— for Brent Williamson
Every night the train rattles along the West 4 Street platform
like some futuristic bull pushing archaeological trash
through the catacombs of the city.
I walk out mid-station past the many times I’ve died,
looking back years later, with the edge of a knife scratching my cheek,
to the rooms where it happened, inches away,
on the other side of a dusty window
where I am sitting, crumbs on my shirt,
watching it all unfold and thinking
how easy it is to get tired of new places and new people—
I mean how everything gets old as a nine-to-five
and the more people talk about it the older it gets
and it doesn’t get any younger than the glass in your hand,
just the same drinks and the same meat on fire,
some Phil from accounting and his woman
or some Mrs. saying “Oh, sweetie, you’re just too much”.
It’s not even a lie anymore when we enumerate
everything that’s been done.
And the stupid grin of some accomplishment
makes everyone else catch the same stupid grin like a disease
because we’ve accomplished nothing,
we’ve done nothing out of the ordinary,
we’ve tied our shoelaces twice and flushed the toilet
on our way out as the room fills with the stink of our own shit.
Some even set their alarm clock forward
just to have more time
I watch from the same dusty window
as I tell myself that I need to get away from myself.
I cannot stand how alone everything feels
when I don’t even look up anymore as they pass me,
the regular bums on the line whose lines I’ve memorized,
the painted eyes of a would-be lover
each downward-looking face
going home to some kind of crime against love,
hating myself for doing the same—
how all of us alone are dreaming of different parts.
Our poverty in the hundreds.
The sense of despair crawls into even the most intimate places.
Into the dense fabric of it.
In the dark I imagine how the whole world
tonight is fucking on a really tight schedule.
How the plates and forks are in the sink to soak until morning.
A good rain climbs through the window when you least deserve it.
When a ten-minute friend asked me once how I do it,
what he really meant was how can I do this,
night after night,
chipping away at the world
like some deranged animal who knows nothing else
but the perimeter and its soiled corners.
I’d always said I was much better suited for something else,
anything where a cinder block on top of another
means an end in itself.
I’d be damn good at it,
slapping on the cement, staggering the lines,
wiping my hands on a stained pair of jeans,
standing back and charmed to death by the stonework,
throwing the lunch pail in the corner s
oon as I walked through the front door.
The percentages were all in my favor.
But that never happened, I told him.
Instead I told him that I’m terrified by the ordinary.
Fucking terrified by failure.
Coming home too tired to grab your lady’s ass
because you’ve poured out all of your blood
and all you can think about
is the home team and yesterday’s leftovers.
I told that friend, who I imagine
is now lying in bed with a magazine, and she with a magazine,
the lights, out of mercy, an arm’s length away,
that unless you’re going to go all in into this
you might as well do nothing at all.
Unless being honest means that you might fail
but at least you haven’t failed life,
then, I said, you’ll make love only if it fits into the program,
you’ll put it down on the calendar and you’ll get through it,
Which is probably better for people like you anyway.
And the forest will go on in the skulls of dumb birds.
The insane will arrange their shadows in ascending order.
As the good rain begins to come in. As I turn my back to this.