Always the Butt of Your Jokes

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Photo by Ashley Jurius on Unsplash

Always the Butt of Your Jokes

An ethereal inversion;
the television’s moonbeams
combining with darkness
masking our mockery;

our shared laughter at
your expense for once

instead of your typical
plucking at our insecurities
with orchestral precision; you,
still the chillest cat in the room,

but your arsenic-tipped wit
replaced by Bible psalms,
and sincerely, instead of
your standard

“The Lord is your shepherd,
you shall not want”
atheist parodies.

You didn’t seem to mind,
but in the upside-down,
for once,
the egg was on your face.

I awoke still laughing
at your absurdity.

Dad, you were such a
magnificent bastard back then;

just a gloriously
belittling jackass.

I feared drawing your attention
almost as much as I craved it.

We all hated verbally sparring with you
because you’d gut us like catfish
while taking far more care
not to drop cigarette ash on
your freshly cleaned carpet.

We hated being victims
almost as much as we loved
being living witnesses
to your eviscerations.

But this time, we got your ass.

We ganged-up and nailed you
and that pompous Jehri-Curled afro
to the fucking wall.

You took it surprisingly well
given your massive ego,
but there was no mistaking it;

Boom! Roasted!

On a night we all saw
our man Jordan
get dunked on
and his Bulls lose
by thirty points.

I awoke still laughing
at your comeuppance.

I reached for my cell
to give you a call to remind you
and rub it in your face again;

that you’d finally been dunked-on
by those you’d repeatedly roasted
countless times; after all,

they say you only roast
the ones you love, right?

But as I grabbed my phone to dial you
the punchline came; I remembered it all;

that it was only a dream;

that not once did we ever
get the better of you;

that you probably never would’ve
been cool with that anyway;

that we never watched MJ
lose by thirty with you;

that I’d long forgotten
your phone number;

that in my contacts list
there was a blank spot
where your name should be;

that I hadn’t spoken to you
for nearly a decade,
months before you died.

Sneaky asshole.
You got me again.
***

Inspired by Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Timetravel – Flashbacks with Björn, Björn Rudberg’s last prompt at Toads.

Blackness, As Meditation

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Image by bella67 from Pixabay

Blackness, As Meditation

What can I tell you about being black?

I honestly haven’t the slightest idea.

Sure, whenever I complete a form
that’s nosey enough to ask,
I check the corresponding square,

but I’m just some random guy
born into a reddish-brown shell, and
there’s no option for human doing his best,
given the tattered incomplete playbook
passed down for generations.

Everything I learned about being black
I learned from others, from momma’s
early-warning games that life’s not fair,
the playing field isn’t level,
and the rules are different for folks
who look and sound like us; that the
difficulty settings are disproportionately

skewed; that there are folks who hate me
at first sight, before I could even begin
to hope to win them over
with a smile and a silly joke.

Being black can be tricky, but

what can I definitively
tell you about being black?

You’re better off asking one of my
blood relatives who are black and proud;

I don’t know if I’m not black enough
or not proud enough, but by all accounts,
and my admission, it’s probably both.

I’m amused by the idea of claiming pride
in something I had no control over;
it’s not like I achieved anything; it’s not
like I’m one of the best blacks like Barack
or Beyoncé or K-Dot; I’m just some dude
who popped out of his momma with
reddish-brown skin, a fear of
creepy-crawlies, and a love of words.

Being black can be bemusing, but what
can I honestly tell you about being black?

To be honest, I don’t think about it
very much these days, not unless
circumstances compel me to.

I’m certainly not doing it right,

just ask anybody with the
privilege of voicing opinion;

I don’t speak the language well enough
for anyone; if I’m confident, I’m too uppity;
if I’m insecure, I need to be saved
from my own ignorance; if I’m silent,
I’m one of the sneaky ones; if I’m loud,
I’m one of the angry ones; if I’m

actually angry, I’m a threat
that needs to be stopped by any means
that will most likely withstand
judicial scrutiny.

Being black can be maddening, but

what can I unequivocally
tell you about being black?

It would seem that I’m unqualified
to say for absolute certain.

My chest rises and falls to its own cadence.
I smile big smiles, laugh belly-laughs, and
dream dreams like any other common human.

Tears well in my eyes, and I weep
openly during sappy love stories,
or when a vigilante is acquitted

by his peers for murdering one of my peers.

(Granted, we’re all peers, but my neglecting
to use first-person singular possessive here
could be perceived as not black enough.
Refer to “being black can be tricky” above.)

