Bend


I’ve chosen not to speak
So that I never need to hope or act surprised
Or reassess, by days and weeks
The “what” I said, the “hows and whys”
The meanings as interpreted
Or if a single word I said
Was seen and just unworthy of reply

I’ve chosen not to move
So that I never need to possibly believe
There’ll be a way that doesn’t lose
The very thing I can’t retrieve
The yesterday that wasn’t real
It’s like a wound that doesn’t heal
And words are still the cure I don’t receive

I’ve chosen not to look
So that I never need to see if it’s the end
Or if the very road I took
Was but a dream that I pretend
Was leading up and far away
Instead of down to hear you say
“You’ll break before I ever choose to bend”

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Lips


I kissed the hand that once caressed me where belief was lost
For life was but an ocean dark, you swore we’d sail across
I didn’t think of lose or lost
I didn’t think of choose or cost
I didn’t think you’d speak your blessing with your fingers crossed

I touched the gentle lips that told me souls don’t really break
For life was but a ledge, and love a leap that we could make
I didn’t think of try or take
I didn’t think of hearts that ache
I didn’t think you’d say “forgive” but really mean “forsake”

I offered you the tears that you assured I needn’t shed
For life was filled with terrors, but I trusted where you lead
I didn’t think of dark or dread
I didn’t think of fears I fed
I didn’t think your prayers would turn to “words I’ve never said”

I kissed the paling lips of yours, an angel in disguise
For life was but plummet and you swore that we would rise
I didn’t think of lose or lies
I didn’t think of woes or why’s
I didn’t think my lips would be the poison that would lead to your demise

Bade


Defend yourself with silence
Use averted eyes as armor
Use disconsolation as your holy blade

So even as my eyes wince
At the phantom pains of harm you’re
Left as echoes of the song you slowly played

Append the words with droplets
Putting points above your commas
Til continuation meets a growing pause

Til lines that offered couplets
Turned to null each new nirvana
Where your vines of gray were white when sowing laws

Ascend your self-defiance
As your hurt denies the karma
Of the wants that never were so wholly made

As I, in cold compliance
Rest inside the hollow arms of
The imaginary love you coldly bade

Bury


I did just what you told me
And I buried all the bones
Beneath the gravel and the dirt
I dug and dug until it hurt
I threw them in, and left them coldly;
Walked away alone

I did as you requested
And I hid the evidence
I burned the messages we shared
I burned them all, not one I spared
And swore, “From this, I’ve since divested”
Words of mere pretense

I did what you required
And I cleared the old debris
I scrubbed away the drying blood
And any word that spoke of love
I tossed it all into a fire
Where you couldn’t see

I did what needed doing
And I buried my concern
I dug a grave and tossed inside
The moment when my smile died
I killed the us I’d been pursuing
Chose to let it burn

Lost


I’ve lost a lot of people in my life.

Let me restate that…

I’ve rarely had many people in my life, but few of those people have ever really remained. So, I have had few people in my life, but the majority of those people, I’ve lost.

I did not lose them like a person loses another person in a crowd.

I also did not lose them due to a faulty mortal coil or the innate cruelty that is the terminal nature of existence.

In truth, I’ve never lost anyone. At least, not in the way people mean it when they say it.

It is the removal of bridges. Sometimes by fire… sometimes by neglect.

It is the parting of paths. Sometimes by intentional separation… sometimes by the basic nature of life and our own personal desires and trajectories.

I’ve lost pets.

I’ve lost some pets in a very literal way. They left and never came back. I was very young then. Statistically, I know that I lost them in a mortal way as well because on a long enough timeline, that is a simple guarantee. Though perhaps one could say that you cannot lose that which flees. If it left and didn’t return, you never really had it. Or did you?

I suppose that’s a possible topic of debate.

But I’m not here to debate that.

I’ve lost two dogs, but I did not lose them in a simple way. They did not flee. One was hit by a car. He was very old. I was there when he was born. All fat and clumsy…he looked like a chow that was the size of a miniature terrier.

