Posts Tagged ‘ Creative writing ’

Four Poems

No, no, the blog is not quite dead yet.

Should it be?

Ah, that’s an awfully good question.

I guess I’m being stubborn about it. There are worse things in the world to drag my feet over, and refusing to let this blog keel over probably isn’t going to make the all-time countdown.

I don’t think so, anyway.

I don’t know why I’m doing a post. The odds of this blog ever being anything but an orphanage for misfit short stories and poems are pretty grim at this point. And I’m forever hesitant over sharing those things here to begin with, since they really ought to be put through the paces of being submitted to literary journals and the like. Sharing them here always kind of feels like I’m giving up on them.

Actually, I’ve had the feeling that I’ve given up on writing in general for much of the year.

Granted, we’re only a couple of weeks into the year, but things have already escalated nicely in the departments of self-loathing, intense doubt, and anxiety that wears a cunning disguise of being easily distracted (“Tommy Lee Jones does look like Grumpy Cat! Neat!”). It has not been a great year so far for work, and that’s entirely my fault. I haven’t tried to finish the third novel, I haven’t pushed myself to start on new projects, I haven’t taken any chances, and I haven’t learned the intricacies of naked tap dancing (and that last one is really goddamn important).

I’ve been disappointing myself over and over again, and it’s made worse by the fact that I’m aware of what I’m doing every step of the way.

This isn’t going to end with a declaration to do better, work harder. Obliterate a few more brain cells through the magic of frantic creative work. If you have to call this anything, just think of it as catching up over coffee with something righteous thrown in for good measure. I’m well aware of how far behind I am on everything I want to do, and I’m aware that I’m going to be twenty-eight soon. Seemingly in the same length of time it takes me to breathe in and out slowly and only once.

Things need to change. Saying that to myself over and over again isn’t going to make that happen. Whether it’s in the back of my mind as I try to fall asleep, or in a paragraph of an introduction to a blog post a few people will hopefully read. The only thing I can do is be even more of a bastard to myself than usual.

And what I definitely can’t do is let things like being tired of being single, the frustration of having a tenth of the career I envisioned for myself when I was young(er) and (even more) stupid slow me down. I can’t let my love affair with aspects of the well-worn past (even if that past includes things that happened as recently as five or six months ago) fuck me over again and again. And I sure as hell can’t let the responsibilities that are inherent in living a life that is not allowed to include trying to head-butt the TV at thirty miles per hour run my life forever and ever. I have to commit myself to a mild obsession with moving forward, and I have to maintain that thought at all times.

No matter how many days in a row happen to suck with the glorious style of an aging porn star trying to win Miss Universe.

This isn’t a declaration. I’m just thinking out loud.

There is a difference. At least there is while I type this at 2:30 in the morning.

In short, bring on the wrecking ball, bring on the work that I should be demanding of myself day in and day out, and bring on the deranged optimism for things like the ability to let go of those weird artifacts from the past, and the dream of once again having nothing but thousands of miles and dozens of towns worth of travel to look forward to.

That is not, as far as I can tell, too much to ask for.

And if it is, well, fuck it, man, because I’m asking for it anyway.

**********
Vintage Surreal Gangster Cinema

It wasn’t Halloween.
It wasn’t one of those awful goddamn
costume parties,
where everyone would rather just get stoned
and watch vintage Samurai cinema instead.

A man who got fat reading “War and Peace”
three times in a row just decided to show up
in a Snow White costume that wouldn’t have fit
a man even half his size.

A girl in a leather nurse’s outfit.
She doesn’t really dig on the whole saving lives scene.

Tweedledee was there.
Tweedledum was down to a black veil and wifebeater.

The Devil was Legion. Figures.

A higher power believed in the darkness
being able to pick off the lights in various hallways.

But it was a mansion. Plenty of dusty bulbs
to guide the desperate, lonely and frustrated
to the safety of a commonplace bedroom.

Complete with a commonplace view
of some strip of some kind of paradise.

And all the violent weather a person can eat.
More than enough to make leaves and branches behave like ghosts.
More than enough to think you really can be afraid of everything.

The windows were huge, were put in a century
and a half after the house was built and survived
a baptism, and just didn’t fit the rest of the place at all.