I have irrational fears of spiders and zombies,
and a hyper-rational fear of meeting
the wrong policeman in a dark alley
after fitting the description.

You know the description;
it’s always the same description.

Being black can be terrifying.

But what can I fearlessly
tell you about being black?

It can be tricky, bemusing,
maddening, terrifying,
all these things at once,

and sometimes, when I’m alone,
staring at the stars above
on the blackest night,

as starlight takes eons to reach
where blackness has already been,
waiting indifferently for it,

it is an absence of all these things,

for when the cosmos
overpowers my brown eyes
with overwhelming proof
of my own individual insignificance,

that is when the truth speaks to me,
that being black is human,
and is but one of many facets
of our collective humanity.
***

Trigger warning: The video below contains satirical graphic gun violence.

Inspired by dVerse dVerse Poetics: On Shades of Black, hosted by anmol(alias HA). Other writers contributed to the prompt here. I know this one’s in dire need of editing, but I may leave it as is, as it came from an honest thread of thought.

All Hallow’s Etiquette

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Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

Hallow’s Etiquette

There is just nothing
remarkable about a
Hallow’s witching hour,

where absence of light and sound
pile upon one another

until the deprived
senses conjure demons, ghosts,
and apparitions of distress

manifested in the failures
of our memories, or
their perfectly successful manner

of projecting memories
of our failures back upon us
like a house of haunted mirrors.

That ghoul is not a ghoul;
it is an eye-floater
casting a shadow upon
your retina

that became entangled
with a stray set of neurons
where an unresolved
disagreement with

your long-dead beloved
continues to take up
residence; our evolved
pattern-recognition

makes us see their sunken cheeks
and disapproving glare, and
nothing more than that.

At the very least,
that is what I tell myself
to keep my heart from racing

and my unspoken words
from spilling into this dense,
uncaring,
unremarkable space
at this ungodly hour,

where no one replies
to my wailing demands for reason,
and for good reason,
as no one is here
to hear them.

But in the extremely
unlikely event
that I’m wrong about this,

all of these reasonable
observations,
which I’m mostly certain
is extremely improbable,

if they truly exist
between our realms,

my first thought would be
probably
that demons, ghosts, ghouls,
and all the like,

in addition to being
needlessly frightening,

in all these years of
ignoring my queries

they’re also extremely rude.
***

Inspired by All Hallow’s Eve and Poets United: Midweek Motif ~ A Million Years Howl When Voices Whisper Among The Trees, hosted by  Sanaa Rizvi.

Also shared at dVerse OLN: Casting a Spell, hosted by Linda Lee Lyberg.

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

Bound by Three Scientific Methods

Bound by Three Scientific Methods

1.
You are a commonplace being,
bound to one of many wandering orbs,
circling one of countless common
main-sequence stars

–  not unlike the twinkling sequins
pinned overhead to our night sky –

within one of a myriad of galaxies
among the observable universe,

and yet, despite our observations,

there is no evidence among the galaxies
of another galaxy like ours,
for among the trillions upon billions
upon trillions of doppelgangers

– give or take a few trillion,
for this poem is of art, not science,
and numbers that big hold little meaning
to an average poet’s brain –

there is no star like the one star
entrapping our world,
no world like our world,
and no one on that world
who makes me smile like you do.

2.
I wrote about how special you are,
trying to quantify and distil your
essential essence into

an incantation I could call on
to fortify my purgatory
with memories of you,

but my words were too remote,
too chilly, too clinical, and
may as well had been stillborn

as an incomprehensible dead language
when translated from my inner-voice
and gestated into our common tongue.

I click my tongue
in bemused disapproval
of the effort

while still retaining the ability
to smile at the universe, knowing
that its vastness contains a singular you,

a lone me, and a bond
unlike any within our reality.

I smile, knowing
that somewhere, sometime,
I have entered your thoughts

as you often rule mine,
and at that very moment,
I know that you smiled at the thought.

3.
Scientists estimate
that there are at least
one hundred billion galaxies
in our observable universe,

an unimaginable number
which is somehow far less than
my “trillions of billions” of galactic
scientific wild-ass guess,

but not nearly as poetic.

Somehow,
I guess my imagination
exceeds even the
observable universe

when trying to solve for
the commonplace, exquisite
variable of you.
***

Originally posted on Medium.

