Over My Head

Seeking escape from that sword’s deadly stroke
I’ve shifted my seat, table to table.
Damocles had nothing on this jamoke,
but I’m real he might’ve been a fable.

His sword was over a seat of power,
mine’s one of my very own invention.
Dam’s hung by a hair ‘neath which he’d cower,
while mine requires proactive prevention.

King Dionysius said “Try my seat,”
and Damocles parked on that deadly throne.
In my case darkness wants to fall complete,
and this daily fight I can’t win alone.

I’m glad I shared with you this confession.
With meds, it’s how I beat my depression.

I can’t tell you how much this 102-word sonnet grates against this compulsion I have that my poems be divisible by 50, but iambic pentameter and the rules of this poetic road don’t give a hoot about my hangups. And that, too, is proof I can beat some of the psychological traps I often set for myself. Thanks, Shakespeare or Plutarch or whoever. Thank you, too.

Going Under

Lately, this same dream comes to me every night. It’s a dream in which I’m treading water in the middle of a vast ocean on a night of the new moon. I rise and fall on the swells of this inky deep that fills the great depression beneath me. I can tell I’ve been in this water a long time because my fingertips are pale prunes and my eyes sting from the tear-like waters that splash my face. Occasionally in my dream, I sense a vessel approaching, but my voice makes not a sound, my words, my cries for help lie stillborn. I am silent, invisible, mere flotsam as far as they can tell. Often, I recognize the passing craft, perhaps as if I launched it myself or I once sailed with it in my younger days of even a great grey ship of the line bearing a USS (insert some President’s name here) on its prow. And as they drift by my silent kicking and stroking that keep my head above the dark void that would consume me, they toss something over the side. I always hope perhaps it’s a life preserver or line with which to haul me free. But it inevitably turns out to be more ballast that snugly tangles around me and smugly seeks to pull me down, down, down below the surface again. Sometimes it succeeds. But I’ve always had sharp teeth and a sense of survival and place to know in which direction to swim for the surface again. Lately, though, I’ve lost my bearings and the weights have dropped upon me all at once in a tangle of knots and cables I can’t seem to chew through. And I’m going down, down, down. The interesting part of all this dream scenario is that I don’t think of the things above, below and all around me in any concrete terms or even ideas. They’re all just vague faces floating around in the darkness that consumes me. It’s all dark clouds, but not in any poetic sense. Almost literally dark clouds is all my brain can conjure. And when I finally find the emotional and intellectual wherewithal to chew on something for a moment, it just gets covered up by all the other things spinning around me. This sounds scary because to me it isn’t scary anymore. It’s nothing. I’ve become nothing along with it. I believe I’ve gone under, disappeared for good this time. I’m alone, and the dark grows darker and I’m exhausted beyond words from the fight, and just as my breath is giving out, I close my eyes and let the nightmare take me. Then, with all hope lost that this dream will ever end, I finally drift off to sleep.

We All Fall Down

A gentle snow has fallen
since mid afternoon and
I have not watched the snowflakes,
not a one. Haven’t focused on one
and followed its path best I can
to join the millions that rest
on this patch of mine-ness.
They hold no attraction, no sparkle,
nor relevance today. And that’s not me.

But then, nothing gets me excited
these days. My mind is blank
as that new-fallen snow,
my spirit just as flat,
and I’m struggling so hard
just to get from sleep to wake
and then back to sleep,
in a lonely listless drift
with this hole in my hull.

I can’t seem to shake it because
I can’t quite understand it, and
I’ve no power to change it if I did,
save for a list of felonies
I’d need to commit. We should all
laugh at that line, but we never
can be sure if what we’re reading
is truth or the artful lie.
I lie pretty well, some say.

Maybe, if I get dressed and go outside,
I can lie again, this time on that
little patch of mine. I can look
straight up into the falling snow,
illuminated by the Christmas lights.
I’ll try watching my one flake drift
in its downward gyre, helpless,
to this frozen tongue, upon which
millions of words lie too,
in hope of an early spring.

The Smiling Shadow at Your Door

The beast returned,
sneaky but blatant,
silent but like a train.
It wreaks a physical toll
from the inside out,
binds and confines,
tells you lies you
can’t help but believe,
then utters truth you
won’t hear.
I drove away once,
the beast in my rear view,
standing, waving after I
tried running it over.
I’d murder the beast.
It’s killed me and mine
so many times I’d barely blink
as I squeezed its neck.
But I haven’t.
The beast returns,
cunning as a sledgehammer,
hard like a pillow
over your face,
friendly as the smiling shadow
at your door.


The Poor Poet, by Carl Spitzweg, 1839.

You couldn’t call it sadness,
because it’s not. Though
I guess you can call something
anything you like.
That oak tree might pass
for a teddy bear to some,
broccoli to others and
Aunt Sue to Uncle Jake.
But what I’m feeling
probably isn’t sadness.