But practically no one cared. Anyone who did
was too nervous to do anything but laugh.

And the house band held everyone together with pins and string.
Mostly Rockabilly. A little John Lee Hooker and Blind Lemon Johnson
for when everybody just needed to calm the hell down.

A handsome kid dressed as a man dressed as an artist
who stays away from coffee, booze
and any wooden track rollercoaster.

He’s swallowed whatever he accidently crushed
in his pocket earlier, and he’s starting to forget
the name of the wife he came with.

She left hours ago. Love just happens like that.

Everyone just felt overdressed and old.

But they woke up when the house band played
something they had never heard before.

**********
Here Comes the Next Birthday

I bring you in for the dip,
because I really can move like Christopher Walken
once in an unholy while,
and down you go. Right into the bathtub gin
that tastes suspiciously
like bathtub vodka.

Let’s not talk what year this is,
your original hair colour or
why you think there’s bruises
in the backs of your eyes.

Both of us fell for people,
who found happiness and emotional clarity,
long after they started writing love songs
for the next one on the line.

The gin wears vodka goggles.
Let’s just put it like that,
because it sounds logical
in this part of the country.

I need some logic
in this cold place of a time
that has no teeth,
but plenty of good upper-body strength
and the best running shoes from 1994.

Someone’s gotta load me into the car,
and hope the driver is a cohort of mine
from last summer.

We can’t trust anyone from further back than that.
I don’t know what I’ve said to other people at other parties.

You take a long drink getting out of the tub,
and I can hear your friends laughing. On all fourteen floors.
I still think someone installed cameras in this miraculous joint,
before you moved in, with the three cats, the knives, recipe books,
snow globes and all the sketches you’re not going to finish.

It’s impossible to make love here,
and not feel like someone somewhere is watching,
talking to others over thirty-cent martinis
about where you went wrong as a child.

I can’t complain.
I’m through complaining.
Through with imagining old loves are still star-struck,
with something I’ve never been able to put my finger on.

Or anything else,
but this isn’t the time, place or sleepy crowd
for dirty jokes that worked beautifully that one beautiful time.

This is the rest of my life,
and I’m just not much of a writer,
actor, entertainer or scoundrel anymore.

I don’t care for cooking.
You can still use a kitchen after it’s burnt down.
My mind is always somewhere else,
and that goes for a lot of things.

It just kind of flies around,
and I leave my thoughts
with nothing but more trivia.

I hate trivia.
There’s a lot of things these days
I’m not fond of.

Your friends.
My friends.
All the people
I wish were here instead.

**********
Dig Your Own Grave And Save

The groom had a bad cough. A really bad cough.
And these eyes that wanted to dress up
as a runaway train.

The bride had buried all of ‘em. Every last doctor
who had ever brought her flowers for every day
they ever loved her for her dangerous temper.

She had to be older than him by fifty,
sixty years. And the wedding reception looked lovely
to me. But I wasn’t driving a car. I wasn’t walking calmly
to the time and place that could have turned out to be
my last night on earth. So I didn’t give a damn
if their wedding made it impossible to drive down Main Street.

I probably could have saved that guy.
This was clearly something he didn’t want to be a part of.

Kept walking instead. I only knew one of the bridesmaids intimately.
I didn’t like the look of those angels with sniper rifles overhead.
Those wings would kill a whole lot of people, if they just decided
to come down the level of mere mortals.

Guess that old lady could call in favors.
The way ordinary people call out the name of the last person
in the history of their lives that would ever rush to be by their bedside.

And I just didn’t want to get involved. I’m still not cautious.
Don’t accuse me of finally playing it safe. Please, please, don’t.

It’s just that I don’t need any more friends.
Not that kind. I’d prefer it if the psychopaths, contract killers
from the class of 2003, and girls who think it’s cute to call themselves
Bang-Shift Betty, all came to me instead.

I don’t have a problem with the people I can love forever,
and only trust three nights out of ten.

I’m just not going out of my way to entertain them anymore.

**********
Baby, You Got a Sick Mentality

Paranoia is realizing
that you’re the only one at the birthday party
who isn’t a doctor,
and then wondering what each of them
might be thinking of you.

I limp,
talk to myself,
add a little more rum to the punch,
cough when I need a cigarette
and fall asleep every time someone tells me
that I’ll be working for their infant son someday.

