How To Count Fireflies

I’ll love you in your sorrow,

When cold streams through the open window,

And night sucks the dreams from your pretty head,

I’ll pick you up, and carry you outside,

Where we’ll stand amongst the fireflies,

Trying to count them, but failing,

And you can trace stories in the sky with a finger

While I whisper in your ear,

And kiss along your neck,

And touch you

From behind

In the shadows,

Where all the stories’ names elude you.

I’ll whisper the words

You imagine you forgot,

And put the dreams

Back inside you.

Then we’ll feel our way back to the bed,

Eyes wide and sparkling,

And you’ll know how to count the stars:

Just like fireflies,

All at once.

Seasons

Out where the corn grows tall,
The deer play hide and seek,

And mosquitos swarm like street gangs
Ready to pounce and pummel
Unsuspecting sweet-blooded fools.

In the fall, even dusk procrastinates,
Leaving faint traces of daylight’s promise,

To coax the evening crowds: come alive,
See what longing might find you.

Stars swing dance to their own tune,
A song we wouldn’t understand
Even if we could hear it.

The night chill brings bumps on the neck,
As the leaves take their reds,

But morning comes with quiet fury,
A blinding wetness in the air,
And a deceptive warmth that says,

“Maybe this winter won’t be so bad.”
But the farmers, they know better.

They’ve studied The Old Almanac,
And they’re already stockpiling cans,
Generators, bottled water, and matches.

Winter is right around the corner,
Down to a few lunar cycles and counting,

And when the first snow hits,
To topple wires and fog windows,
They’ll be ready.

The city-folk, they’ll cry on for weeks,
Salty sobs that echo over shoveled walks,

But from the farmers, expect no bellyaching:
They’ve had their harvest, and now comes
The part where Mother Nature breathes,

And for a few long months,
There’ll be no shortage of beans and hotdogs.

Until Spring draws green back to the fields,
And the deer come out to start their games,
And once more, there’s work to be done.

Guest Doodle | Two-Headed Dinosaur

$4 goes a long way these days.

Today’s doodle comes from an unknown stranger on the streets of Lexington, KY. Some of you natives may recognize her from the bar scene downtown. 

The other night, a few of my friends and I stopped by a bar called Henry Clay’s. We’re standing outside in a smoking circle when I hear this tiny voice from behind me: I turn to see what it was, and there’s this little old woman, maybe in her late fifties/early sixties (I only say old because she looked very well worn), holding a notepad looking up at me. She mumbled something.

“I’m sorry, what was that?”

“Can I draw you?”

“You want to draw me?”

“Yeah, on a two-headed dinosaur.”

Hold up.

Now, that is one hell of a sales pitch. It takes guts to walk up to someone on the street and ask to share your art. It takes cold mechanical steel behind your belly button to walk up and be like, “Hey, I’m going to create for you a mythical creature, and draw you riding it. Like a boss.”

That’s basically what she’d said.

I was intrigued.

“How much?”

“Uh, seven dollars?”

“Hmm. I have four dollars. Will you do it for four?”

“Yeah.”

Transaction completed. For the next two minutes, I stood with my arms crossed, towering over this tiny woman while she sketched quickly with a pen. My friends all started to snicker. I waved them off. Random people were staring and laughing, I just winked at them. A few people moseyed over to look at the sketch from behind her, then limped away, giggling. 

I didn’t care.

You know why? Because this woman changed my life. No one else had a two-headed dinosaur, and now I was getting my very own two-headed dinosaur. I didn’t give two unholy shits what my friends thought. This lady was damned interesting. 

She spoke with a frailness that said she might be afraid of me, and her eyes never met mine, not once. She had the shifty, itchy demeanor of a junkie—something I can spot a mile away—but there was a lost kindness in her soul, something misplaced, and beautiful, and warm, but it was alien, even to her. She didn’t recognize it anymore. No one else recognized it, either. Maybe in a very long time.

When she was done, I got out my wallet. If I’d had more than four bucks in change from the bartender, I would’ve given it. The drawing may not look like much to you, but to me, this was by far the best four bucks I ever spent.

“Thank you so much,” I said. “It’s beautiful. Can I give you a hug?”

“Shake your hand?”

“Sure, I’ll shake your hand. You be safe out there tonight.”

She started off down the sidewalk, and my friends started cracking up. I scolded them with my eyes, then smiled. 

“Oh yeah, where’s your two-headed dinosaur?”

“Dude, that is literally the worst thing I have ever seen.”

“Then you’re not looking right.”

I turned to see the old lady, but she was already gone, off to add another beautiful creature to the world somewhere else.

And in that moment, I loved her.

  

Love Letters, No. 26

I AM NIGHT and dusk is never ending.

