Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hoping for Visible

I changed the spelling of my name in high school,
because I had decided to become a poet. What?
Shortened it to three letters, R-y-k. I don't know
why it seemed important, but it was. It changed
little. When you're mostly invisible, you are

something that lives on the periphery of other's
lives. Now you don't see me, and now you don't.
I would pretend I was made of smoke, I learned
how to walk quietly, how to disappear in public.
I could have been visible, satisfied with people

seeing me, but it always takes so much work
not to fade into the background of friendships.
I lose a lot of friendships. I'm not good at them.
I find it stressful to take up space, in full view.
I became a poet so I could camouflage myself

with stories. Maybe I wanted to be just a voice,
mysterious in some library light, formless oracle
for people to beg words from. I would feed them
all the words they'd need. They'd call me so wise,
and leave gifts for me, and then leave me alone.

But the sky is blue, and this world is this world.
It's hard to be invisible when I need people so
much, I struggle as if in dream-mud, anxious,
weighed down with hoping I choose my words
carefully. But I show up in the light, awkward

and off-script. I recite poems I hope are clever
and beautiful, empowered to possess your heart.
If I could stand to be visible all the time, I'd see
the blue sky day, and you might say, "Nice to see
you" and I could say back, "It's good to be seen."

Sunday, February 26, 2017


The same elusive dreams, different each time
in the details, but the same longing, same lesson:
I am unlovable in the daylight. I am chasing
after moonbeams. I believe in God. I am willing
to try anything to heal this wound I inflicted

on myself. The great obstacle to loving again
is the sheer number of the dead I carry with me,
half-realized possibilities I might want to work
on at some time in the future; the negative space
there instead, by the time I become interested

in flirting back. One needed me only in privacy,
and would not admit to anyone they loved me.
Another loved me like blueprints for something
better.. Most don't see me in the same way I see
the possibility of an us. I'm not going to mention

the ones where I was responsible for the downfall;
the fire,  the flood, the slow-goodbye. Too much
pain there. I already know how to torture myself
for my failures. That doesn't help my message.
Tonight, I will dream I am radio waves pointed

at the night sky, hoping for someone who's able
and willing to receive my signal and, finding it
good, finding their way to where I'm sending,
sending a signal in front of them so I'll know.
Tonight I'll dream of stars closer than they are.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Inclement Weather

When I think of snowstorms, I think
of you. I don't know why that is, it isn't
like we ever spent any time together
during a snowstorm. I think the isolation
reminds me of your world-view. I learned
about it during a fight we had: you didn't
like people, or socializing, or the internet;
so many of the things I said sustained me
when I didn't have you. Once entangled

by gifts, I belonged to you, indebited.
Why is it your gifts without strings came
with ropes and hooks and overdue bills
and righteous claims of ownership? Idiot
that I am, I fell for that same trick again
and again over the years, always sure
this time it would be different. Never
learned, even though you'd telegraph
your break-up punches so they arrived

when I finally let down my tired guard.
They reason you pushed me to open up
to you, was so that you could best target
your words to hurt the most. You broke
up with me- yet again- I made no moves
to stop you. It was November. I was done.
But I remember you occasionally, usually
during snowstorms, depression. Anything
that tries to isolate me from the world.

Title Track

The first fifty years were the hardest, and the three after
were the worst, so if that makes a paradox, I don't care.
It improves the story, and some days, that can be enough.

The Wisdom That Comes With Age is mostly a drying up
of the most sensitive "I-could-give-a-fuck" glands. We don't
care about things that we were once certain would destroy

us. Been there, skin finally healed over that. Aging takes
concentration and grace in equal measures. Harder than
it looks; we've learned to comb through all our dreams

and somehow, be able to let some go, for one reason
or another-- we waited too long, we didn't make a plan,
we finally got what we wanted and then we didn't want

it-- you learn to separate one dream from what's left.
Or this is when you learn of a dream you never knew
you had, or even, so what if I'm old? I'm going to sky-

jump-roller blade-belly dance-take up the martial arts
(there are, I've learned, terrible things the old can do
with just a cane, for instance). That is, you learn to see

things for the multi-facet wonders they are. And moving
slow, you catch more of the scenery with eyes hungry
for life;  hunger growing, the closer to the end you get.