They could put me away with all that,
and there’s enough of them for me to know
that could happen if I grab the wrong wife’s ass.

Could be for the best.
You know you done screwed up,
when you have to hire a young girl to follow you around
and tell you what you did wrong every morning at 5:15.

And then I’d have to be careful about who I employ.

Last thing I need,
is some kid telling me that I’m living in the past,
and that things are better now than they were twenty years ago.

Shameful or whatever that I don’t really know if that’s true.
I’m scared of hospitals,
and I only ever watch the news
when an upcoming appointment goes missing.

Reading fiction seems to cover everything else,
and I have plenty of friends who balance
keeping me informed with getting over their addiction
to pathological lying.

This is called a compromise.
It’s like settling for finding shelter under a cancerous tree
after the lightning starts to follow you like a cheery bloodhound.

If I turn out to be wrong about something
I can still meet someone who can teach me how to play chess,
and how to play a piano that’s been busted up.
Shipped to more countries than there are winos
making a living by getting people to pay them
not to spray-paint erotica on the sidewalks.

That’s a lot of drunk people with high-school diplomas.

I’ll bet they were just like me, not too long ago.
Probably went to pot when they hit one of those parties
with all those smug doctors and kittenish wives.

Paranoia tells me this,
and it doesn’t even have a voice worth remembering.

You would think otherwise.

**********

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Two Poems

Day seventeen should be making the scene next week. For now let’s see what to make of the two most recent poems I’ve written.

Most of my creative output these days is poetry, fiction and reviews. I’d like to break from those at some point soon, and get into a new script, or even something I’ve never done before (like writing for a webcomic), but I guess those things will have to wait.

Until?

I don’t. Until I feel comfortable with where I stand with the things I’m working on now. I really don’t want to take on any big projects until the third draft of that second novel is finally finished. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t say no, if something were to come along. I’m just trying not to take on too much at once. I want to be ridiculously productive, but there’s always a point where the work will begin to suffer. Who knows if I’m there already. I don’t think I am, but you never know.

These are weird poems that came out of weird, sad dreams and memories. I’ve been having a lot of those lately. I hate anything that leaves me with an inexplicable notion of sorrow. Depression is fine, but I think sorrow is a little dramatic, and not something I’m even remotely entitled to.

Still, I wake up with the feeling, and it digs at me for the rest of the day. Thank-God, it doesn’t  happen often.

I think these turned out pretty well. I’d like to try submitting them, but I suppose this is a good place to let them wander around for a bit. See if they run into anyone familiar.

They certainly don’t want to hang around a sad bastard like me anymore.

Enjoy.

**********
Real Deviant-Like
By Gabriel Ricard

Fear is the great motivator,
and it’s possible I’ve revealed
too much of what scares me
three-hundred-and-sixty-four days out of the year.

I still visit friends,
and I act like there really are flowers in my right hand,
when I visit a woman who knows how dangerous
I can be when the stress becomes unmanageable.

It’s the first day,
of knowing yesterday
was the first day of the rest of my life.

I’m still mostly fantastic for fourteen shows an hour.
I’m still sorry I was too lazy to ride a bicycle,
all the way to the state she was playing house in.

All the bad things I’ve done
remain safe and sound. They used to be in a film vault,
in the stable parts of California but were moved,
and have since been traveling even more I do.

Maybe, I’m just an egomaniac,
but I suspect hundreds of people
are keeping that reel updated
and timely to the point where it’s giddy with insight.

Or it’s just one bitter heart with personality to spare.

Something tells me,
that’s not it. I’ve wronged a subway car
worth of people in the last decade alone.

I know all of this. It makes up the bones
that have their own games, their own language,
and their own way of mouthing off to God
with a mouthful of dirt.

It’s a mighty big closet to keep them in.
The skeletons dance, like someone
set out to recreate a public domain cartoon
from 1928, but fell in and out of love
before they finished and retired,
to watch the underworld
from their front porch.

I think the previous owner
kissed a couple dangerous girls in there once.

Lots of room to make a bad decision.
You wouldn’t even have to pound
the old hotspots. So desolate the wind left them behind
and went looking for something else to whip into shape.

