proud of, I feel that with t I have accomplished a true poetry collection in the classic sense, where one piece is essentially linked to the next, and that they all build toward a short, and surprisingly hopefully climax. Below I have included the title poem from the collection which ends on a half finished sentence, a thought meant to be completed by the first line of the poem.
just an image.
in late summer, standing on a back porch.
the deck is unfinished,
splinters tug at the bottom of our feet,
the adults wear sandals
but I am barefoot, indestructible,
my feet callused over from the hot sand and broken seashells
at grandmother’s beach.
–now, be careful not to drag your toes or you’ll be bleeding,
I’m already bleeding
from a mosquito bite on my left leg.
it was very humid this afternoon but now the breeze has picked up.
oak trees, elm trees,
rain from last night collected in puddles in the forest behind the house.
marinated steak sizz-izz-izz-izzzling on a charcoal grill.
my lungs hurt,
we were playing volleyball,
we were playing tag,
we were filling buckets with dirt.
now they are playing wiffleball,
and I am bleeding.
they are playing.
my shirt is wet from sweat,
my shorts are wet from sweat,
the inside of my legs are a rash
from the netting in my bathing suit.
–cochon! cochon! petit cochon! honkyhonky-honk!
digging in a freezer, there’s a pie, peanut butter pie.
I can smell Freon.
there are ice crystals on my fingertips.
my fingers are icicles.
my arms are icicles.
my hair like a spider, prickling my forehead, tickling the tip of my nose.
pastrami and sandwich spread and magazines.
washing my hands.
a dream/memory of adolescence–
muscles weak from fighting salt water,
feet sinking in sand,
shards of broken cockle shells stab at the arches of my feet,
small bits of rock and shell cling to my shins,
held there by clotting blood,
my sunburnt lips crack
as I open my mouth
and call for my parents,
they stand just above a seaweed line
created a few hours earlier
during high tide.
my father with his big glasses and rough palms
holds out his hand, beckoning me.
my sandals lost in the ocean, pried from my feet by low tide’s rank muck,
carried away by the riptide.
waves kicking at my heels,
I see a jellyfish,
its tentacles taunting me,
the stinging rash on my back reminding me of its extraterrestrial danger,
my feet slide deeper in the shore’s unsteady sand
craggy pebbles tuck themselves into the webbing between my toes.
I try to lift a foot and fall to my knees again,
the wedding ring on my father’s thick finger shines in the oppressive glare of the mid-afternoon sun.
His fingers curl and extend as he calls me up the beach, brushing sand off of his shorts carried there by wind, tumbled from a dune somewhere behind where my mother contentedly sits, rummaging through the cooler,
a cigarette dangling between her full lips.
tennis balls pounding on a brick wall,
hot dogs & sour candy,
soles of sandals slippery and sandy
broken glass & cigarette butts,
a lawnmower kicks to life and paints the air green.
bouncing on the corner of an inflated dinghy,
three hole punched paper, reinforced.
swinging a small mallet at a rock,
minerals chipping and flying into your eye,
sand in my eye,
salt in my eye,
standing in water—waist deep,
arms crossed over my chest,
hands buried in my armpits.
a school bus confession & sea glass smashing on a windshield.
–he’s my friend, not yours.
& a punch in the mouth.
peeling skin off of my back,
the shower pelting my skin,
naked at a pond with my best friend
chasing cocker spaniels and picking leeches off of my legs.
watching a crab’s shell turn red in boiling water.
getting an ice cream headache from vanilla and strawberry soft serve,
sweat dampening pants,
sliding in desk chairs in late june.
Remembering or Imagining?
in a classmate’s pool, watching ___’s bathing suit fall off playing chicken,
at the beach, watching ___’s bathing suit fall off in the waves,
at the pond, seeing right through ___’s bathing suit,
in Dad’s pool pulling ___’s bathing suit off,
& more & more & more…
sweating and hungover, the road was pitted & potholed,
plastic from the fender cracked off,
climbing on rocks, telling lies,
listening to stories about other people at other times,
knowing those times were better,
knowing those times were longed for,
we watch a puppy crawl in between us,
and the wind starts blowing.
throwing up in the back of a hot dog shop,
wearing an expensive skirt,
bloated from drinking,
tired from running a mile that morning,
hoping my parents didn’t hear us,
defending me to her father.
I’m wrong. She’s right.
Travelling or Remembering?
in the future, in a foreign place, with needles stuck in my bottom lip,
I met the woman who had married me.
she told me about him:
she had divorced him and was travelling around the world with her best friend.
she told him that he had become successful and well-respected,
that he loved women
but that he couldn’t be loved,
that he wouldn’t let her love him,
or any of his other lovers love him,
that he wouldn’t let anyone love him,
even his own son.
because he was afraid,
like a child.
–those cliffs will crumble, so be careful.
at a desk,
blue carpeted walls—waist high,
a glass of water sweating,
leaving the impression of an incomplete circle,
one end chasing the other,
like a dragon—like me,
like a snake—like me,
like an ouroboros.
is that why I neurotically pick my cuticles?
is that why I eat the skin?
is that why I fill my body with substances?
is that why I destroy my body with chemicals?
can I complete the circle?
is the answer in the past?
in the past, sitting in a desk
with a hard-on
willing myself into that eventuality.
is that why my private wishes always seem to come true?
is that why I’m forced to live out my fantasies?
let me tell you how quickly a fulfilled wish can crumple you.
let me tell you how quickly a wish fulfilled can crumple you.
let me tell you.
–hoo boy, let me tell you.
Is it a matter of creating or a matter of remembering?
Why can I remember the past and anticipate the future?
Am I remembering a memory?
Or reminding myself of an eventuality?
Can my creation be original?
Or am I simply reminding a creation of itself?
Is the power in perception?
I know I can create, I think
I think I know I can remember, right?
Or at least I feel like I can remember
Or maybe it’s
So, that’s what we’ve done so far. I’m ready to move forward. Are you?
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