Day 1: Never the Same One Twice

Photo by Cris Saur on Unsplash

Never the Same One Twice

I lie in bed
a dreaded lie
a lying beheaded liar

a fly caught dead
failing to conceive
the clear pane lying ahead
lying to him

dreading the lies I’ll conspire
constructing in my head

which is a lie
subconsciously formed
before the first lie
coalesced by will
my dream lies

like the rug
awaiting my shiftless feet
and restless legs
egging me on

that I missed the alarm
by two lying-assed minutes
dooming me to what lies
in shadow two minutes ago

which was only ego
yielding to id as I slid
from lying to sitting
grasping at evaporating nothing

warning me that nothing is
as it seems even within
the busted seams
of interrupted dreams

that scream fuck everything
when asked if I slept well
as if I could tell time
and reason from rhyme

and sure
everything’s fine I guess
but I digress
let’s pretend we’re not
because at least we’ll regress
to a partial truth.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 1: “a self-portrait poem in which you make a specific action a metaphor for your life – one that typically isn’t done all that often, or only in specific circumstances. For example, bowling, or shopping for socks, or shoveling snow, or teaching a child to tie its shoes.”

Four Ways of Commiserating with Indifference

Photo by v2osk on Unsplash

Four Ways of Commiserating with Indifference

1.
She confessed,
I’m just really lonely now,
you know?

I know, I replied,
having been lonely for
as long as I could recall.

I’m afraid, she said.

I know, I replied,
adding with certainty,
but you’ll survive this.

I know, she said,
it’s just scary with
all this uncertainty.

I didn’t reply, knowing
uncertainty is the
only certainty.

2.
How are you holding up?
is what he asked.

As well as can be expected,
was my reply, adding,
And you?

I feel the desire to go
do something, he said.

I’m not quite there yet,
I replied,
but I get it.

Just don’t like being told
what to do, he said.

I didn’t reply,
having spent much of my life
doing what I was told.

After a moment, he said,
I feel like you’ve been
preparing for this moment
your entire life.

Not this specific moment,
I said, but yeah,
I’m good, for now.

3.
How are you holding up?
I asked her.

I’m ready for all this
to be over, she replied.

Me too, I lied.

I know we have it
better than most, she added,
so I try not to complain.

I know what you mean,
I agreed with her
sincerely this time.

4.
She asked me,
how can anyone
observe the death, suffering,

the financial and emotional
hardships of our
brothers and sisters,
and feel nothing for them?

How can anyone
continue their selfish ways
in the face of this calamity?

I don’t know,
I replied with a shrug,
and I didn’t.
***

Raising no Girl

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Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

Raising no Girl

I saw it, plainly;

Just after his ill-advised drunken roughening
of his eldest child; a traditional, time-tested
tempering of adolescent ebony male steel
for a blackened, heartless, aggressive, manly world,
as was the loving intent lovingly lent to me
from him, a scruff-grabbing, face-slapping heirloom
passed down through generations of blunted mentorship.

I spied it briefly,

but it was there behind the noxious bravado,
deeper than dreaded defiance compelling him
to press his preteen into a flinty real man,
despite whimpering protests from soft, weak women;
yielding aunts, sisters, mothers wielding empathy
like mewling wussified consolation prizes
world-weary women who ironically knew well-
enough real pain to know better without having
to see it; who could blame them; they’re only women.

They don’t know what it’s like for a modern black man
to be crushed by callous strangers in a hard world;
only the intimacy of a bone-rattling
thump in the chest by a trusted father-figure
can prepare a young black boy for a crapsack world;
accept this gift in stoic silence, pay if forward,
and you best not shed a fuckin’ tear, young-blood, ya hear?

Yeah, I heard the words, and my chest burned, and
my face stung with blood flowing to the cheek-
capillaries of the light palm-strike, and the
lump in my throat sought exit in a sob
I denied, but in bracing to breathe, see,

there; I caught a glimpse.

“See? He ain’t hurt!” crowed dad, like a boss.
“That’s my boy! I know my fuckin’ son!
He ain’t no bitch! Ain’t that right, lil’ nigga?”