I still do that,
but I don’t keep the souvenirs.
I avoid getting close to new bodies whenever possible.

They wouldn’t love me in the long run.

I know all of this. Every last dreadful gesture,
and every t-shirt that smells like a claustrophobic barroom,
but I’m still afraid of almost everything.

There’s no motivation from that anymore.
No burn marks under my feet. Not no more.

Now,
I just accumulate troubling amounts
of wealth for the distressing times ahead of me.

**********
Echoes from Wild Horses
By Gabriel Ricard

Throw us under the bus heading into town.
Or just throw us over the last necessary telephone wire,
let the chemically imbalanced ballerinas tap
ridiculous sorrow on the back of our heads,
and then leave what’s left of us for the politically-correct crows.

It’s not a murder anymore.
It’s just a gathering of talented public servants,
who just so happen to know which sleeve our hearts are hiding under.

Widows have to be content to be rich in spirit.
The best homes in the best neighborhoods
are still the ones that stand alone,
and don’t need a skyscraper resting comfortably on top
catching the last of Peter Pan’s optimistic fan club.

No one ever goes inside,
but you can hear arguments,
and shopping carts, debating TV finales with stray cats
on a night where everyone’s outside
drinking spiked NyQuil,
and not speaking to each other.

There’s plenty of money around to buy these places.
Fix up the interior. Paint the walls something,
that won’t bleed all the way outside
into the grass. But the buyers are all temporary millionaires,
looking to take revenge on their childhood homes,
and ruin a couple of classic cars.

Some people just can’t let go.
Others develop real mean complexes,
over how easily that came to them in their youth.

Even the Atheists have been touched in the head
by a god of some kind.

Old men gamble on the echoes
of the wild horses trying to outrun the August blues.

Young men try to stop cabs
with nothing but great expectations and loud voices.

Every one of them remembers
the woman who sang to them on a payphone,
and told them everything was finally ready
to forgive itself.

They remember a little too often,
laugh a little too hard,
stay out a little too late,
cough up everything they breathed in,
and wind up too scared to visit a sadistic country doctor
in timeless carnival dress.

No one ever dies that way.
That’s the worst part.

Paranoid workaholics are beginning to wonder
if anyone ever really dies anymore.

Like everything else,
it seems to be taking forever,
and nothing we do
is half as much fun as it used to be
because of that.

Two Poems

I don’t update this nearly as often as I’d like or should, and I hold all of you completely responsible for that.

No, not really, but it’s fun to pretend, I always say.

These two poems strike me as being very different. That makes sense, considering one was written yesterday, and the other was written some four years ago. I was pleased to read the older one (“Garden of Quiet”) for the first time in as many years, and not be completely horrified by it. I think it’s a decent little bit of writing (and I think it came from a line in a Bob Dylan song, but I honestly can’t be sure), and I’d like my poetry to get back to that kind of simplicity. I think I tend to lean a little on the verbose side these days. There’s still some good writing within that, but I’m not as good at “Murdering my darlings” as I ought to be.

Restlessness may well be the spiritual death of me before the end of 2011. I’d like to be on the road, and I find myself dreaming more and more of New York. I suppose that’s because I haven’t been there since Halloween 2009.

Enjoy the poems, and be patient as I work at another movie review for that damn challenge, and as I also try to think of something different to do with this blog. I’m still working out ideas, and nothing has really grabbed me so far (I’m also incredibly lazy—It’s a miracle I accomplish anything at all)

I remain open to suggestions as always. That probably doesn’t need to be repeated over and over again. I’m just grateful people are reading this confounded thing.

**********
Canadian Films about Airports
By Gabriel Ricard

Let’s just say I cut myself shaving,
and that I fell down the stairs,
because I’m clumsy for exactly fifteen minutes
every afternoon.

She put a hand on my arm,
and that was the act of trading youth for perspective
as she asked me if I wanted to hit the last party in town.

I had cabdrivers gunning for the bones in my fingers,
so I was eager to disappear for a while,
and I didn’t give two or even three damns
for what I knew of this young lady’s reputation.

The all-star variety show
goes on a laughingstock summer hiatus.
It’s at the exact moment I realize,
that someone who came very close to being my ex-wife
slept with the three other cats in the getaway car.