Friday, February 24, 2017


It is a hard road back from addiction. It starts
under grey sky. It wasn't easy. When I stopped
taking whatever let me escape, the sun went
out. The sky left me. I had to prepare to find
my way by feel at first. So I followed the path

of destruction my using history had scorched
through my life, but follow it from the ending,
back. After all, I did this so I could live a life
somewhat closer to "normal." Normal people
don't burrow into self-destruction, not like this.

I started with the last relationship that I took
hostage and followed it to my youth. I lost
count of all the crashed and broken things
I called Love at the time, not knowing how
to take responsibility for the words I spoke;

all the opportunities I left knocking on doors
I never answered; the people I lost touch with
when I stopped answering the phone honestly;
the pieces of myself I trade away, just to settle
for less than nothing. Every recovering addict

has this killing field, this mass grave of waste
we call regrets. The odd thing is how we hang
on to this pain, like there's something precious
to suffering through every step, when it's not
the destination. What saves us is taking steps.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


It's no mystery there is something standing between
me and my dreams. It's not the most formidable block,
nor the biggest. About my height, the same eye color,
all about me; this adversary is me, but a shade of me
that takes the most silver and shining of my dreams
and devours them slowly. It doesn't even need to eat.
It just likes that expression I make when I'm betrayed.

I'm old, but I'm not even old enough to remember when
this all started. When I started stalking myself, learning
my weak points, reading all about avalanches; avalanches
and explosions. I have moments or months of satisfaction,
but I steal from myself, I steal from myself; anyway, war
was declared long ago for the fuck knows what reason,
and I'm so hungry I sometimes forget to dream dreams.

I don't know where this adversary me sleeps. My guess,
mirrors. He sleeps in mirrors & wakes when he hears
me coming. I won't answer his taunting about the where
and how and who of my face. At least we both rest
during my morning coffee. Call it jungle watering-hole
courtesy. No one wants to bloody the waters. I kill
myself  more privately than that. My arms are aching

with the weight of everything I don't have, but carry
in my heart anyway. And the thing of it is, the thing
is: neither of us can wholly kill the other. We get it,
symbiosis sucks, but what's the alternative, this late
in life? Whatever of wishes either of us get, we have
to share it with the opposite. We'll always be stuck
being me. I imagine we will still bicker and lacerate

each other with words, when ever I'm close to feeling
I've worked for something good. But, more and more,
we don't as much. There is cease-fire, with a thin strip
of neutral between us. If not trust, call it enlightened
self-interest. We carry it in my pockets; holding it
in my breath; we keep it at the borderline between
the mirror and me. We argue about what comes next.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Haiku 2/22/17

writing that poem
exposed raw wounds, so today
best to remain still

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


(from a prompt by Marty McConnell)

Boston, 1985, over looking the Pike
across from the South End side. A view
complete with "Hi Ryk!" spray-painted
on the wall, by a friend, trying to lift me
from depression. This is the living room,
my room's in back, overlooks lush green
in the thin alley below my window.
But I wanted to die in either room,
so the difference is mostly rhetorical.

Whom it was that used to love me
in these rooms, was gone, leaving
a dozen ghosts in the turbulence:
Phantom of Passions, Brown-Eyed 
Woman, Southern Bellissima, Lover
I Was Engaged To, Lover Dispelled,
the Empty Space Who Used to Be Her
and other names I only groan aloud
when dreams force me to tell truth.

The only room I love, is the memory
of the rooms when she was in them.
This room is a seashell up against
my ear, all I hear is the sound of tides
pulling two people apart; the echo
of one person leaving the other high
and dry, shipwrecked on themself.
The never-to-be reception party lost
in sinking seas after Love fathoms.

