Traffic lights are the best place to people watch. I decided this while still wearing my cashier’s smock, lighting up my third cigarette, sitting at a red light at an intersection like any in the mid-west: somewhere by a McDonalds, a major grocery store, and the place of my employment – Walgreens. Had I known that I was going to die only four hours after my grave-yard shift, I may have made better plans. Instead, I fantasized about the people who were waiting for the same stubborn light at 7:12 a.m. Maybe the woman in the red Durango is going home to find her husband screwing the neighbor that gardens too much, and maybe that mid-life-crisis in BMW next to me is going to walk into his fancy-pants office and get canned twenty minutes later. I thought about these things mostly so my life would seem more interesting. Working the night-shift at a 24 hour pharmacy in order to pay my way through community college, driving the car that my sister gave me as a sympathy gift for graduating from high school was not the life I planned on, but who ever gets what they want? Minus the douche-bag in the Beemer next to me…may he lose his job, and his car.

            I’m not usually this bitter. You might think it’s because I know I’m going to die, but I don’t know that I’m going to die at this point. All I know is this: I’m out of work, the sun is rising, the birds are squawking, and I’m getting pissed off because there are at least seven us here waiting for the light to change. I have approximately sixty-seven dollars (plus loose change) to my name, which is all that I have left from this week’s paycheck.  It’ll buy me a bag from Juniper, and breakfast for both of us…another morning spent getting high and hanging out at Denny’s. She’s a simple breakfast kind of girl: coffee, black. Hash browns and bacon, both extra crispy. Usually I can tell when she’s in a bad mood because she starts ordering fucking fruit salads and skillets. I hope its not one of those days. Me, on the other had, I’m a glutton for pancakes. All kinds of pancakes! Blueberry, strawberry, chocolate chip, pumpkin, banana, the list goes on and on. If they created steak pancakes, I would be the first to try them. So Juniper knows that when I start ordering waffles, shit is going to hit the fan.

            She isn’t just my dealer; she’s my big sister with best friend tendencies. Actually, she’s been attempting to play the playing the delinquent mom role as of late.  She’s not remarkable, not some stunning beauty that deserves the covers of magazines and other superficial shit. She’s a real girl with real blonde hair and a real attitude problem (it goes along with the mom-complex that she’s been developing). It’s her attitude that makes her astonishing: I’ve seen her get in the faces of wasted men at least four times her size, and they always back down.  You’ll understand better in a bit, when I take her out to breakfast.

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Their bodies are curled around each other naturally. They don’t notice the dim twilight creeping in. He is snoring in her ear. She doesn’t notice. She is twitching, nudging him in the chest. He doesn’t notice. It’s the slow recognition of patriotic colored lights flooding their peaceful bedroom and the pounding on the front door that stirs them. What the hell?  They don’t say it. They don’t need to. They hurry down the stairs to see what the trouble is.

            They are greeted by the Santa Ana winds and Officer Saunders. The police cruiser is sitting silent in front of their little slice of suburbia, and a splash of semi-familiar head of purple hair resting against the window in the back seat. “Are you Mr. And Mrs. Laughlin?” he asks them politely.

Disgruntled and incoherent they nod yes. “What seems to be the problem officer?” He asks.

“I’m afraid there has been an accident.” He replies, the regret only slightly noticeable in his tone. She grabs her already disheveled hair with a priceless look of horror covering her face.

 

            I had met up with Avery half way through sixth period. Lunch. “The beauty of the Cali schools,” he told me, “is how easy it is to slip out and around unnoticed.” It had something to do with the layout. Open campus and palm trees. I guess back in the Midwest they stayed inside all day. No lawns to lounge on, lockers were built into the walls…all kinds of crazy shit. Not that it matters. High school sucks wherever you go.

             So we met up at lunch, sat around like we were being good little school children eating our lunch and talkin’ about school related things. Really, he was telling me about how he had taken his dad’s car that morning and hid it in the back of the strip mall down the street. “Of course he knows about it! I just didn’t park here ‘cause I don’t have one of those stupid permit things.” He assured me, yet he didn’t look at me. I think. I was busy watching the teachers surveying us like prison guards. ‘Maybe they always walk with their hands behind their back like that because really they’re packin’  ‘was the thought I was lost in. He might of said something else important, like his dad didn’t actually know he had the car, but we had a way out and I wasn’t about to pass it up.

