Practice went well, the new song was coming.
We packed our gear and got ready to say our goodbyes
though I didn't want to be alone quite yet.
A drummer with a liver as hard as his cymbals
always makes for a good post-op drinking partner
so I invited him back to my place for a few cocktails
assuring him I'd drive him home afterwards.

It's taken some practice
but I can manage to only have that one drink now.
Calling it a night cap makes it easier somehow.

We chewed the fat
shot the shit
whatever you want to call it
as he flipped through the channels
savoring his concoction with the pride of a craftsman.
I sip mine slowly since it'll be the only one I have.
I suggest taking him home an hour and a half later
when his eyelids get heavy and he nods off sitting up.

We get in my car and I apologize for the lack of selection.
My music collection is locked in my trunk because the location
of my new job site is in the heart of the ghetto.
The disc in the stereo comes on and I mention the radio option
but he doesn't take the bait
so I'm forced to listen to the damn mix CD
that I mistakenly popped in a few days ago.

I know, I do it to myself sometimes.
OK, most times, but thank you for not counting.

The first track comes on and he looks across at me, puzzled
as I hand him a clove cigarette and my lighter while backing out
of my driveway:
"Leaving On a Jet Plane," and our failed practice-run honeymoon to Florida.
I try to explain that the CD's source and seemingly random songs
but in his current state he can't comprehend that I want to hear them
even less than he does right now.
Again, "We can turn the radio on..."
but the hint still doesn't sink and he skips to the next track
as I coax the wheel into a smooth left turn.

Something about a break-up comes on, he complains about the misery.
I agree under my breath as he sings along in jest
and the irony escapes us both.

A few more songs, all duds, and we're halfway there.
We're both cringing, but for different reasons.
He turns and reaches into the backseat in search of other options.
I start trying to tell him again that it's no use
since it's all locked in my trunk
but trail off mid-sentence
since I know I won't get through to him tonight, in that state
just like she never could
those nights that seem so painfully distant and close

The one about not looking "a thing like Jesus" rears its ugly head.
I pull harder on my clove.
The beard's back, but I'm still no one's savior
still trying desperately to talk "like a gentleman"
though that gets me equally nowhere.

Fast-forward to the tragedy of a white man rapping.
I consider trying to argue that it's a good song regardless
and settle for the fact that I didn't want to hear it anyway.
At this point, I'd even wear that Bridle if it'd make a difference.

We come to the melodramatic conclusion of the unfortunate trip
down memory lane
plenty sober to get out of a ticket
but not drunk enough to deal
and three miserable little numbers by one miserable little band come on.
He instantly skips them and returns to the beginning.
I commandeer DJ status and put on a song I know he would've liked
if he would've let it play past the introduction and recognized it.
We laugh about a few junior high innuendos in the lyrics and then I explain
that she put that one on there because I tend to let things linger.
He acknowledges that it's a genetic trait out of my control
which sends the image of the other side of my family tree to my mind's eye.
I haven't seen him in almost a year and a half now.
I can't help but wonder how many more mistakes of mine
have been in his footsteps.
If only he'd told me.
If only she'd left for good.
If only I'd thrown this goddamn thing out the window of my car a long time ago.

I drop my friend off at home, back out of his driveway, and head home.
Still coughing from the clove I just finished
I light up a Marlboro and sing along to the rest
of whatever that fucker named Fate throws my way.

I have to piss and debate pulling over, but I can hold it.
You'd be surprised what I can take;
singing and smoking
bobbing and weaving
just trying to live
and secretly thankful.

Currently reading:
"Bone Palace Ballet" by Charles Bukowski.


Aaron Burr and other, More familiar Villains

Get out of bed to write her:
"You're a better sleep partner
than I gave you credit for this morning, this one
takes over the whole damn mattress."

Crinkle up the paper 'cause I know
she won't take it the way that I mean it.
Girls never do, and women only rarely.

I amend my words
"Hope you got there safely. Call if you need anything."
But to think she foolishly called me a genius
and her mom said to print me...

It's a shame that she was one that never really happened.
Not one that got away, exactly. We just never tried.
Then again, it's good to have a few of those
to keep in sterile corners of the mind
and remember when times are trying
and you're ready to swear off the whole lot of them
without making any exceptions.

No, not all deathbed What-If's will be demoralizing;
some will be bittersweet at worst, and we should
all be able to settle for that.