These Murky Eddies (A Five-Part Origin Story)

These Murky Eddies (A Five-Part Origin Story)

I.
I love,
I do,
perhaps not like you,

not in that
traditional
happily-forever-after way,

but perhaps
in other imprecise,
functionally dysfunctional
broken ways.

But perhaps
in many ways,
my broken ways work
in my knowing what it isn’t.

I can survey its limitations,
where the barrier of its outstretched
feathered wings fail to reach.

My love cannot care for your birthday,
but it cares deeply that you care.

My love won’t reach out
and embrace you, drenched,
saturated with sentiment,

but it will lash-out
to protect you
from all manner of harm.

My love is imperfect,
incomplete, and has been
ever since the day I fell
as a small child.

I was six when I fell,
losing balance some two score ago,
as some collateral damage
of a disintegrated heart.

II.
I was born
in medias res
of a toxic heart,
as many are,

upon opposing maelstroms,
learning to flow with the current,
anticipating its quirky grooves
and perilous nuances,

gliding along the lazy trickles,
bracing for the furious crashes,
holding my own within
fortune’s fickle ride until…

the only heart I knew split in two,
each side seeking dominion over the other,
but settling for oblivion,

the void
created by two beloved factions
consumed me
and I fell,

and fell, and fell,
and kept falling,
the only sound, the
mournful wailing of my own voice,

it too growing more distant,
falling away from me

along with the other senses of
belonging to something greater,

losing everything and
finding myself lost
at the bottom of an abyss.

III.
I was six years old
when momma went
rattling the kitchen silverware

for an adequate blade
to plunge into dad’s back,

ending years of emotional and
physical abuse by his hand.

I was six years old
when that knife pierced him
inches from his heart,

inches from his own demise.

Dad’s cousin was hysterical,
explaining to the medics
what my awful “bitch of a mom” did
to free herself from dad’s drug-fueled rager.

Though mortally wounded,
dad survived and recovered

enough to redeem some of his repugnant actions,
while bafflingly doubling down on others.

As for me; I was six then.
I am forty-six now, but
I know now that parts of me
never left the bottom of that abyss.

IV.
I love, I do,
but always in a broken,
displaced sense where
I never have to remove my velvet gloves.

My hands
hold nothing of weighted value
unless my beloved breathes value into
that space.

Images
reflected into my eyes
rarely move me

unless the images
are of others being moved
towards joy or sorrow.

I hear voices of my family calling,
but I only reply out of obligation.

I’ve smelled and tasted
gourmet Sunday dinners made in my honor,
and when an aunt asks me
if I’m glad I came home to them,

I smile and say yes, knowing that
they know I’m lying to keep the peace.

V.
I love, I do, but perhaps not like you,
or the guys on television who
get down on one knee,
proclaiming their love for all to see.

That kind of love dazzles in the sunlight,
and it would be nice if I could love like that.

But my love is born from toxins,
constructed from shards of self-hate,
twisted, entangled by the vast void
in such an oddly dysfunctional way

that when darkness comes for you,
as it inevitably comes for us all
regardless of where you are,
as I still tread these murky eddies

you will never be alone.
***

Originally shared on Medium.

Incapable of Her Own Distress

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Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

Incapable of Her Own Distress

She was beautiful
and needed to be seen as thus,

climbing higher,
her angelic features giving
a false appearance of
a fallen messenger clawing her
way back into paradise with

mud-caked fingers weaving
flowered trinkets,

an accumulation
of bruises
piled upon her well-worn
lust-slickened flesh, and

a wickedly zealous glare
affixed on something
beyond common sight,

not recalling how
she got so high
upon the precarious bough,

the wind spitting sleet into her face, she,
returning the favor, choking
on bile from her own spite
and other vulgarities

wailed in her song of
want and lunacy,

laughing mournfully
under pale lunar glow,

so when she fell
no one could tell
her fantastic mania
from her sunken plight.

She was beautiful
even then, at the end,

a siren swooned, felled
by her own song,

seeing in greater clarity
from the under-side of
the rain-drowned brook, buoyant
no more, unlike the flowers
scattered from her lifeless hands,

her peace-glazed eyes
silently affixed on heaven.
***

Originally shared on Medium

Also shared on Poets United  POETRY PANTRY #491.

Her Scarlet Smeared onto Me

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Her Scarlet Smeared onto Me

“Your move, Mr. Bedroom Eyes,”
the words oozed from her coiled rubies,
mingling with her strawberry scent,
joining the rest of my taunted senses.

“She’s made so right
for all the wrong things,”
I think to myself
in her moon-drenched room,

willfully ignoring my own complicities.

