The Dinged-up Armature of Getting by

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(Artwork courtesy of Sarah Tell at Distress Press)

The usual hum and bustling thrum of public life has vanished,
leaving only this eerie blank lull
like frozen antelope halted on train tracks,
in a perpetual monolithic limbo.
Birdsong is everywhere,
trills and squawks and even a subtle flapping of wings
suddenly so loud in all of this quiet.
Whales are singing more. Coyotes are roaming the Financial District.
Nature breathes easy as humanity holds its breath.
The streets of rush hour are nearly deserted
Like the hush of wee-hour sojourns:
a pinch of sand sifted onto a kettle drum;
the low-volume crepitation of a needle at the end of record;
or just the slight tremble of putting on ChapStick in the wind’s gelid sting.
The few surgical-masked pedestrians avoid each other
and hustle on their way to essential services.
You can hear every voice,
and the rustle in the movements of faraway things,
even bug swarms and farm machinery and the tap of footsteps and
maybe in the distance
a slight cough.

Now I’m here alone staying up late and listening to John Prine
and letting it all back in for a night,
the big weird loving mess of it all,
before we’ve got to say goodbye to our normal selves again,
and just hold on.
Growing back my mustache,
getting more or less lonely,
thinking about changing my whole life
again and all over again,
for the best.
Nothing that’s worthwhile is easy to attain,
but I’m not a retired Datsun dealer or a door-to-door toupee salesman.
I don’t manufacture alligator shoes that smoke cloves on dance floors.
Sometimes I still wonder what applies,
or if anything does.
What sets us together is sometimes what tears me all apart.

Your imprint is all over my life:
little folded-up to-go bags from restaurants we ate at together,
presents and postcards and your artwork on the walls,
even your bobby pins are scattered here and there,
and a stack of some vintage romance and cowboy magazines you got for me in New York,
your pillow on my bed,
lipstick on the sleeves of the wrinkled white button-down tossed on the floor.

Welcomed back and gone to everywhere’s farthest closeness,
something indecisive to mess around with,
like transcendental meditation or killing moths,
or spitting coffee at the TV,
I keep getting sideswiped with comfort and caution.
It’s getting so that I can’t tell a.m. from p.m. anymore,
as the weeks blur into desperate measures and untested recollections.
There are times you just need to get alone and away,
sure,
but most times being together is a bit better than the best.

The terse squeaky clip of scissors
as you cut out seventy hearts on the bed;
set a threshold for deaths
and we’ll surpass it every few days.

“Just give me a shank drum sander and few rusty collets, and I’ll have this sculpture cut down to a more manageable size in no time.”

I didn’t know quite who I was until I found out about you
in the mordant plop of casual suicides and other mussed handwriting:
scrawls of who we made ourselves up into.

Best not to rile up too few dance moves.
Basically breathing,
in short supply,
for a limited time only.
Get me a balaclava and some Kevlar gloves
and call it a month.

(There’s no help here
no help here for anything
nothing like that

I’m not so lonesome
but I could really go for a cry
anyway)

Nothing so old or anything so new.
Institutional toilet paper and homemade hand sanitizer and coffee-filter-lined bandanas to breathe through.
Framed sentiments hung above the sink.
Overtired with too much time to rest and be restless in.

So, let’s keep it out in the open,
ever indoors as always,
I promise,
for then and for now,
and for all that never that keeps happening,
by daybreak I’ll hatch an escape plan just for us.
Hell,
let’s skip breakfast
and just go right on into lunch,
put on some Sam Cooke,
and dance the rest of this day on into the night already.

I’ll take that kiss now.

The only writer who matters

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