Your life is heading pedal to the metal

towards a tornado advisory!

The heat of summer may induce

a sluggish streak,

but two decades of indentured

servitude may deserve such

settling time.

Partition time to play with the mind,

and make an escape from this reality.

Stage directions for lovers and quarrels,

conceptions of misdirection, and

bold, outright, inherent, foul and

slobbish idealism.

The world will never be perfect,

neither will you.

The strives and strides for those perfections

are hardly wasted,

but not safely secured to the concrete.

Beaten down to a productive

pulp of the days leading to

the end –

the preamble now concludes

in curious lengths of light,

the heart’s desire a befuddled

mess like phone-in psychics.

Has it all flown by without a

chance grasped? Skating

through life on the slick blades of

apathy, (the adventure of a

lifetime awaits in the

wings…)

Crash course colliding with

a fence, not occupied by

blue birds, barbed wire,

mementos, or the main attraction.

These scrapes and scratches don’t

cause tetanus or gangrene –

infections cured by the

infestation of maggots.

Morbid? Maybe.

The postscript on this journey

contains notes of minor change

on the behalf of madmen and

mad company!

I am not offended by my future death,

yet I still count the changes

of passing and dying moments.

I won’t love you,

by the simple fact

that I respect you.

And you may measure my sentiments by

the length of nails left behind.

So I muse,

how much do

you believe in

the things that flow

between dreams. . .

If I am a selective sponge,

no better than the rest,

then I wonder what

piece of existence

is teasing my questioning –

What half-cocked smile,

locked in the blurred vision

of late night dreams, brings

an acquaintance to blue-skied,

red leaved apple picking days?

(I fear, perhaps

Death has taken offense

to my non-offense of the time

ticking, swift kicking bond

that we share – )

I am left to ponder:

Do we meet in dreams?

Do we have more in common

than the end?

Because it seems

that we all choose differently,

so maybe

I can hope to

meet you somewhere

in the darkened corners

of sleep.

It was beating against my window before the sun rose,

a moth the size of a humming bird.

These are the omens I’ve always been wary of,

speechless creatures beating against windows at dawn

frantic as if to be a supernatural alarm clock.

Then I hear the crow squawk from the roof across the way

taunting in its voice that has a hint of death, and time tells

tedious tales of torn lands and terrible things.

This raging conflict

has found its way into my home and we are the personification of a

battle field. The explosions of anger out of love out of frustration out

of stress and lost nerves are all signs of a moral loss.

The mortars are our words. Our bodies are barbed wire fences. A laugh

feels like a terrible crime against the anger.

We should know that, in the end, love will prevail. But the road the end

of that road is long a lined with the corpses of our happiness, littered with

land mines of events yet unforeseen. Survival is wary soldier’s end.

I will never forget the day I met you,

and I will always regret the day we lost you.

We were instant friends.

The kind of people who had always been friends but

had never met. We came together like magnets.

You were my never-husband.

You could never escape the trauma that brought you

to the Great White North,

addictions to Florida beaches and chemical smoke

kept you tethered despite your intelligence.

Always relapsing and then recovering.

Relapsing and recovering,

relapsing then recovering.

Relapsing and discovering God in a DMT haze,

describing the Universe and your beautiful place in it. You told me

not to bring you flowers, but to place stones on your grave

because you liked the symbolism.

Somehow those stones ended up in your pockets

and you sank to the bottom of the river.

You sank to the bottom of the river

and I will never forgive you.

You were my friend in drink and poetry

in drink and poetry and life

relapsing then recovering

relapsing then recovering

But I never saw your addictions.

You treated yourself like a walking science experiment

that had to carry the burden of living.

You hated existing but you loved your life.

You sank to the bottom of the river,

and for that I will never forgive you.

The space of my brain is filled
with line upon line upon
potential line of random
word combinations that form
these lines. Coming from space
or magic or imagination or
the regurgitation of information,
Tarnished and twisted into
some telepathy like sequence
of word to mind to image to
 understanding.

Poetry arrived to me at an airport,
lonely and longing waiting for
lost luggage. Suddenly, a line. 
A pen, a page.  Though to word, 
words to line. I began to write,
something, new or different or in-
between. Writing to myself
 0r the page. Maybe the page
 to me. I began to decipher my-
self.
 