He was my first dog, even though he was not the first dog we’d had as a family. He was my first dog because he was the dog that I took care of. When my parents separated and finally divorced, I took care of him. Amidst the “what’s mine and what’s yours” of a dissolving marriage, no one seemed to be particularly concerned with disputing ownership of an awkward little dog that I’d named Scooter.

He was the only dog that survived birth.

One of thirteen.

The surviving 7.69% of a stillborn litter.

I lost him when he was fourteen years old. I was at work. My roommate at the time called me and let me know that he’d gotten outside, and he found him by the edge of the driveway. He said he didn’t know what had happened. He said he was sure he didn’t hit him when he got in his car to back out.

I understood. It was nobody’s fault.

He was old.

He was at that point that the end was nigh. The end simply hadn’t been given a distinct name. That day, that name had been chosen.

I went back to work.

Life ends.

I understand that.

People die. Animals die.

I understand that.

Realizations like that are so very thin. They’re fragile. They hold a heavy weight upon little stilts of logic. We tell ourselves we understand. We tell ourselves that if we wake up and the house is on fire, that we know the things we’ll grab.

I imagine more than a few people have been roused to a burning house and found themselves in the yard with little and less of the things that they would have put on their proverbial list in that hypothetical world.

I did not handle his loss as well as I thought I would. Knowing that it was coming, and coming soon meant little and less in my hypothetical world.

My next dog was Lux. The remainder of a litter of pit bulls that had yet to be claimed. The owner didn’t want irresponsible people to have dogs that were already labeled as being prone to violence. If I’m being honest, I didn’t want that either. Nor did I want to think of a dog that lived its life at the end of a chain, or that it lived even one of its days proving that it was better at killing than another dog was.

A year later, he had another litter. Same situation. Lux, I decided, could use a brother. His name was Ino.

Seven years later, I’d let my dogs outside and fell asleep. They found a weak spot in a fence. They decided to embrace that freedom.

I lost my dogs that day.

I called the police when I found out they were missing. Told them they weren’t human aggressive. They’d never been.

When I got a call an hour later, I was told that the responding officers took the situation into account, saw the dogs, hadn’t heard of their disposition.

They shot and killed Lux.

It was my fault.

I knew it was the moment it happened.

While others who knew me and who knew Lux were upset by the actions of the responding officers, I was upset with myself. While they lamented the misfortune that befell him, I lamented a dog that I loved who I allowed to come into the same kind of harm that I wanted to protect him from.

I had failed him.

I did not see his death coming. He was not old. The end was not nigh. It was an unexpected fire in the night in my world, and I’d no plan…hypothetical or otherwise.

And now, you, my astute reader, can probably see the trend here.

Ino, as of this moment, is alive. He is old. His mobility is failing.

When I look at him, I still see a puppy. That same fat-bellied dog that ate and drank with reckless abandon the first day I brought him home so that he looked like he’d swallowed a balloon.

But he is not a puppy.

I’ve lost a great deal in life. Most of those losses have taken forms that, at least on some level, had at least one variable that I could not control. I can take responsibility for those variables. I can understand my part in these moments and in these losses. I have pulled a trigger, metaphorically speaking, but I have never felt as though I had to pull it literally.

I will be with Ino when he passes. I would likely be with him whether it was a decision I made or a decision made by life and the passage of time. Either way, I know that the end is nigh. This time, however, I know the name of that ending.

I wonder, in some small way, if that makes it better or worse.

I feel quite sure that it makes it better. And that it makes it worse.

It is a painful thing to know that to save what you love from pain, you must let it go. That the only way you can make it stop hurting is to do something that will hurt.

It is not a decision to make lightly.

This Thursday at 7 pm, I will spend my last day with Ino. He does not know this. There are no words I can tell him to make him understand this.

Part of me wonders if that makes it better or worse.

I suppose it comes down to how it’s worse and how it’s better, and for whom.

When I go home today, I will still see him as I’ve always seen him – as that same little dog that ate and drank so much that he looked like he’d swallowed a balloon. I will see a puppy.

But he is not a puppy. Has not been for a long time.