But when he asked for my co-sign, that’s when I saw it.
I saw it for the first time firsthand; buried within
the recesses of his whiskey-soaked eyes were hints
of its depths; similar scenes like this played, replayed
countless times over generations, his mentors
daring him not to cry after betraying him
with brutality-as-brotherly-love, calloused
hands hardening him for a world of hatred and
intolerance, his mentors’ elder brothers, uncles
delivering the same painful, loving lesson,
perhaps extending back to the days of shackles,
whips, toiling under another man’s burden
who saw us as less than three-fifths of a person.

Within that instant, that fraction of a second,
I saw in father’s eyes, a gaping, festering
generational wound not soothed by gulping whiskey;
my father’s pain leered at me across decades,
bloodshot and vile, that tough-love message twisted and
mangled, much like our very ancestry.

“Don’t cry.
Do not cry.
Not here, not now,
not ever.”

“If you cry,
I’ll give you something
to really cry about.”

“Don’t you dare fuckin’ cry, boy.”

“A real man don’t cry.”

“Bury your pain like a man.”

“You better not cry, boy.
The women are watching.”

Please don’t cry, boy.
If you do, shit,
I might cry too.”

“If you cry right now,
I’ll cry because you’re in pain,
because I caused it.”

“If I cry because I’m the cause of your pain,
then the cause of what I’ve done to you
will amount to absolutely nothing.”

“If you cry and then I cry,
then that can only mean
the way we’ve been told to live our lives
is just a bunch of bullshit.”

“If we cry right here, right now, together,
then that would mean compassion should’ve been
our strength, that yielding was the key the whole time,
that the words ‘behaving like a woman’
should never had been wielded as an insult,
and every man I know and respect
completely missed the fucking mark.”

“Please don’t cry now, son;
don’t give the world the satisfaction.
Let’s save face together.”

I blinked back tears, willing them not to fall,
and painted a defiant smirk on my face.

“Naw I ain’t hurt, dad!
You know you ain’t raising no girl!”

Father playfully tussled my hair,
knowing our secret shame was safe,
brittle spirits hidden in plain sight,
now hardened for an unyielding world.

But yeah, I saw it.
***

Steal Away

Steal Away

Clutching
her words
to my vest;

dropping
her dreams
into cloth bundle,
cinched tightly,
secured;

stuffing
my pockets
with her selfless acts
of kindness;

smuggling
her tenderness
to safety
undetected, strapped
to inner thigh;

like a bandit,
I steal away
with memories
of her.
***

Ruin

Ruin

I don’t want to hear of rebirth
blooming buds make it hard to breathe
and I don’t want the snow to fall
and I won’t fall for you again

I don’t want to stir in the night
bleak echoes ring hollow and dull
I don’t want to dream about you
and I hate sleep that never comes

‘till birdsongs vibrate the morning
and I don’t want the sun to rise
it will shine again without you
that’s fine, for your laugh rankles me

I can’t stand the smile on your face
summer warmth burns more than it soothes
I don’t want to inhale autumn
the fall winds part us from our bough

and all the miracles
phenomenal matters
the air passing through you

perfumed within your pores
enrapturing me then
are now tedious things

I don’t miss you at all
nor our modern wonders
smartphones for guileless fools

I refresh texts daily
remaining unrefreshed
rueful plea unanswered

and I won’t fall for you again
I don’t want to dream about you
I can’t stand the smile on your face
and I’m not waiting for your call

the world keeps turning without you
I’m not fixated on your scent
our paths don’t need to cross again
and I pray that you keep us here

because one more vile smile from you
one more goosebump-inducing laugh
one more text, touch, slip of your tongue
your cruel tenderness undoes me

I’d rather be resentful alone
than bereft among your promises
grant me this mercy of bitterness
for the hope of you is my ruin
***

Cosmic Shrug

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Photo by Emre Öztürk on Unsplash

Cosmic Shrug

I really can’t say,
but I feel it.

You too, right?

I feel it deep
within my truth,

where the luminous soul
attaches itself to
unremarkable marrow.

Can you do it?
Can you speak power to truth?

Or would you rather
claw at the vision until
your eyes bleed the lies
in rivers and streams in which
you flee to for quick comfort?

There’s no poem for it.
Not till now, anyway.

No pill or salve either,
unless you count
the ones that nullify it,

or the weed and brown liquor
that helps you forget

or briefly removes
the weight of remembering.

I want it as I want all things
eternally unobtainable;

end of the rainbow;
golden horizon;
promise of tomorrow;

comfort of being seen
and embraced by more than this.

I’ve mastered hide-n-seek
in ways where few bother
searching anymore,

though I’d still lie
and tell them I’m fine
had they not already
given up on asking.