Probe the dark and prove my worth. Step blind into oblivion, summon demons in shadow forms on the cracked walls and windowsills, and every creaking floorboard flies a phantom, taunting.

When I go, will some part of me remain, or will the memory of my feet, my sweat and fingerprints not linger like the dust that plagues this house, the grime that climbs wallpaper like trumpet vines suckering freely through a garden?

What purpose do I have, then, if not to leave a mark? If my legacy is naught, then that is all I am. That should be a question, but somehow, it isn’t.

And then, some part of me wonders still, wandering in cosmic loopholes, stumbling over the fault lines of consciousness and purpose, finding no solace in books and theories of mortal men, no resounding truth to assuage my seething doubt.

When the azalea blooms, does it ask for a purpose? Does it wonder who placed the stars? Does it think anything at all?

Do I?

Surely, that much is true. I’ve never identified much with the solipsists, but I think they’ve staggered onto safer ground than most.

Night offers no remorse, and dreams do little to stay my mind, eager for answers.

And then, there you are.

If my life is a song, you are my call-and-response. The widowed faith cowering inside me dies happy, knowing you are near, and for the time being that’s all I’ll ever need: your face, your lips, your hands, your touch, ever nearer to send your warmth through me like a drill through a drifting iceberg.

If clouds could sing, they would revel in ballads at your beauty. I try to find the words, but every lyric is poisoned by my inadequate tongue, for none can suffer or suffice the peaceful glow in your cheeks, like hay in the wind they break and fall away, fragile against the stone that is your soul, feeble as my barren dreams. In a million lifetimes on a million other worlds I could never dream a more splendid dream than you.

In loving arms you keep me safe, wrapped warm in nurture, tangled in a bliss that should never end, but must. I know it must.

It will end, one day, with you or me the first to go.

Pray it is me, for this world has not fathomed darkness til it sees me lumber at your grave, bitter in the way that a black hole seeks vengeance for the follies of life, drawing breath and light from every room like some aphotic whirl. I am torchless love lay barren, then. Watch me fold and crack like dry timothy, cinder and smoke the world free of all the smiling, singing joy that isn’t you.

Stay with me, love. Keep me to my final breath, or pity the world you leave in your wake. Pity them to suffer me alone.

You are my softness, my only light. My strength. Marvel at the tree of lightning as it arcs across the stars, pierce purple and staining vision long after it fades to night. Our love comes and goes as quick, true; may it shine long in your eyes after I leave this place. Men and cities will crumble, should you fall before me. Mark my words.

Forgive me, my love. Forgive my hollow fury, and stay the beast with life. Kiss me once and I’ll return to infancy; touch me and watch the stars come forth. I’ll shimmer if you ask it. I’ll dance if it pleases you.

Say the word, darling.

I am yours, forever.

Until light and dark have no meaning, I’ll love you.

Jailhouse Saints

Sitting with my skull
Propped against
An old window A/C unit,
I had an epiphany,
And here it is:
My forehead
Could someday be used
As a museum installation
Depicting the birth
And the inevitable fate
Of the cosmos.
Did you get that?
Let me give it to you again:
The sweat on my brow
Is the entire universe.
Just picture it.
It boils up;
Seemingly from nothing,
It appears.
Then, for what may arguably be
No reason at all,
It swirls and shimmers,
Dances and dives,
Until eventually,
Some great calamity comes
And wipes it all away.
Let me put it like this:
If cells are alive,
If they are actual living things,
Then I commit genocide
Every morning before breakfast.
We are God and Devil,
Every one of us
With a forehead
And a hand at the ready.
That being said,
It stands to reason
That the most merciful among us
Are the ones in handcuffs.

Lucky

IF YOU FOUND ME ON THE STREET and asked, “What have you done with your life?” my answer might be:

“Well, that depends on who you ask.”

Some people say I’m a murderer. Others call me a nasty nuisance. Then there are those who can’t go a day without me, and to them, I’m the only thing standing in the way of a complete mental breakdown.

I’m no hero, that’s for sure. I’m not even positive I have any control over my own fate. I am born, I grow, I change along the way, and then eventually I die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The only difference between me and you is this: I BURN SLOW.

I’ll never get a proper burial. 

***

I met Doris Lynch at a Citgo in 1997. It was a good year. Gas cost $1.22 a gallon; you could go see a movie in the theater for less than five bucks, no joke. Doris Lynch picked me up after a fight with her estranged first husband. She was a little more colorful coming out of the apartment than she’d been going in. We hit it off pretty quick. I was there when she needed me.

Don’t get the wrong idea, here. I’m no homewrecker. Doris cashed in her chips long before I came around. The bags were already in the trunk of the car. The only thing she forgot was her purse––wouldn’t you know it––and she would’ve left without that if it hadn’t been for the pictures of her mother in the wallet.

