This isn’t goodbye

It’s really not. I promise.

I’m not saying goodbye. So don’t think that for a minute.

What I’m saying is, I want to move on. I need to. I have to find a way to disconnect myself from all this.

So I’m taking on a new name.

Josh Luca.

It doesn’t sound like me, yet. But it will. I like it. It has a soft ring to it. Something achey––you know I like achey.

I hope you’ll follow me on this journey. I’m working on new material. New poetry, essays, stories, even a new book. But I won’t be posting it here. I may link back every now and then, for anyone who misses this post, but by now most of you tune in when I (so seldom) write something and drop me a kind line of encouragement, so I feel like the ones who I truly care about will follow me over as I make this transition.

I’m changing everything. My name, my site, and my way of thinking. This is all part of a resolution.

See, Josh Luca isn’t me. Josh Luca doesn’t have my vices. Josh Luca doesn’t have my fears. Luca doesn’t start manuscripts and abandon them like kittens in a box on the side of the freeway. He doesn’t wallow in old memories; Josh Luca makes new ones. He observes the visible world and draws new conclusions. Luca has new material, new words in his bones.

Josh Luca is a better me.

I want to be a better me. I want to write better. I want to read better. I want to think and act and love better. I want to learn better.

I know reinventing yourself is hard; it’s all so cliche. I don’t want to drive you away, and if this decision does, then I’m truly sorry. You’ll always have these old words to look back on. I hope you will.

If you’re open minded enough to see where this new thing goes, then click HERE and join my new community.

I’m taking the dive deep. I’ve even considered changing my (legal) name. I think Josh Luca has a sweeter ring to it than Josh Carlton, anyway.

I want to know what you think, of course. But I’ll warn you, I’ve already made up my mind. There’s no going back.

This will be my last post on this blog. I’ll leave it up, and open to the public, so all of you can always read and share the material I’ve written over the last few years.

Here’s to a new start. Here’s to a new me.

I would like to cordially invite you all to join me on a new adventure, and meet a new friend. Everyone, this is Josh.

Josh, this is everyone.

Say hi, Josh.

[Hi, Josh.]

I love you so much. You don’t even know.


THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BALANCE––anyone who tells you to find balance is telling you to find a dark, silent place and remain isolated there, forever in the suspension of thought and disbelief. It simply cannot be done, unless you have a gun and the stomach for suicide. As it turns out, I do not.

Balance is an elephant standing on a ball in the middle of the ocean. Step off and drown, stay on and starve.

I am not a good person.
I have terrible thoughts.
I have terrible dreams.
I don’t remember my dreams.
I’m good when I want to be.
I’m good because I don’t want to get caught.
These are mutually exclusive ideas.
If I decide not to be good, I will likely get caught, and they will hang me for what I have done.

Today I thought about taking my own life. I thought about it yesterday, too. And the day before that. I thought about taking my own life every day for as long as I can remember. Every time I have considered this, up to and including today, my response to myself has been: Not today. Ask again tomorrow.

I am a magic 8-ball with stretch marks.

When I look in the mirror, I see a monster. Sometimes, when I’m wearing the right shirt, or when I have eaten very little that day, I’ll look in the mirror and see not a monster, but a handsome, normal human. My eyes aren’t sunken then, and there’s only one of my head, and I have the normal amount of arms and legs. Sometimes this isn’t the case, but when I wear black t-shirts I think I’m okay. I think someone might see me and think of something beautiful. But most often, I think other people see me and think about how disgusting my stomach is, how displeasing my thighs are to look at, how I must be awful to see fully naked, and I think how they are right, and I want to cry.

On mornings that I wake up alone, when my wife is already gone from the house, I often lay in bed and cry, and stare at the wall. I don’t know why.

When people ask me––when my mother or my wife asks me, “Are you happy?” I instinctively say, “Yes, of course I’m happy.”

When I was thirteen years old, I watched one of the neighbor boys drown a puppy in a creek. We found the dog caked in mud and clay, struggling to climb up the embankment, and the boy dropped down onto the creek rock, gravel crunching under his shoes, and he picked up the dog by the fur of its neck and walked it out into the water and he put the dog in the water, then he reached in so his elbows disappeared and he just stood there, and a few minutes later he walked away.

Now that I’m older, I can’t remember if it was me, or the neighbor boy, who drowned the dog. I see my hands disappearing under that murky brown surface, and then I remember standing on the bank of the creek and seeing the dog floating slowly, bobbing up and down, and the inky trails of mud spinning in the water, chasing after the boy, and I hear the crickets chirping in the fields behind me, and I feel hot tears welling in the back of my eyes, and I hear the silence of the thing in the water and I cry. I run.

In the mornings, I run three miles. I’ve been doing this a couple of weeks now, and I think its helping. My jeans fit better, and my shirts don’t show as much belly when I move around, and generally speaking I’ve seen less monster and more normal human in my reflection on car doors and business windows. I’m eating salads, too. Every day I eat a salad for lunch. I stopped drinking beer for the most part, and I don’t drink liquor every day now. I haven’t done drugs in months. I still smoke marijuana. I still numb myself.

I’m numb right now.

I’m falling, right now.

Everything is dark. It’s quiet and spinning, and in the distance I see a shore, waves breaking into foam across jutting rocks, and trees tall as buildings bending in a breeze, and the water around me swirls and it is black, and heavy. I bob up into the daylight, and I see the shore, closer now, and then I bob back down, into darkness, and I despair. I’ll never make it. My legs grow weak, they cramp, and my stomach makes itself a knot to spite me. I know that of all the ways I could die, most likely it will be my stomach that kills me.

