Abstractions (For Robert Long)

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Abstractions
For Robert Long


Death is a funny thing

Not funny ‘ha’

But funny what it can do to you

How it can change a place entirely

How a chair, a table and, a hammer, alone can be a shrine;

That your funeral has little to do with you

But instead who you left behind

And the little bits of yourself

You left for those people:

On the counter in the bathroom;

The hair upon the sink;

Your whispers in certain moments 

Of doubt;

The way you smell trapped forever in my family –

In your friends.

Faith in anything is hard, these days,

But I can believe in you.

Attention to Detail 

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You have two scars running parallel on your left arm
perpendicular to the one on your heart 

and matching the one etched into my chest.

You have railroad tracks of pink and white all down the length and breadth of your thighs, pale and ivory,

And I saw them through the fog that was our shared showers when you took much longer than I

Because your life was undeveloped

And you had nowhere to be or go.
I took you in like a stray cat- thin and broken

Like the one we brought home from the pound, 

The one life I was able to save of two –

And i fed you, let you sleep in my bed

And hold me in lieu of someone else,

Because when you hit bottom 

There is nowhere left to go.
But you lied and I left,

Each of us tied to our pasts 

With knots like the ones

You could never work out of my jewelry,
And the silence and then the stillness, oh –

I feel it more each day.

I read it in the lines on your face

That you rub away in the mirror

And think about me the same way
As you know, I do, you.

Ecstatic vision

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How do you kill your hope?

Do you drown it, do you lose it?

Do you grab it by the throat?

You stuff her memory down a hole 

and paper over it 

With a smile.

But still then, 

How do you stop the dreams at night

The ones that never seem to end.

Or the demons. Or the shadows

That haunt your home.

I see her face sometimes

When I least expect it,

When I am weak –

When the layers of rust come off my heart in sheets

And some dark glimpse of iron and blood shows through.

How do you get close to a ghost?
Do you stammer, do you cry?

Do you shout?
I see his face on vivid screens 

Some of memory, others electric

And whispering. All the noise, the sounds

The cracks recorded in the stars and the

Shape of his hands as he waved goodbye.
We talked on telephones, we spoke 

and we walked city blocks.

He’s gone now and, two, three years later

I’m still writing, still picturing, still trying to 

make sense out of all this blood.
How do you say: “I’m not okay,” 

And make them all stop asking.

Scars

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My scars have faded now,

All the marks and gashes

Worked out in the days

And months since your passing.

Pathways and trade routes

Span the length and breadth of my body,

Wrists and thighs still kept in hiding.

Your face is still the first I see by light,

And the last: the flicker and fire of memory

Has been kind to us both. Here now, in this

Nowhere place, between past and further history,

I light a candle; I bring two fingertips to my lips

And watch as the river dries itself out

On the banks, in your shade.

Classifieds

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Classifieds

Hello, hoping to find.
Something.
Human with no discernible negative qualities
Person with characteristics and attributes
I am this many. I am taller than most but shorter than some certain trees.
I come in many colors and emotions.
Willing to settle.
You can tell (which one is me):
It’ll  be the man with the dark, sunken blue eyes – haunted.
The one who hasn’t slept in a long time.
The one still wearing his last lover’s socks and jacket (from months ago)
The one with clothes falling right off his bones who either
Can’t shop or eat, right.
The one so emotionally overavailable that his emotional availability equates to emotional unavailability. (Emotional overindulgence)
The one with doubts
Fresh out of dreams and hope
Has: Demons.
The one with a history.
High quality drama with an intensity and ingenuity that bespeaks madness or its brethren.
The one with baggage.
The one with shame.
Who smells of Jasmine and sadness, and time.
The one who can’t move on.