Doris Lynch needed me, but I needed her just as much. I’d been in a slump myself; sitting in a gas station 18 hours a day with sweaty lottery addicts and the occasional junkie for company will do you in real quick, if you catch my drift. I was looking for a way out, and Doris just happened to come along at the right moment. It was love at first sight, if such a thing ever existed.

Doris took me places I’d never imagined. Most of all I remember her lips, the classic cherry Chapstick flavor, the way her tongue slid out to wet them from behind brittle, yellow teeth. They got more and more yellow in the years to come, I imagine.

We were standing in the parking lot, fast approaching midnight, when this guy came up to ask if Doris knew “The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He offered her a pamphlet. Her response was priceless: GOT A LIGHT?

“No thanks, I’m allergic.”

We were golden from then on, baby. It was the best thing, and the worst thing, and the shortest thing that ever happened all rolled into one. A brief moment of clarity; burning desire mixed just the right way with desperation, a volatile blend of agony and regret. This makes for a powerful concoction, one any down-in-the-dumps burnout would be hard-pressed to refuse, and Doris had never been a model for reasonable behavior.

She knew all the warnings. She’d read about this kind of relationship in magazines and on the sides of buses, on billboards and on TV. She’d heard politicians groaning on the radio, pressed by pundits and lobbyists to make outlandish statements, promises they would never live up to. In that moment, Doris didn’t care about all that. She went with her gut.

Her gut was telling her, “Well, I guess it can’t get any worse.”

She took the leap. Both eyes closed, lips parted, an eagerness on her tongue and an emptiness in her heart, she jumped in with both feet, and from then on, well, as they say: SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM.

The rest was history.

***

About seven years later, almost to the day, Doris Lynch came down with a cough. Nothing serious; the doctor said it was Bronchitis. She didn’t even call in to work that day. She worked the rest of the week, coughing into her fist. Then one afternoon Doris Lynch pulled her hand away, beet juice glistening in the crook of her thumb.

I heard about it through the grapevine. You know how these things go. You meet someone, you have a moment, and then the moment passes. Sometimes one leaves a mark on the other. Sometimes it just doesn’t stick.

There’s no denying I left my mark on Doris Lynch.

It’s true what they say: the small things are the most important. It was just this tiny thing growing inside Doris Lynch that did it.

She never stood a chance.

I have to say this: I didn’t feel a thing when I found out about Doris Lynch. Not a thing. No regret, no burning in my eyes, nothing. I went on about my day, laying in the crack of a sidewalk, like nothing ever happened. I’d been decomposing on the streets for years; hearing the news didn’t change anything. Life after Doris Lynch hadn’t been exactly kind on me. Apparently we had that in common.

Point is, I’ve moved on. The world has moved on. Doris Lynch rots the same as you will.

I don’t care what you think of me. You don’t have to like me. You don’t have to love me. You can outright hate me, for all I care. I’ve been around for a very, very long time, and I’m not going anywhere soon.

When you stroll over a crowded crosswalk, I’ll be there. When you settle down for a beer at the local dive bar, I’ll be there. When you walk through the hospital, any hospital, I will most certainly be there.

If you were to find me on the street and ask me, “What have you done with your life?” my answer might be:

“Nothing. Everything. Depends who you ask.”

END


I wrote Lucky for the COLOR BY WORDS | THE OL’ SWITCHEROO writing challenge, brewed in a cauldron and cast upon the world by The Mother of Bunnies herself.

I hope you enjoyed it.

If you think you know who or what the protagonist is (in other words, what perspective I’m writing from), drop a comment below and let me know. I’m curious to see how you all read it.

(Psst! I love you.)

Drinkers With Writing Problems Published My Poem!

It’s Christmas in August for this vagabond poet.

DWWPIn case you missed the giddy Tweets, earlier this week I was honored with a chance to guest-publish a poem on Drinkers With Writing Problems. Fantastic site, in case you’ve never had the pleasure. Go there. Just a heads up though, it’s BYOB.

I couldn’t be more excited for you all to read The Good Life. Special thanks goes out to Kim Nelson, keeper of the Ponytail Up blog, for getting my poem in the DWWP queue. Thanks, Kim. I’m sending you a bourbon basket.

Wait, is that even a thing? Do they actually make bourbon baskets?

If not, they really should. Someone, please steal this idea. Then promptly send me a free sample. “Free” being the operative word, since I’m broke. I would say “starving,” but fortunately I’ve stored enough blubber to keep my body functioning for many winters.

Okay, I think that’s enough self-deprecation for one blog post.

Now leave me alone to kill the rest of this Woodford Reserve in peace, dammit.

But, before you go, know this:

I love you.

P.S. Please Drink Responsibly.