I crawl back into bed, cursing this one in my head
for stealing all the blanket in my absence.
Shivering from the ceiling fan whose white noise
I can't sleep without, even during this frigid winter
I close my eyes and try to doze off to cushioned thoughts
of what it could be like if I only had the heart
to let another good one
sink saving this ship.

"Captains worth their brass make sure they go do down alone,"
I tell that silly dream
and the gods let me sleep in peace for it.

Currently reading:
"Wait Until Spring, Bandini" by John Fante.


Bailey's on the rocks

As I sit here and suck
the last of this slightly alcoholic dessert
from the melting cubes in my tumbler
I'm rewound a year
to the two (or four, in retrospect) of us
on the couch in my old place
watching movies and drinking the same.

But now, a year later
the couch is the only thing that hasn't changed:
you're old enough to buy your own booze
and the rare times that I watch movies
never involve blankets or casual sex
or you

and that's OK, too.

(This is the part where I'm supposed to say I've changed;
maybe I have, but that's not for me to decide
and arbitrary anyway...
though I haven't thrown any beer bottles across any rooms
or screamed into any phones in a long time.)

The girls are gone, I'm holding out for women;
a spine, a plan, another mind to learn from, maybe a degree.
It's funny, though. The more I chrystalize my criteria
the more I realize I've already had most of that
and blew it.
The best way to come to grips
is to squeeze my eyes closed as tight as possible
until that flashing checkerboard pattern appears
and laugh that sick laugh
reserved for madmen in movies
and those with an appreciation for irony
even in the face of death.

The best jokes in life have no punchlines.

Suffice it to say I've learned that coming home to that empty house
isn't as bad if you've remembered to leave the porch light on for yourself.

Just in case the title worked
and by chance
you read this:
it wasn't some sad attempt
at spite
or guilt
or even reconciliation, necessarily.

I guess I just wanted to say
that I don't regret that tattoo
and I hope that you don't wish you could
scratch yours off either.


after moonlighting

it's taken some practice, but I've stepped up my game
since I see this F-train coming:
even if there are no street lamps to show the rollers
I know by the headlights behind me if it's a cop
though not if it's her
or Her
and thank God the third one doesn't drive anymore.
beware the trivialities that wear us down:
the doors that lock left
the screws that sink counter-clockwise
the rest of the counter-intuitive speed bumps
that spatter your days with expletives under your breath.

came home to a garden gnome on my dresser
and a life-sized cardboard cut-out of ken schroeder
staring at me through the window in the garage door.
(I can't even make these things up, my life truly is
stranger than what I conjure most times.)
it served to remind me that
though too solitary for my own good
I'm not as alone as I'd like to be
so believe you me, brother
I was relieved to reload it after weeks of neglect
now that I hear things in this finally empty house.

praying for peace or paying for a piece;
I know how it'll happen now
since the car really slowed down in the shower.
yes, the self-fulfilling ones prevail.

if that's the case can I place my order?

fuck it.
as long as she doesn't smoke.

but if she does
let her curse like a plumber
and drink like this fish, too.

Currently reading:
"The Complete Poems of Hart Crane."



I found some old pictures
of a barely recognizable me
and some
other people
I thought I'd fooled;
that tattered, taped-together shrine
from my dorm room wall
no longer as relevant as then
but still somehow saying
"I told you so"
or its Spanish equivalent.

Another one jumped out in particular:
a whiskey-drunk charicature of myself
with a smile reeking of Jack Daniel's
(before its smell could turn my stomach)
and general over-compensation for an
underrated chance at It All,
my roommate egging me on at my side
not knowing that the bourbon had already won.

My demeanor in that one reminds me of how
the girls across the hall who'd befriended us
in previous semesters
said I was different
upon returning that Fall
a little too sure of myself
or pretending to be.

I didn't see it then, but now I do.

Regardless, I can't smack some sense into that kid
since the Time Machine hasn't been invented yet.
Hell, we still don't have our long-awaited Hover-Cars.

You can't change the sequence of events
that change you
and settling for a quiet New Year's Eve party
sometimes has to do.
The cork bounces off the wall, then the floor
and finally back towards me
as my partner in crime notes the irony in its trajectory.

Acknowledging his metaphor
I laugh
on the outside
and pour the ten-dollar sparkling wine into the red plastic cup.

My resolution will be
accepting that there is none

It's a tough swallow.
(Yes, that's what SHE said.)

Bottom's up.

Currently reading:
"The Collected Stories of Carson McCullers."


A real team player.

Sometimes it's those
who seem heartless
who love you the most.

Just ask your angry
designated driver
at four in the morning
next time.