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.

Novocaine

The first time I did drugs,
I was sitting in a car with my friend Ox

In this dusty spectral parking lot
Yawning at three in the morning,

Waiting on the hookup to show,
Flinching at every blue hint and brake light,

Drooling at the waft of fresh-baked biscuits
Creeping down the street from golden arches,

Knowing, with certainty, that the hookup
Was marked, or that he was a rat,

And at the very least we would
Spend the next fifteen up state,

Where they don’t have books,
Or cell phones, or television,

And where mom can’t send
Brownies on our birthdays.

Still we waited, music on a low hum,
Some sad fucking hymn about

Bitches crawling, sweaty testicles, skeet skeet
Sure as snot on a toddler’s lip

We were up the creek,
When this little white Honda

With neon blue trail,
Throbbing to some other sad hymn

Split rubber and asphalt
And let howl a mighty shriek in the cool night

Alarming the prowling, listening wolves,
And every tree in the Bluegrass with eyes and ears.

We swapped glances, sweating buckets,
Ready to shift and peel out at any moment,

And go screaming off into the night,
When this scrawny Jewish kid

Stepped out of the car
Holding a tattered ammunition box,

Wearing a Flogging Molly tee shirt
And a sagging Rastafarian beanie,

Grinning like a dumb shmuck at prom,
And waddled up to the driver’s window,

Knocked, and said, “Dude, let me in!”
So we did, against better judgement.

Ox introduced the boy as Royce,
And I asked him what the stuff was called,

Hoping for some celebrity name,
Like OG Kush or Purple Nurple,

Something to tell the fellas in class Monday,
But Royce didn’t understand branding.

Instead, he said, “This shit is fire, bro,
It’s like novocaine, man,

“You won’t feel a thing all night.”
And I said, “Don’t you mean lidocaine?”

And Ox said, “What’s the difference?”
And I said, “I think it depends on your HMO.”

And Royce said, “Woah, man,
What are you even saying?”

And I said, “My dad’s in insurance.”
And Ox said, “How much?”

And Royce said, “Sixty bucks.”
So Ox paid the kid, dropped three crisp bills

In that worn green box,
And Royce shook our hands.

All the while I’m aware of the photographer
Crouched in the bushes, holding a 400mm

Isometric telescopic something or other,
Planning our downfall in vivid noir detail,

All black and white, photo grainy,
A bit too blurry to make out,

But the judge would pound her gavel,
Stare down at us with frost in her veins,

And my parents would cry
As they hauled me away in a jumpsuit,

Not because I’d ruined my life,
But because I looked so pear-shaped in a onesie.

Royce exited the vehicle and disappeared
Into the wild, purple dawn,

Never to be seen or heard from again,
At least, not by me.

Ox and I went back to his parent’s house,
And sat in the basement, frantically

Trying to stuff this sticky green shit
Into broken cigarettes we bought off his cousin

Who worked nights at the gas station up the street,
All the time giggling and thrilled

With the enormity of our crimes,
The gravity of our manhoods,

Until at long last,
We lit that spliff like a clumpy white rope,

And filled the room with swirling cords of smoke,
Coughing and gagging, reeking skunk spray,

Dispelling rumors of gateway drugs,
Vowing we’d never get into the hard shit,

Just keep it mellow, you know,
And taking turns asking if the other one

Could feel anything.
No, not yet.

Fast forward.
Ten years later.

Ox is in the ground,
Marked by a cold marble slab

That says something about son and friend,
With two very close dates on it,

And silk flowers all over.
I’m sitting alone on a couch,

A thousand miles from that parking lot,
Dissolving a sugar cube on my tongue,

Waiting for the drip to start up slow,
While I crush some Molly with a hammer

To kickstart the high, thinking back
To that night in Ox’s basement,

And the promise we made,
That nervous flutter in my stomach

The first time I took a hit,
And breathed out, exhaled boyhood,

Exhaled innocence, clarity, chastity,
Completed that sacred rite of passage.

Anyway, I guess the drugs worked,
Because I didn’t feel a thing that night,

And I haven’t felt a thing
Every night since.

The 27th Verse

It’s a funny thing, creating worlds.
They exist and they don’t,
They spin and they swirl,
Gleam and glisten,
Frothing with excitement,
Mystery, danger, romance,
What have you;
But that’s what you get
When you throw a bunch of
Whacky characters
On a planet
With nothing better to do
Than fall in love,
Or pray to their creator,
Or write poems,
Or sing and dance,
Or kill each other
In the name of X,
Where is equal to
The sum of all things
You never expected
A whacky character to dream up.
At the end of the day
(if your world has days that end),
The best you can hope for
Is creating a world
Where all the things
Your characters dream up
Are half as beautiful
As the world around them.
Because if your characters
Are anything like you,
They’ll be dreaming up
Exciting new worlds of their own.
So then, it stands to reason,
That when you become a Worldbuilder 
What you’re really building
Is a mirror inside a mirror.
When you stand and look
At the thing you’ve created,
It just goes on and on;
And everywhere you look,
You can’t help but see yourself.
Maybe that’s what they meant
When they wrote the 27th verse
Of the book about the builder
Of the world we’re living in now.
Even if I don’t believe a word of that book,
I can dig it––the 27th verse, that is––
Because I see some truth in it
Now that I’ve made worlds of my own.