I will spend the next day and a half trying to tell him that I love him and I’ll miss him using words he’ll never really understand. Words that, at their best, will only suffice in fractions.

And later, I’ll find myself again on the opposite side of that metaphorical fire. But unlike the others, I will have seen this one coming… building over fourteen years. And still, no prepared list or hypothetical plan will have mattered.

I will find myself once again realizing that the one thing I would have wanted to save could not be saved.


As a closing note. It was after Lux died that I decided to go to college. I can’t explain why that spurred me into action, I only know it did.

There is a strange and sad irony that as I find myself now in the final month of my final semester of my final year, that this death serves as that final point of punctuation.

I do not believe in fate. But I am willing to admit when coincidence looks a lot like it.

Apprehension


I dreamt again last night, and there we were
Alone, yet not alone, within a room
Unlike the dreams before, this one was awkward and unsure
Or maybe darkness lay in wait, but morning came and I awoke too soon

You spoke to me, but heard, I, not a word
For how has it been since last we talked?
How long since you became the song, and I the wounded bird
How long since “could have been” was set upon the floor and lined in chalk?

Another passed and offered a remark
To which we met with looks I can’t recall
Did I, embarrassed, seem to blush, or was my visage stark?
And did you laugh or look away, or did you choose to not react at all?

It passed the same, and there again I rose
Within an empty room and silent home
Still wondering when, for you, dreams and words I’ll not compose
And fearing when that day arrives, I’ll honestly and truly be alone


First Dream, Second Dream

Sleep


I stand at the counter, pouring cheap coffee into an equally cheap cup.

“Hey, man,”

“Hey,” I say without looking up. I know who it is. That’s how life gets when you work at the same place this long. You don’t even say names anymore. Everyone is “hey” and “so” and “oy”.

I put the coffee back on the warmer. It smells like it’s been there too long already. I’m not drinking it for the taste.

“Shiiit, man,” Brian says, “you look rough.”

“Bad hair day,” I deflect.

“That what you call that?”

“Just tired is all.” And I am. My eyelids are lead curtains. I probably have bags under my eyes. I dunno. I didn’t look too hard this morning.

I take a sip of coffee and let the silence spread its legs. I don’t know Brian like that. We’re associates. We work together. We don’t go out for beers after work.

“So, man,” he says, his body partially leaning. That way that people do when they say, ‘You know I’m not racist, right?’ but they’re clearly about to say something racist, so they need to feel like they’re in the right battle stance for saying something that they shouldn’t.

Anyway…

“You hear about Krista?”

“She sick or something?” I ask. It’s a genuine question even if it lacks genuine concern.

“What? No,” he says, with a look like he’s confused or offended…or both. “I heard she broke up with uh…oh…what’s that guy’s name?”

I know he knows that guys name. That’s what guys do when they want to act like they’re not smitten. They play it down. They do it poorly. I’ve done it, too. Guilty as charged.

“Uh…” I say. I draw it out because I seriously can’t remember. I seriously don’t care.

“Anyway,” he says, seeing that I’m either not taking the bait or just not that kind of fish, “I hear they broke up.”

“She okay?” I ask. It’s a disingenuous question.

“I, uh…” he stammers – this isn’t how he thought this conversation was going to go, “I, uh…yeah, I mean. I guess. I don’t really know. I was just,” he goes over to the coffee maker and pours a cup. Using simple actions as a momentary respite from feeling awkward. “You work with her more than me, and I just…” he pauses and takes a drink. I already know the coffee is shit, but I didn’t care. His face reacts before he realizes he’s done it.

“Hook a brother up, right?” I say for him.

“I mean…you know, if it’s not a big deal,” he says. It’s a dishonest statement. He doesn’t care if it’s a big deal. “I mean,” he says with one hand up, “I’m not saying like, ‘Hey, bro, if you could ask her if she likes me,’ or anything. I mean…you know…we’re not like, passing notes in school ‘Do you like me?’ with a yes and no checkbox.”

“No,” I say, more an answer to the question of whether or not I like him. “No, we’re not,” I say in response to the whole statement. “I’ll see what’s up.”

“Cool, man. Cool.”