Where do I meet these broads?

Don’t answer that.

Don’t answer any questions,
I might ask while looking for the city of Asian angels
through the cracks in the sidewalk.

Don’t ask any questions,
when I’m busy getting half the words right
to a song, that’s not necessarily my favorite,
but will have to do in a pinch.

I’m just stressed out.
It’s been do-or-sort-of-die,
since the day she wore that dress
to the dancehall disaster,
of what I think was either 1958 or 2009.

That doesn’t make sense,
I know,
so let’s just say smokers fear time
differently from the well-adjusted.

Give me the rest of my life
to sort everything out,
and make millions
turning in my old friends
and classic haunts.

Wait for me to come back
from that last party.
Or the kind of police station
where people like me sit quietly,
smoke noisily and read comic books
until the end of time’s version of an Elvis impersonator.

Keep me in your heart,
or just keep me from calling up old girlfriends.

I can’t drive,
and I’ll never be a handsome hero,
so I may need you to drive me to the airport.

I’ll definitely need you to hold my hand,
because I can’t handle the stress and save my money
at the same time.

**********
Garden of Quiet
By Gabriel Ricard

Some of the people
in this garden have been here
longer than the years I’ve spent,
getting old and coming back to youth,
over a hundred thousand days
of nothing but borrowed time.

I pass by them constantly.

Walking on clean grass
past the trees that bend skyward
and keep the world together
on their wisdom alone.

Fresh fruit
with nothing to do
but fall gently to the ground.

Overjoyed flowers in an eternal state
of a spring that goes on forever.

The clouds rarely complain.

They only find the need to weep
when the view can keep up.

I spend most of my time here,
looking for people I might know.

But all I’ve seen so far
are close friends and other strangers.

There are couples everywhere here.

People who know they can hold
for everything but dear life.

Some of them make love
by one of the clear-sky rivers.

Some of them in the presence
of the afternoon frozen in warm sunlight.

But there are also people,
who don’t seem to have anyone.

I see a lot of them, too.

Heartless and shapeless
Spirits stuck with waking eyes
and flesh that looks clean and content
at every hour of the only day.

Listening to whatever
or whoever is crushing the silence
of the trees with their memories.

They never talk.

They just sit there,
and wait for something to change
or someone to keep their appointment.

Destroyed
and knowing it the same way
they know no one’s listening.

I walk past them,
trying to remember
what I was doing when I came here.

Grateful and terrified
in the time it takes me to swear
there’s someone here who knows me.

And that it’s just a matter
of finding them before I get tired.

Two Poems

There’s not a lot to say about these. One of them was written yesterday, and the other one came together a few hours ago. I try to get come up with somewhere in the neighborhood of ten to eighteen poems in a given month. God knows if that qualifies as ambitious. I guess the great affection for writing poetry is that it gives me something to do between larger projects.

I can go days without writing sometimes (self-loathing and all that), but I never like to. It’s best that I have some project on the table as often as possible. I guess that’s why things like acting, stand-up and the like are so welcome. My mindset is such that I should always be working, always trying to get something off the ground. The idea is to keep moving forever, or to at least kid myself into thinking I can do that.

It’s fun.

Right?

Right?

I like how these two turned out. Poetry lets me play around with imagery that generally doesn’t work as well in fiction.

Looking to get back into that blasted movie challenge this coming week. That should be fun, too.

I’m all about fun tonight. I’d rather be kicking around New York, Santa Fe or some other place. I’d rather be getting into trouble and having very little show for it. Things have been slow lately, and that tends to bug the living shit out of me.

Ah well. I guess we’ll just settle for whatever’s around.

**********
Heaven and Heck
By Gabriel Ricard

It’s getting to where I don’t even have to
pull myself up as best I can, chase them down
and ask as kindly as possible why it was necessary
to skip the hello, work wonders on my ribs
with a pair of Chinese finger trap brass knuckles
and leave without the courtesy of a forwarding address.

I used to try. I used to faintly remember them
from one of those get-togethers,
where I’m more likely to regret the songs I mouthed the words to in the kitchen.
Instead of some stupid fire that took over the living room.
Or some strip-Life game that turned into a reasonably kinky puppet show.

That psychic tab is going to haunt me until the day I stop dying.