Even when she turns away,
concealing her lewd loveliness
in muted midnight shadows,

her elongated shaded nudity
jiggled in ways that seemed
to beckon to a deeper need

transcending the lust and greed
gripping us within this bizarre gravity.

“And don’t you dare pretend that this,”
she added, gesturing generally at the
space between us, “is all one-sided.”

She read me effortlessly, relentlessly
just as she always had, dynamically
consoling, enticing, demanding,

“It’s just us now; be honest.
Don’t act like you don’t want this.
No lies between us tonight.”

She wasn’t made for me,
but her eyes perpetrate the lie;
giving none of the game away,
expecting to be taken,

inviting me to consume
all that I crave to taste,

daring me to meet
where her heat beckons;

the divine junction of where abstraction
melts into sensation, defining touch.

Using only the sight of her
copper-kissed marbled frame,
the ripened flowered goddess’ scent,

and the hot-buttercreamed
sound of her verbal dare,

she deftly sculpted my need
to close the distance,

to thrust my ugly intent
deep inside her beautiful taunt,

to drown her velvet purrs within
undercurrents of my straining grunts,

our bodies rising, falling in unison,
fueled by primal need to occupy
the same finite space simultaneously.

This is what I want
and what she invites.
Of this, I cannot lie.

But it’s also true then, that if we
shackle ourselves to our desires,
indulging ourselves, yielding to them,
we will forever be enslaved by them.

I take a step backwards, fussing with
half the buttons on my shirt that I
don’t recall how they came undone.

Turning towards me, her smile widened
leaning into my gaze, the moonlight falling
upon her contoured sex slowly opening
in my direction, cooing her incantations;

“Even now, you would deny your ache
to possess me, knowing by your pulse
that you were already mine long before,
when we first exchanged glances,

even in that crowded space of fortunes
untold, we saw what we saw in each
other’s eyes, the clarity of potential,
the unspoken intent, and even then,

I knew you were mine,
and that you wished it so,

and while you looked away,
you couldn’t help but to return
to my gaze to see if I was
still looking, and of course I was,

with each time our eyes met,
from you, I stole yet another breath
till now as you stand apart from me,
allowing yourself to breathe

only when I will it;

draw breath now and
tell me, am I wrong?”

I look away, failing spectacularly
in my task to rebutton my shirt.

“Look at me,” she commands.
I comply, my chest becoming tight.

“Breathe,” she says gently, and
I felt my chest relax as I obeyed.

“Now, don’t lie to me,” she demands,
“and don’t lie to yourself, either.
Right here, right now, speak truth.
Tell me what you want.”

“You,” I confess, my chest
once again restricting airflow.

“Who rules your air, your earth,
your body, your soul?” she asks,
knowing the answer.

“You rule me,” I answer,
my unbuttoned shirt now
on the floor behind me,
discarded with my integrity.

“Why are you still dressed then?”
she asked, and then suddenly I wasn’t.

“Still your move, Mr. Bedroom Eyes,”
she taunted again. “I can’t do
everything for you, you know?”

I moved towards her,
overwhelmed by the ache
to feel my skin pressed into hers.

Just as our lips pressed
colors into touch,

just as I tasted her scarlet
smeared onto me,

I smirked at my
illusion of helplessness,

yielding to the power exchange
we demanded the moment
our paths crossed.
***

Originally posted on Medium.

Shared at dVerse Open Link Night #249. Other poets also shared their work here

Bonus song, because I couldn’t get it out of my head after hearing the previous song:

On Interracial Marriage

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Image by author

On Interracial Marriage

I don’t believe in it
it’s an obvious lie

not whether or not
it should exist, mind you
but its alleged existence
in an existential sense

there is no such thing
as interracial marriage
there is only the union
of those vowing to unite

for life is far longer
than most would know,
far shorter than we think

and it is ripe with vile horrors,
disappointments and cruelties,
and capricious random chaos, and so

if while navigating our bedlam
providence smiles upon you
as you brave muck and misery alone,

and you’re lucky enough to find
someone whom you vibe with
who leads with kindness, loves with
gentleness, rewards loyalty in-kind,

and makes you want to rise
to face the winds of fate
with a defiant smile on your face

then what in multicultural hell
does it matter of their lineage, creed,
sexual preference,
or the color of their skin?

Leavenworth

Image by author

***

Originally posted on Medium.

Of course, I couldn’t pick just one rendition…

Shared on dVerse Open Link Night.