He puts his coffee down and leaves.

I have no intention of finding out.

I don’t care.

Work is a cycle of repetition. It’s worse than normal. The minutes grind like hours. It’s 5 pm in my mind four hours before it’s even lunch.

I sit through a meeting about some new policy that they’re implementing. I feel like I’m talking along with them. Meetings all sound the same after a while. This one’s just worse.

When I get home, I do it with a deep breath. With a hand that opens the door slowly.

Three hours later I’m on my bed. I write in my journal like I’ve done for the past year. I tell myself it helps.

I’m not sure it’s helping.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes.

I can’t use a timer. I found out a long time ago that they don’t work…for obvious reasons. So instead, I tap on my wrist. My timing has gotten pretty good.

I slow my breathing.

I wake up in bed, and the sun is that weird shade of orange-red. Like it’s struggling to get up, eyes bloodshot from a night of heavy drinking.

“I feel your pain,” I whisper.

In the kitchen is a note: “I have that thing with Claire later today. We should eat out. You pick.”

I muscle through the motions at work. I chew the nomenclature and drink down routine verbiage of a professional pencil-pusher.

I get off work. Shower. Change. I send a text. “Mondino’s”

“K,” she texts back.

I get there before she does.

She sits down, her eyes on her phone. “Sorry,” she says as she kisses the side of my face. “Claire was just…uh…” she looks up finally as she’s sitting down with a light press of her finger to turn her screen off. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” I lie. “Just tired.”

“Aww,” she says. “You should try valerian root or…oh…” she scrunches her face up like she always does when she’s thinking, “Shit…” she says with a shake of her head, “right on the tip of my tongue.”

“It’s fine,” I say with an honest smile. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

“It’s gonna bother me.”

“I know it will,” I say. I clench my teeth. I hold back a tear.

“You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah,” I lie. “Just tired. Dull day at work. You know. Like driving on an empty highway all day. It’s sadly draining.”

“You should see about that job at Lochlan and Callister,” she says as she clicks into her phone, “Trish told me that…” she’s scrolling, “…yeah…yeah, they have something going on there. They’ll probably be hiring.”

“Yeah,” I say. “I’ll shoot em my resume in the morning,” I lie.

Dinner is nothing fantastic. It’s only saving grace is the company.

I wake up the next morning and she’s still there sleeping. I kiss her on the cheek before I leave the house. I whisper that I love her. I mean it.

The drive to work is the same as ever.

I’m standing at a counter pouring cheap coffee into an equally cheap cup.

“Hey, man.”

“Hey,” I say, without looking up.

I go through the motions. I give all the same answers.

“Hook a brother up, right?”

“I mean…you know, if it’s not a big deal,” he says. It’s a dishonest statement. He doesn’t care if it’s a big deal. “I mean,” he says with one hand up, “I’m not saying like, ‘Hey, bro, if you could ask her if she likes me,’ or anything. I mean…you know…we’re not like, passing notes in school ‘Do you like me?’ with a yes and no checkbox.”

“No,” I say, more an answer to the question of whether or not I like him. “No, we’re not,” I say in response to the whole statement. “I’ll see what’s up.”

“Cool, man. Cool.”

He puts his coffee down and leaves.

I have no intention of finding out.

I don’t care.

I muscle through the day. I feel like Sysiphus. I idly nod during a presentation. I feel myself reciting the words.

I’m standing my front door and I take a deep breath. I open it slowly.

I listen for something.

Anything.

I walk into the kitchen. The bedroom.

I go into the bathroom last.

She’s there. She’s on the floor. Pills scattered on dry tile.

No note.

No last words.

I clench my teeth and close my eyes.

I go over everything that happened. Everything that didn’t.

I sit down and write it all out in my journal. I don’t even know why. I tell myself it’s helping.

I don’t think it’s helping.

I can’t use a timer. I found out they won’t work…for obvious reasons. I close my eyes and tap slowly on my wrist.

I slow my breathing.

I wake up in bed, and the world is still dark. The sun hasn’t even stirred from its slumber yet. A world of deep indigo and charcoal.