Icebreakers

When we go out, I’m a stunt double,
Or a bouncer, or a villain, or a thug;
But only on the silver screen.
My buddy here, he’s an underwear model.
Yes, really. It’s no big deal. Not like,
Calvin Klein, or anything.
He doesn’t have the height for it.
But you know those Fruit of the Loom ads,
The ones where you only see the guy
From navel to thigh,
And it’s very focused on boxers or briefs,
And the bulge in the crotch
Staring at you subliminally
Behind that thin layer of cotton?
Yeah, that’s totally him.
So, basically, you’ve already seen him
In his underwear. I think it’s only fair
If he gets to see you in yours.
This is a great icebreaker, believe it or not.
Girls at bars think it’s funny,
Because they don’t know for sure if it’s true,
So they stick around for at least a few beers
To shoot the shit and see if we’re full of it,
Or if we’re just being funny, at the very least,
Because funny is always a good thing, too.
Sometimes, this game will go over perfectly,
And my buddy will go home with a girl,
And I’ll drive myself back to his place,
Where I fall asleep on an air mattress
On the floor of an empty guest bedroom.
It’s cool, because I’ve already got a lady
Back home, waiting on me,
So I’m not trying to score.
But once I get back home,
And have a minute to think,
I like to lay in bed and revise our résumés
To prepare for the next night.
Maybe tomorrow night,
I’ll be a brilliant writer, and my buddy
Can do the talking, and I’ll just smile and nod.
He’ll be Edward Norton’s stunt double,
And I’ll be a New York Times Best Seller,
And at the end of the night,
When the girl is trying to get me to go home,
I’ll just smile and say,
“Maybe some other time.”
Because I know I’ve got the air mattress
And a picture of my beautiful love
Waiting for me in the guest bedroom
That suddenly doesn’t feel so empty.

Doodle | Drink Up

This week’s doodle comes, once again, from a bar in Lexington, KY.

The past week has been a whirlwind of chaotic writing fueled by late-night drinking, a lot of insomnia, philosophic and other discussions, and a variety of other fun substances mixed into the fray. When I get into this mode, I really have to embrace it and kind of go with the flow, and I find that ultimately the story is better for me living in the character’s shoes.

The novella I wrote last week is about a junky living life on the outskirts. The main character dives head first into this vivid underworld full of rich characters, surreal experiences, and no shortage of drug-induced paranoia. “Drink Up” captures some of this sentiment, I think, by throwing inhibitions to the wind and embracing that dark voice inside you that always craves more.


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For now, and always, I love you.

Disassembled

I fell apart on the subway this week.
It was a dreadful scene, really.

Parts of me went everywhere,
Scattering around the subway car,

Rolling across people’s feet,
Bouncing around on that icky floor.

One of my arms landed
In a sweet old lady’s shopping bag,

Right next to a loaf of french bread.
She didn’t even notice.

I was so embarrassed, my cheeks turned red,
But she didn’t see because

My head had already split off,
Rolled to the back of the car,

Bumping into shoes and ankles,
Bruising my nose, my cheeks,

But I wasn’t able to shout,
Because my lungs weren’t connected,

So I can’t blame those people for kicking me.
They didn’t know any better.

This isn’t the first time this has happened.
Every once in a while,

I start to feel all bottled up inside,
And I know it’s about to happen again.

I’m going to fall to pieces,
Little bits of me here and there, disassembled.

There will be tears, of course,
But crying won’t make a bit of difference.

The doctors haven’t come up
With a name for it yet, but they will.

I don’t think they truly understand it yet.
Maybe one day, a doctor will go to pieces

In the grocery store,
Or while he’s talking to a patient,

And then he’ll take the time to give
This horrible condition a name,

Solve the mystery for the rest of us.
Maybe it goes back to Ancient Greece,

Or the Egyptians. Maybe somewhere,
In a hieroglyph carved in stone,

There’s a picture of a person,
Man or woman, it can happen to anyone,

With their limbs scattered all about,
Sadness in their eyes,

A look on their face that says,
“Help me. I’m lonely and lost

And I need someone to take notice.
I need someone to put me back together.”

Who knows? Maybe one day
This will happen to you.

If it does, the key is, don’t panic.
It will pass, with time.

The human body is a remarkable thing,
Capable of all sorts of miracles,

And over time the limbs naturally
Attract one another, draw closer,

And reconnect. It takes a while,
But eventually you’ll go back to normal,

Like nothing ever happened, almost,
No scars, if you’re among the lucky ones.

Your friends and family won’t understand,
And they’ll forget all about it in time,

But you’ll never forget.
It will always be in the back of your mind.

No matter what happens,
Or how much you tell yourself it’s all better,

From then on,
You’ll always remember

How it
Felt to

Fall
Apart.