The words came, the pen moved,
the scene changed. A purpose
unquestioned. It moved, I
moved and the words too.
We changed. For strangers,
for baggage, for self. A line.
Something that I called
Poetry that I may no longer
call Poetry but I did then.

I sometimes wonder
about these words;
If they wander towards me
or if they must be plucked from
the branches of character bushes.

I like abandoned parks

when the high noon sun

can’t quite reach its height,

When the brisk winds are

a tickle to the cold sensors.

 

A time when I don’t

have to worry about

the context of my life.

 

Money spent glowing orange

and serenity, no one here

to enjoy the simple thrill of

swings, but me.

 

Everything makes a little more

sense, in a personal public playground.

          At dawn she opens her eyes to the poster of Paris plastered to her wall washed in the early morning lightness she loved so much. Blinking and staring, she refused to believe that she was awake, and simply gazed at the poster, imagining the world in paint. The light changed the view, in her mind like the water lilies on Monet’s pond. Aware that he was once considered a scallywag in the profession of beauty, Josephine feels a little lightened.

            At breakfast she admired the newly blooming violets outside her window, it a silent appreciation that spring had finally been welcomed into the world. But here again, as she dazes off, the distinct perspectives appear to blur like the brush strokes, beyond the texture of the world that has materialized in front of her. Even the chocolate in Josephine’s coffee has altered its form, the swirls more defined and deliberate that she had noticed before.

            It became increasingly difficult to concentrate in the shower, because she imagined the water droplets turning into the stubborn oil paints that she knew were so in-washable. As well, she could see the Lavender scent of petals of her soap materialize into form as she washed away the suds. Down the swirling drain were the precious purple the so invigorated her senses.

            She dresses without complication, far too aware of the concrete nature of her bedroom belongings. Having had such a permanent staple there so long, she could no longer believe in the beauty of things that held so much weight on her being. Yet, she glances at the poster of Paris, dreaming again of an escape. After a moment lost in yet another blend of painted reality, she snatches up the Lucy Bacon notebook/diary she so cherishes, and maneuvers out of her crystalline jungle.

 

            Josephine knew she wasn’t like the rest of the daily commuters – she knew that their visions weren’t as colorful as hers. She was also well aware that no one so desired the education of a closed down art school the way that she did. All those that she considered mental companions went to the famous Parisian art school Academie Colarossi. Home of the impressionists, my world, and my mind.

             The bus jerks forward as she pays her toll, and she takes an available empty seat, as far away from the window as she can manage. This is the anxious time of Josephine’s day – the over-decorated world of actual reality is far to overwhelming for her creative instincts. The bombardment of advertisements and statements crowds her senses.  She can’t remember the semblance of noise they call music, and she couldn’t recollect the formulas required for scientific discoveries. She could, however, remember the way the light passed through the orange juice pitcher at breakfast, and the way her curtains illuminate up the fading light of sunset through her bedroom window –

           

Didn’t I know

that you came so

close to my window?

 

Now naked, standing

like a frosty light fixture;

Icicles as designs,

Diamonds, and light.

With the wind nodding

to say hello, friend

even to the street’s light.

 

Isolated in this haunt,

wandering souls ignore you.

Your nude limbs-

 

You see what they wish

you to be, posted

there on the corner.

 

We don’t like these words.

They snag, lag, and glare at us.

They are stale and lethargic.

They won’t move to the wits

that we send them to.

They won’t twist into shapes

of the dreams that we portray.

 

We want to see with the words,

But they won’t sing or swing or sway.

They won’t embrace the sick fame

and they won’t entertain the elite.

 

We will push these words

to those impassioned poses.

 

Since words have no room to speak.

“…I, John Sleeper Clarke,

pictured stars through oak scaffolds

as the news traveled over

the chairscape like a stain.”

                April 13, 1865 by David Berman

 

I inherited a political graveyard

through my stage and through my name,

for it was my kin-in-law who lodged

that bullet through the hat and in the skull.

So I will divorce Asia and become

an Actor.

 

Through years numbering sixty-seven

I found scripted visits and parting curtains

to escape the letters printed in New York.

 

A one month interment,

time away from the stage.

 

Only my sloped forehead

will show my wisdom.