Variations on a Theme

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Sometimes, when I’m drafting what comes out to be my

biannual and latest, suicide note –

On the occasion of this or that woman breaking my heart

Or I, hers,

Or this last reservations’ parent’s death

Or even the perceived loss of pride and enjoyment in

what I do, the slow slide at a snail’s pace of contentment

and its glide into complacency, complacency’s gentle

grade of transformation into distaste – though the order

isn’t always the same – sometime’s the brief underpinnings

of ennui or a general Malaise will show through the veil

Or, even like a whitecap or iceberg, a small infinitesimal glimpse

of the whole is seen, but though appearing great or as something wrought

of the old gods or the new, leviathan in size and temperament,

lined and limned by mere – and only, just – slight allusions

to something terrible and harrowing that lies beneath the surface and beyond explanation,

It seems to turn always aside at that last moment: to turn aside or, to pass.

 

And I’m left here with all of these words,

these letters of apology and a shirking of duty,

Signposts in the soil, the sand, ink blue, and black, and red –

Echoes of eternity and pathways back, back

To a beginning I can’t honestly claim to recall anymore.

Sunflowers

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He left you for a tall blonde

with legs, long

Whose breasts weren’t scarred

like withered sunflowers

or scared,

rent flesh becoming lines

of yellow, pink.

And I left you for another

inside me, some beastly thing that’s taken root

cracks showing in the foundation. I left you

for Autumn, Winter and snow, to be alone,

To waste away into nothing before mirrors,

To disappear into the drink.

And I did appear to be someone and

something else, completely.

 

I showed you eyes that can see,

A great, big red heart that beats and bleeds

and pain.

Seventeen Again

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If you want to know what it’s like to be seventeen again,

Here is what you do:

Look at yourself in the mirror;

Try to see past the lines, the scars, the sag

Plow through the heartbreak,

The moments of despair, the broken resolutions

The promises of – and potential – wasted.

 

Cut through seven years of wrenching disillusionment

and so many moments spent

in wanting of, hoping for, hurting of – yourself, others.

Go deeper still.

Turn right at your demons, vices, dragons yet-to-be-slain.

You’ll pass through a gallery of faces,

Filled with those of the ones you loved – and still love – madly,

But hurt – deeply – running away, as always,

from yourself, your decisions, your addictions.

 

Remember their faces, their sorrow, and their despair

upon discovering the sickness inside of you:

the Dragon that you didn’t have the courage to slay then,

the Dragon you might never put to rest.

 

 

Remember her, especially.

Remember her tears and the years

It took to move past it all.

Hold your regret in your arms.

Nurture it as you would a child.

 

Go further, through the twists and turns

of a life you only dimly recall,

Until you reach an ill-lit room and find

a small child that was you and is you.

 

 

You find that seventeen again was you running.

Running away from that small, weak and frightened boy

You were afraid that you were and would always be.

 

You count all the girls, the women

you were always seventeen with

and you realize you sometimes

still think of yourself in that way –

seventeen, alone, lonely and frightened.

Former Dreamboy (Underworld)

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There’s an empty seat
At my kitchen table,
Set for one.
Cold mornings, now.
No use in making coffee
For one:
Drinking cup after cup
To only pace these dusty floors
And run my fingers along the sole
Dress you left in your rush.
I hold court at your wake
Running two fingertips
Along the hem,
Licking dry lips
On my hunt for lace.
What good now 
Will six or twenty months be –
I’ve buried more years than
I have left in this place.
Our letters now are 
All the echo
That remains –
And they must be
enough for Orpheus
and his Eurydice.

just this side of cinnamon


Glassy-eyed, I smell

Of time and pain 

And anguish.

I am sleeping for two
Everyone looks familiar
Like I know this face I’ve seen before
Burn these flowers
Like an effigy of my ghost
Phones that ring
And phones that don’t
But always waiting:
Waiting for
the other shoe to drop
These days are not worth 
Much of anything
Anymore
Crying, in public
And I Am ashamed.
Hold my head under water
So I don’t have to hold it up again.
I am counting half-lives on the clock
Bury me in nucleotides
And leave me in the ground for 100 years
Until it’s safe to go forth, 
to make this salted earth

Verdant once more.

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