Doesn’t sadness feel like
a gut full of vinegar-soaked knots
or a head full of mini-constrictors
crushing your brain,
squishing out the joy?
I’m sure there’s some up here.
I think I left it behind that
sheet-draped, me-looking facsimile
of oughta-shoulda-woulda.
Damn, where’d I put it?

Isn’t that sad?

So Long, So Long

How is it I get so dizzy
just looking down
from so low a prospect as this?
Why does the pain
of falling from here—
the chronic falling, not
the soon forgotten landings—
strike me as so great
and so long?
Maybe it’s the climb back
to what I’d laughingly call the top—
if I laughed much anymore—
that helps me forget that abrupt stop
at the bottom. It’s an aching,
a back-breaking trek, despite
its short distance. And because
I don’t look down,
fearful always of the misstep,
the inevitable error in my oft-faulty footing,
it’s so long.
Someday I wish to keep climbing,
ascending to the heights
of the smiling ones, whose anti-frowns
ensnare birdsongs from below.
I’d never look down again,
never contemplate that dizzying sight,
the speedy final fall, that one-way flight
from which there’d be no bounce.
Just the close-eyed bliss
like a fleeting last kiss
of one final adieu
and so long.

No Sense to It

Sunlight in the Bedroom 3

Sunlight in the Bedroom 3 (Photo credit: AMD5150)

The dun wanna is upon him again,
sapping his heart’s autonomic urge
to keep expressing blood and words.
You have to burn with The Urge
in order to be one of Us,
the voices of the blue angel chorus
hissed from shoulder-left. Burn.

Better you should just burn altogether,
for all this is worth, said the fallen
angel posing as fickle muse to starboard.
He sighed and thought to throw the wanna on
his unlit pyre pillow of kindling woven of
other broken wannas and those heavy haftas
that he had no fire left to ignite.

Instead, he sighed, dipped it in milk,
rolled over and wrote a note on his sheets.
It said, Can’t do it no more. None of it.
He closed his eyes and lost the fight to dawn.


When the lights came on and I awoke, I noticed the walls
had risen again, trees and years of hiding now diminishing
any hint of my old sky’s grandeur–its tangerine dawn and
glowing ember sundown–from my sight. Or merely from my vision?
Have the trees really grown so tall over these years,
or have I dimished in size or soul? Maybe so.
I can’t recall if it was I who wished to be shut off
from the flora, the fauna, the coarse or silent vox populi
that vexed my shallow self. I was the architect
and builder of these barriers between me and them,
you and me, but these blocks of words upon which I built
my own prison have lost the strength to hold me anymore.
The words, the blocks, have become mere tokens in a game,
a test of strength none of us have the strength to play anymore.
No longer can I buttress this keep in which I keep my feelings;
hell, I couldn’t even turn locks tagged
Exit and Shut Down.


Slipping the Panther

Green eyes in the dark

I never could hear your low rasp of breath behind me,
nor feel its chill upon my neck, but I sense
your stalking approach this morning,
panther in the darkness.

You wish to catch me with my head low,
as if I’m pondering my path, where I am and
where I’m bound. You’d love deciding that for me,
dragging me back to your desolate hole in midnight gloom.

That’s why I nod – to write my light, exposing your shadow,
to gather myself and spring from your grasp again.
I can sense you now, these scars you engraved in me
ringing your approach, as an old man’s bones foretell the storm.

I must be on my guard, though, because your shadow,
the one receding to its miserable and destructive source,
your shadow looks exactly like mine, and we were one once,
panther in the darkness.

Gray Becomes Me

morning lights

morning lights (Photo credit: glenn~)

The alarm cracks the curtains of my eyes
to a darkened room scattered with shadows
of a misspent yesterday, like a tangle
of dirty clothes left on the floor
to snarl my feet as I get out of bed.
The dark and I have been lovers for so long,
I now eschew most light until it’s necessary.
Why would I wish to leave her calm embrace
for that brassy glare of sun? I know my way,
not needing to count my steps anymore.

I can shower and shave like a blind man,
knowing the craze of hair on the mirror
and the whiskers at the bottom of the sink,
if I bothered turning on the light,
would show gray as the clouds hiding dawn outside.
The dark ones slide across the lighter ones
faster than I can walk. But, standing where I am,
they make me feel like I’m the one
doing the moving. Somewhere over there,
or maybe there, mourning dove calls
and no bright bird answers.

Darkness and the shroud of morning mist
can do that to you, steal context and scale
from your life. I break their spell
by heading out on the highway,
where all the cars’ colors still are muted
in shades of charcoal, steel and dirty snow.
And just about the only hue outside the gray scale
are the sightless red eyes of commuting cavefish,
strung out, halting, feeling their ways before me.