Still, I didn't want to ever leave here,
the whole city was further haunted
by places we had been together; love
made under footbridges, willow trees,
on the roof of my building, in daylight
full view of office buildings around
us. I don't want to chase after any ghost
when, doing nothing, I can catch them,
standing still. This room wants to kill

me with the weight between its floor
of wood and sorrow, and the ceiling,
that let my dreams pass through.
I can't see through the windows,
every glance just reflects that room,
me standing in the middle, asking
what the fuck happened to us? in
so many distraught, soundless ways.
I've become a ghost in my own

memories; I inhabit a room only
I can remember. It was perfect. It
tells me stay long as I like. I can't
breathe when I'm standing here.
I grab what few things remind me
of her that don't hurt me to carry.
Which is to say, I leave the room,
empty-handed. I locked the door.
I wish I was there. I never left.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Breath, No Breath

my lungs, stealing air
with every breath, are filthy
thieves, gasping "...Justice!"

This Post Has Been Removed

As I go to post something on social media,
it helpfully prompts me with "What's on your mind?"
in the text window, and as an introvert,
I don't need that kind of pressure. My mind goes

blank and I wonder has anything happened to me,
or maybe something clever I said, or thought?
like I have to justify myself to the world
before breakfast. I type nothing, do not even

make a post when I can't think of anything
to say. My breakfast isn't even special
enough for a photo post, and though I keep
count of days sober (1,183 as of this writing

here...) I keep that to myself as well, unless
I should bring it up, and I don't. Except I just did,
which makes me sloppy, or a liar, or both,
and just like that-- breakfast or no breakfast--

I am struggling with how to communicate
when I don't know how to adjective authentically.
Maybe what I wrestle with is Impostor Syndrome,

or else that's just another thing I've learned to fake.

Sonnet in High C

After lunch plans with a friend fell through
of course I would have to run into you,
at the Public Library, and why not?
The rest of the day might as well be shot

to hell. When you saw me, you looked another
way.  Some people need to hold onto their hate.
And if that helps you, I'm glad to be of aid.
I'm sorry you're not over the mess you made

of us. As we passed, our bags hit each other
in the rush of you walking away for cover.
And I think of the twenty-five years gone
to hell with nothing to show for it. Oh well.

Our sonnet on the high C failed to make the note.
The opera lady has sung, that's all that she wrote.

Do Not Say Mirrors

All reflections are ghosts
of Christmases Yet-to-be.
There are no bells, none
that are obvious at least.

Brush teeth, comb hair,
making still another face
I hope will stay that way.
This, this is the cold place

I have made for myself.
It gets farther every day,
from you and everyone,
from the world; just a way

for me to cry out I am
hurting under my skin,
in ways I can't describe.
I would have to let you in.

Spellcheck Divination

Spellcheck underlines
your name in red, a mistake;
wish I knew sooner.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


I wake up thirsty. Every day, the same
hollow vacuum in my gut. Magnetic
absence that pulls in all the emptiness
until I am full to the breaking point
with nothing. It is hard to swallow

the idea that I will never have another
drink, ever. I am told, better to keep it
in the day, while I consider it lucky
when I can get through five minutes
at a time. Prayer helps, but sometimes

it's shouting into a telephone, quiet
on the other end taking the shape
of God. Where the intersection lies
between mental health and addiction
that's where I am.  I believe in things

I cannot see, and pray that I am doing
science. I spend every day wresting
a thirst I dare not quench, if I know
what is good for me. Tomorrow, I pray
my throat tastes water and then sings.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


(after "Sparrowfall" by Brian Eno, "Music for Films")

No. 1

the rain falls at dawn
sorrow drenches a world still
waking from a dream

No. 2

wind complements rain
stirs and textures the sound
rises, falls, rises

No. 3

wind and rain, mixing
if you listen carefully, the world
becomes orchestra

Friday, February 17, 2017


Somewhere between a body that walks
on three legs in the afternoon and one
that rolls on wheels, every day living
with a disability is a riddle wrapped
in a conundrum, buried deep within

your own health. Disability borrows
your body from you, never returns
it whole. It's a bad next door neighbor
that steals your wallet; gets under
your bones and wipes his feet

on your immune system. Imagine
your own body was lying to you
in the years you felt well, never
gave you heads up. No warning,
just arrival. Terrible arrival never

ending as long as you will know
about it. Disability will narrate
your obituary while you sleep,
leaving so many blank spaces,
because who knows what kills

you in the end? The suspects
are already too numerous
to keep track of, this late
at night. Sleep eludes,
accessory to crime.