But never you mind;
this is just another
melodramatic poem,

not an overwrought
cryptic cry for help.

I really am fine.
***

On Grudges and Conservation of Energy

On Grudges and Conservation of Energy

Holding grudges is a young man’s game.

Grasp that lightning if you must;
harvest it, gorge yourself upon it,
repurpose it to power your safe haven,
getaway vehicle, or doomsday device,

whichever you choose;
I’m not qualified to judge.

Ask my mother.
She knows. She knew

way back when I was 16 years old
that I wasn’t shit

and my grudge-fueled quest
to prove her wrong succeeded
at proving her both absolutely wrong
and unequivocally right like an
accidental Schrodinger’s cat experiment.

Inability to forgive
converted my potential into kinetic,
driving my momentum
into achievements I never imagined for myself,

and it also left me lifeless,
dead-eyed,
inside an unremarkable box,
waiting to be discovered by wiser forces.

Forgiveness is for old folks
who no longer have the energy for grudges;

many of whom are gathering
their remaining momentum
in a last-ditch effort of
getting into heaven.

Suddenly
the meaning of The Lord’s Prayer
crystallizes before them,
and they’re angling for a slice of salvation pie.

I don’t know much about forgiveness,
but I do know how it feels to run out of steam,
finding myself alone with regret. Nowadays,

I find both grudges and forgiveness
equally inert.

All that matters now lie within
taking accurate readings
and observing what is.
***

Inspired by Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Forgiveness, hosted by Sumana Roy.

The Art of Ghosting

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Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash

The Art of Ghosting

It requires a deft feel of
space, atmosphere,
my place within it.

Shrinking is the easy part;
few notice my contortions
to accommodate.

Conversations flow in torrents;
my awkward trickle dries,
I silently observe.

By the time anyone pauses
to notice my absence,
I’m long gone.

Disappearing one’s self
from physical social functions
call for skill and patience.

Social media ghosting only requires
resolve to never logon again;
no one looks for you there.

Voiding verbal social contracts
with friends and loved ones
can be a bit trickier.

But total mastery of this art
necessitates majestic dexterity
and stately self-loathing.

It is mastered only when
you never leave your bed
no longer seeking connection,
and no one ever again seeks
comfort within your touch.

Ghosting is easy with practice,
but living with the aftermath,
not so much.

It’s doubtful you even noticed
that I left this poem.
***

Inspired by dVerse Poetics: Your Majesty, hosted by Gospel Isosceles. Other poets contributed to the prompt here.

We were supposed to implement some type of majestic vibe into this prompt, but as you can see, I predictably went the other way with it.

Missing, Presumed Lost

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By SpaceX – Falcon Heavy Demo Mission, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66235869

Missing, Presumed Lost

Floating behind me,
a sea of blue, an immense sphere
comprising all that I know,
adore and despise,
breathe and asphyxiate,
drink and drown.

Ahead, you glisten, in quiet peril
reflecting light, juxtaposed in endless black,
after reporting a problem, drifting away,
brave smile in your voice
unintelligible
at this growing distance.

“You’re too late,” you said,
while still in range,
the warmth in your voice
transcending the void,
inexplicably soothing
my chilly fingers
and frosty extremities.

“Oh shit,” I said,
profanely breaking protocol
as the aspect of you
slowly shrank to a point of light.

“I’m sorry,” I offered to the magnets
within the transmitter mic,
a vain effort to overrule
our physical plane.

“It’s ok,” you said tenderly,
reassuring neither of us,
us both ignoring the
depleting oxygen alarms.

“I’m on to my next waypoint.
We’ll have to rendezvous
at the next target window,”
you declare as if our time were not
fleeting, finite,
our fates fixed.

You disappeared beyond the thin blue line,
leaving me to contend with the enormity
of the pale blue light and
an hour of radio silence,
floating above our northern hemisphere,
tilting away, towards winter.

“You free?” your voice vibrated
into my anxious receiver
after a maddeningly long silence
as your glimmer emerged
from the far-side,
rising to rival Venus-glow
and moondust.

“Yes,” I replied quickly,
maneuvering towards a
rendezvous altitude.
“I’m listening. I’m here.”

Then everything went null,
no heat, no cold,
not even light or shadow or grey,
leaving us clasping onto nothing.
***

Shared at Poetry Pantry #496