Watch me count my closest cohorts on one hand,
and still have enough fingers left over for a midnight cooking accident.

You can’t impress everybody,
and in trying to do so
I’ve had to accept that I may not be able
to go out to dinner in peace.

Or go grocery shopping
without waking up in a freezer,
surrounded by peas and carrots
and wondering what in the hell just happened.

People lose their goddamn minds in the summer,
but I’ve run into this kind of thing
in November, too.

It used to scare me to death.
This was back when I took medication,
bothered nuns on the televised streets for guidance
and could sit through an entire stranger’s funeral,
without starting a food fight.

Then I just got used to it. Sleeping alone
six days out of the week ain’t so bad,
and when the bad dreams drop me into a thin room in the long dark
I can actually figure out where and when I am
about half of the time.

I’ll do whatever it takes,
put up with anything
to keep my place as a guest motivational speaker
on the misadventure circuit.

That’s not destroying the candle from the inside-out.
That’s called progress, baby.
**********
Eggs for a Rainy Month
By Gabriel Ricard

Anger management classes that turn into basement weddings
are a lot like those desperate Friday night football games.

In one of those desperate Texas towns
that’s taken to adding a few landmines
to bring back the roar of the crowd,
the benign drug-dealers
and deformed cheerleaders selling auto-parts.

They’re the same,
in that I’d rather not be at either one
ever again.

I wasn’t even invited,
but I still have to take these things and more
and turn them into deeply personal stories.

My substantial,
useless free time is spent standing in the doorway
and assuming an earthquake might eventually
shake Richmond, Virginia out of its enlightened cowboy boots
and into the Pacific.

Although sometimes,
I’ll be in Annapolis or Seattle
and just drink enough to think
I’m in Richmond, Virginia.

My psychic ex-girlfriend laughs
until her ribs cave in,
every time I stupidly call to tell her all about it.

She tells me
that it means the stars are seriously looking
to fuck me over
when the tires burst,
and I’m out of gas
in Death Valley’s hallucinatory metropolitan masterpiece.

It’s okay. She’s probably right about that.
And about being liked when I’ve been gone for a month
than being loved when all eyes are on me,
and the chandeliers up top are meeting
the mousetraps on the floor for a compromise.

I never get invited to anything,
and it wasn’t until I learned how to live on traveling
constantly that I finally did something about it.

It’s that one summer vacation from my childhood
where every day was someone else’s two-day birthday party
all over again.

You learn to find a way in.
You work on two-part jokes
when the cops show up
and want to know
why your fiancé pulled a butcher knife
on the downstairs neighbors.

It’s better to sneak in the front door,
steal some eggs for a rainy month,
seek forgiveness from the host
and remember to thank any women,
who toss you out on your ear.

You meet a lot of fascinating people that way,
and some of them even take you out to breakfast
at gun-point.
**********

Two Poems

The great plan/dream/etc is to run a short story, and I’m thinking I’ll knock that out this week, maybe run something random after that, and then get back into those damn movie challenge reviews that I’ve slowly starting to hate writing.

I’m determined to finish the damn thing though. The only upshot of being obsessive (besides the chain-smoking) is that I usually finish projects I’ve started. This is true of much of my life, but it’s at least a positive with writing and acting.

These are the last two poems I’ve written. I have around 2000 in the vaults. Of those there’s probably fifty or sixty making the rounds to literary journals and the like. The challenge is always trying to figure out what to send. There’s a bunch of stuff that will probably never see the light of day, because I’m too lazy to go through the entire folder (collecting every poem I’ve written from about 2002 to the present), so I’m always wondering if there’s some magic poem in the folder that wouldn’t turn it all around for me. Bring along that fame and fortune that will finally bring me that, what’s the word, happiness I’ve been hearing other people talk about.

I also don’t like focusing on poetry too much. I’m usually trying to push the short stories, novels and scripts a lot more.

A note on the tags: It’s not that I think my work is as good as these writers. I’m just listing influences. Writers, musicians and even films that have strongly influenced every aspect of my writing (and sometimes even with the acting). I’m also hoping the tags will help more people find this blog. An audience isn’t essential, but it’s nice to know sometimes that people are digging what you’re up to.