They say the soul is in the stomach. I say my stomach is eating my soul. It’s only fair, when you think about it.

I call it balance. You may call it something else.


[Love, J.]

Weight & Weightlessness

And here, again my ghost follows.

I’ve run a thousand miles and still it finds me, bound to my very core. The scent of me, of my unhappiness, of my lost purpose, draws it in, and it sits now like a cloud of black lead upon my shoulders.

Friends, I’m writing now to you through tears. I’m writing now to you in torment, in agony, in pain so deep it numbs the bones, and even as the words come forward, one by one they salute the ghost, pledge their allegiances, and they are lost to me. They swear no fealty to my fingers, my heart. To my tongue, they are estranged. It is only the ghost they obey; I fear this time it will plunge me further into the pit, the wreaking lashing violent torrent, and pull at my seams until I am naught but smoke and memories.

How do you survive, at times like these?

How do you have such light?

In greyscale, shadow looks dimmed, blended, but despair is a trickster; so powerful it disguises itself in every moment’s picture––a glazed eye, a flat smile.

The page is blurred for me now; the pen trembles. I am come undone.

There is a pressure. It begins at the fingers; gnawing them to nubs does nothing to relieve the tension, the sensation of weight and weightlessness. The pressure trickles up, into the wrist, the flow, veins pulsing, drawing the heavy vacuum through the arms to the heart, where it slumbers. I fear its awakening; on that day will I too resolve to slumber? Will I resign to sleep forever?

My love, she tires of my self pity. My misery. She must, I know. My ghost tarnishes every smiling moment. “How was your day?” becomes a monotone anthem played on repeat, blaring from speakers a thousand stars away, and echoing.

Echoes. I am stillness echoing loudly.

I am a clock without hands.

It comes in waves from every side. Every short word, every hushed whisper teases, cuts. They see me now for what I really am.

Empty. I am empty.

A vessel. The ghost comes quick to fill the void. But the void will not be filled. It only draws and draws faster, quickening, until the very heartbeat within me pulls the light from every room.

Strike me now with lightning, and longing.
Strike me with hatred and hellos.

Save me, for the wretched ghost comes haunting.

I am yours to kiss, or kill. Yours to pull apart.

I am nothing at all.

And still, I love you. For whatever––however much––that is worth.

Return To Water

Breathing isn’t easy.

It’s alien to me, as foreign as sleep and clumsy as a toddler finding his footing. My lungs crack and crumble, trip and tremble, linger after every weeping flower and chase the breeze they bath in, like a dog after a neighbor’s truck. Even here, back in the Bluegrass, I nip at the air and choke, soured by pollen and dried til the cartilage pops like fallen kernels under a wagon wheel.

The doctors call it allergies. I call it rapid assimilation.

My body struggles to adapt as everything around me changes. New climate, new timezone, new bed, old faces. Old memories. My lungs remember every cigarette I ever smoked. Every window I ever hung out of, drenched in ashes, cancer, reeking podunk bar at midnight flavor and I did it all for the rush, the tingle, the numbness in my fingertips and the hollow catch in my chest, some insatiable invisible vice gripping my brain, squeezing. Squeezing. Squeezing.

Today, it squeezes.

This morning I’m counting blessings: sipping a Colombian brew, staring out at a lush green field, pausing on a pond long enough to catch a fish break the surface, in search of food maybe, or just wondering if the grass is greener. In that moment I have friends among fish, and I could understand if that’s where we go after we die. A return to the water. It makes a lot of sense, if you really think about it.

Sixty percent of our bodies are water. Seventy percent of our planet is covered with water. Water is the essence of life, the key ingredient in the evolutionary cocktail, and all this time we’ve been looking to the clouds, imagining we’ll be soaring up there when we close our eyes that final time, but we’re wrong. It’s the water. We’ll go crawling back, the way we came crawling out, millions and millions of years ago.

The Vikings had it right all along.

Human beings, since the dawn of time, have been drawn to water the way all life is drawn to it, craving it, reaching up to the sky when the drops begin and snuggling cozy in a cool bath on a warm summer day. Every plant, every animal, every single one of us could not live without water. Who’s to say we won’t all be drifting, one day, floating in darkness eternal or swimming towards a glimmer, a lighter shade of life, until we come bursting through the surface, ready to do it all over.

Breathing isn’t easy. But maybe I’m just breathing the wrong stuff. Maybe we’ve all been out of water too long. Maybe our lungs weren’t made for toxic air, dry and harsh or damp and drowning. Maybe all the stories were true, those men really did see mermaids, sirens, calling out.

Come back.

Come back to the water.

It’s where you all belong.

One day I’ll go back. But not today. Today I’ve got a date with adulthood, and tomorrow there’s a job to be done. Maybe the day after that. Who knows. I’ll keep my calendar cleared.

If I don’t see you tomorrow, know that I love you.

I Am A Thief

Ghost be damned, I’m living.

I’m living and loving it, and every day it gets easier to push the ghost from my heart. Sadly, I’m not naïve enough to think this fight is over; I’ve merely won the battle.

I felt so much love this week. To each and every one of you reading this now, and to those thoughtful enough to take the time to stop in each day and comment on a poem, watch a film, or simply share/reblog/retweet some other small piece of my heart, thank you.

Those two words do not suffice in communicating how much it means every time I hear that beautiful sound from my pocket, the WordPress notification bell, and I have the joy of sharing an intimate moment with another beautiful soul.

THANK YOU. MERCI BEAUCOUP. Ευχαριστώ πολύ. VIELEN DANK! GRAZIE MILLE. 非常感谢. MUCHAS GRACIAS. どうもありがとうございました. Большое спасибо.

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