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.

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.

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.

Backwards Marco Polo

I met Death in the afternoon,
Hiding at the bottom of a bottle.
Now, I know that sounds
Like bad lyrics to a country song,
But actually, it was amazing,
Because the bottle was see-through,
And still I never saw him coming.
A sneaky one, that Death.
Always creeping up on you
When you least expect it,
Or when you hold a bullhorn to your lips
And scream for him to come find you.
This backwards game of Marco Polo
Will not end well, invariably.
Trust me, CPR hurts,
And when someone puts
Their fingers down your throat,
The fingernails always scratch you,
And the IV never goes in quite right
The first time, so it bruises
When your vein blows.
This happens every time, like clockwork.
And then they pump you with charcoal
To get your stomach cleared out,
And that stuff is just awful.
It’s better to do it quick, I think,
Than go lurking behind trees,
Playing tag with Death,
Because when he does get around
To finding you, and he will,
He comes with vengeance in his wake,
And fury in the palms of his hands,
Lithe fingers at your neck and chest
That leave burn marks.
And heaven forbid you wake up,
Or snap out of it halfway through,
Because then they’ll haul your ass to jail,
Or slap a happy jacket on you
And toss you in a soft room
With other people who lost a game
Of Backwards Marco Polo with Death.

Goose

You sat me down on the soft
Brown shag carpet,

Ready to teach me the ways of war,
Gear in hand, idle throttle,

You reached up and pulled
The cord on a low-hanging fan:

We took flight. Pitch, and breeze
Be damned, our Blackhawk

Would never go down,
Not with you by my side, Goose.

Or so I thought.
I was too little to know

How that story would end,
Floating quiet on a salty raft,

Dog tags sinking, discarded
But not forgotten.

We spent the summer months
Dangling feet over Papaw’s head,

Snickering at the TV
And a receding hairline,

Easy to see with a bird’s-eye view;
I braved gossamer and angry cats,

Chased whispers,
Fought the dreaded raspberry

To see your smile,
Hear your laugh,

And never once
Did we leave that golden battlefield,

And never once
Were we at war.


Goose was the first poem I wrote for a collection called MOONHANGER (still in writing) about my grandmother, Darlene Kington. I called her Mammaw. She was one of the kindest, most beautiful souls ever to walk this earth. We played this game called “helicopter” on the stairs leading up over the living room. Mammaw would start up the ceiling fan––the propeller––then I would fly us around.

Goose takes me back to all those summers I spent with Mammaw, army crawling  her carpeted floors, pretending to be shot down from my captain’s seat at the bottom of the staircase. Mammaw’s gone now, just like Goose, but I don’t need a set of dog tags to remember her. I’ll always have that golden battlefield.

Today’s no different than yesterday; the same will be said of tomorrow. I love you.

Weekend Living

On Saturday mornings I become a cartoon
Caricature of a “normal,” “happy” American,

Drinking coffee, eating an English muffin,
Parading around in pajama pants,

And the kind of shirt you wear to the gym,
But as the day goes on, I get less and less normal,

Screaming psychedelic garage blues in the shower,
Mourning from head to toe, black shirt and jeans,

Smoking dope in a little pickup truck
With a half-gallon of rum riding shotgun,

Still high from the Bennies I ate after breakfast,
A whole new dish I like to call Eggs Benzos,

Like Eggs Benedict, only way better,
Now with half the anxiety and no hollandaise.

By the time I get where I’m going,
I usually don’t remember why or where I left,

So every day is a mystery, a new adventure,
And everyone I meet is a stranger.

In the afternoon I like to break out the rum,
Typically with passion fruit or mango juice,

Something healthy, you know,
And after three or four of those, I’m ready.

For what? Fucking anything.
Not like, the way you’re thinking,

I just mean I’m up for whatever,
As long as it involves parachuting Molly

Until my eyes are flying saucers,
Then dancing with the strangers I met before,

Or didn’t meet, whatever;
I won’t remember them, so it’s all the same.

Then at night, when it gets really late,
I like to have a night cap, something strong,

Like a glass of rum with some Oxy
To take the edge off, get ready for bed,

And by the time I’m passing out,
I’ll remember that tomorrow is Sunday,

So basically, I get to do it all over again.
This is called Weekend Living.

It’s just like Weekday Living,
Only you don’t have to go to work.

It’s way better, too,
because talking to customers

Is hard enough sober,
Let alone drooling uncontrollably.

I guess what I’m trying to say is
Customer Service jobs are the worst.