**********

And A Chest to Pin It On
By Gabriel Ricard

My life hasn’t been just weird dinner parties
that turn violent in the backseat.
Just before the million-car pileup and leaving the emergency room
in a fury of hooks and shouting,
because I’d rather leave like that than quietly and alone.

Tuesdays are a bat out of a barnyard Heaven.
You know what I mean?

They’re worse than Fridays,
and how the train station is only everywhere
from four a.m. to nine p.m.

My life is more than hoping, praying
for a time to come soon when I’m again unfamiliar
with my surroundings
for five thousand miles in every direction.

It’s not just taking Adderall and ordering off-the-menu
Irish Coffee at IHOP,
because I’m not interested in the wild stuff anymore.

I have a very good reason
for not speaking to one of my brothers anymore.

I’m better than all of that,
and it shouldn’t work against me
that all of the witnesses have mysteriously disappeared
over the years.

Some good stuff has happened, too.
I’m selfish, but I could never commit
to being habitual about it. Sociopaths
get even less vacation time than I do.

There was even one time
when I kept someone alive
for at least five more hours.

It’s not that I’m trying to be carried out of the room by starlets.
I’d just like to be able to even the score while there’s still time.

She was ripping her hair out,
twisting the legs off the dolls in the baby’s room
and screaming
into a broken smartphone.

I stumbled through the crowd,
made it to her with seconds to spare
and whispered something in her ear.

Can’t remember what is was now,
but it worked well enough. She calmed down,
apologized for not getting being better
at getting attention, and we spent most of the night
and morning talking.

Don’t remember the details of that either,
but she was in good atheist spirits
when I put her in a cab and told the driver
not to stop until they got to Knoxville.

That just seemed like the right distance
away from this town.

Most of us wouldn’t dream
of making travel plans so ambitious
even if we were deathly homesick.

I have no idea what happened to her after that,
but I was able to keep her going for those five hours,
and that’s something better than whatever comes before nothing.

Pride isn’t something I’m fond of anymore.
I think it’s just nice to be needed
once in a while.

**********
Monkeys Forgive My Sins
By Gabriel Ricard

It had only been a couple of hours,
but I had a really good feeling
about her. The energy was something
special, kiddo.

The streetlights became a thunderstorm of fire.
The sun knew when to take a third-round dive.
The news channels took their technical difficulties to heart.

I could even smoke
if I opened a window
and didn’t say anything to hurt the mailman’s feelings.

She could do impressions
and always kept the room at sixty-five degrees.

I was in love, you know?
I was doing well, considering I had only been awake
for a couple of years at that point.

My expectations for adventure when I’m breaking
into the gas station for cigarettes and cough syrup
are not spectacular. I’m usually happy
to just get what I need from life and get home
before the heat wave meets the blizzard,
and all of it splits the sky’s back like three anorexic twigs.

I didn’t expect to run into someone like her,
and I didn’t know you could live in this part of town
without sweating it out in the minor-league rehabs first.

Her legs were fantastic and not in the least dangerous.
I’m still willing to say that.

An hour to feel comfortable around her
then another hour to fall head over heels
and shake off the concussion almost immediately.

It took a lot less time to nod slowly,
kiss her throat, excuse myself to the bathroom
and never, ever come back.

Maybe I’m prejudiced.

I could have loaned her my grandmother’s ring
and hung in there for twenty more years,
just to be sure.

Panic is the only consistent justice I believe in.
It set when she told me that for an extra five hundred,
she would nail my hands to the desk and paint my portrait.

I used to have an open mind.
I’m a champion Hide and Seek player
with the Civil War ghosts at second-to-last old high school.

It may well go down in history as a real shame.
I ducked out of there, stole a cab from an old woman
and stashed myself and my good fortunes
at a grocery store that’s been renovating since 1948.

No one needed to tell me I was a fool.
I drank warm beer in the aisles and wrote dirty limericks
on the linoleum floor. I knew it was going to be a long
damn time before I ever fell in love again.

And I was right.
Forty-five minutes went by,
until I finally noticed the girl
at the thirty-aspirations-or-less counter
screaming in Chinese
and threatening everyone in her line with a shotgun.

She had kind eyes.
I was thinking about this,
as I scribbled my number
on the back of an old bus ticket
and confidently made my way towards her.