The story starts to
live, to breathe,
just like you,

Monday, February 13, 2017

Haiku 2/13/17

I am younger than 
my age, older than my years
Shut up, God, I say

Waking From Dreams

Last night I had a dream. This alone
should simply discredit anything
I'm inclined to write. How could I
expect your trust? I have already
given myself such an open license
to fabricate whole-cloth totally
from air. You must then assume
my adjectives are suspect, nouns
traveling under disguise, verbs

making themselves take action,
even articles cannot be trusted
in their accuracy. Do I speak
of this dream? Or am I painting
with a brush I've made broader,
telling you I've made portraiture
of Dreams as a whole, when all
I have done is relate my singular
nocturne? In other words, am I

lying to you? Given the excuse
we don't ask for dreams we get,
maybe I was merely in the right
dream at the wrong-time, or else
the other way around, and also
silver fish, like a Spring breeze,
circling the moon. Wait... what
was I saying? Oh yes, the dream
I had. I will spare you the details.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Nothing for Dinner, Again

(after Mckendy Fils-Aime's "11/30")

You can get what you want
for dinner, and still never be

happy. She used to ask me
what I wanted; I would tell,

then come home to nothing
but a plate full of something

different. She could only cook
a few things, and none of them

very well. After nine-hour days
(three of which, just the travel

time) I'd be asked, could I cook
because she'd had a hard day

of watching John Edward's
"Crossing Over," exhausted

by all the closure she'd seen,
oh and could I do the laundry

too? This was the dull roar
than drained our life of life:

false promises, barren dinner
plates, resentment grown fat

on promises. John Edward
wasn't even his real name.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Feb 11 7/30

I put the kettle,
on, make tea for one. lonely
man watches snowstorm

For the Lovers That Waited In Vain For Me to Return From the Sea

I am sorry you fell in love
with someone who wasn't
there most of the time. Buried
too deep in myself, needing
substance to bring me back
up to Human. Those bad
habits meant more than you
did, every time the choice
arose. You told me you loved
me; I gave you an excuse
and a mask I assured you
was the "really me." I was
never in those photosgraphs,
just something you'd think
looked like me, sounded
like me, took to the drink
whenever it was offered,
and also took the drink
when it wasn't. Drowning
in escape that was doomed
every time I looked deep
into a mirror. I still drowned.
I just didn't go anywhere.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Requiem Train

I am dying. I might as well be
blunt about it, treat it as fact
because, truth be told, I'm not
doing it very well. I'm terminal

in my laziness. Often days pass
& I haven't done a damn thing
to bring Death to fruition; nothing
more dangerous than my living

around city air & no bad habits
more hazardous than breathing
it in deep. Neither have I prayed
for miracle cures, wild therapies,

or straight-up appealing to God,
"Strike these Demons of Ouch
the Hell outta me. Hallelujah!"
If nothing else, I have my pride,

(although, most days I'm damned
if I can find it) & that tiresome
optimism that comes when things
go south for so long, you learn

to at least enjoy the view. Fire
inside for suicide or a great blaze
to go out in: both are too much
effort. Chronic... progressive...

not currently curable...
for a journey where it is known
what the ending will look like,
but not how long the ride will be,

will have been. Just a pale train
that eats up my dollars & doctors
trained in telling you they know
nothing for absolute certain. Death

becomes less of a thing to fear
& more something you check
your watch to judge just how late
a thing can be when no one knows

the schedules. So, I rest in a chair
made out of me, put my feet up
on my past. I imagine this poem
will be finished long before I am.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Did you ever go looking
for a word, but you can't
remember what's the word
for when you can't remember
a word? I just do not know...

the rest of the day, needless
to say, unraveled this way.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Don't Touchdown Me There

I have only one good story about the Superbowl, and it involves my genitals. But not exactly how it sounds; this will be a PG, maybe Rated R story, depending on how you look at certain elements, I suppose.

Prelude: I never watched a football game as an adult until 2002. I was staying with friends, following my first divorce (and perhaps you assume something about any story that describes the first of anything, and you'd be correct, it assumes there was another divorce, which assumes a second marriage that, while healthy at the time of this story, eventually became the second in a pair of divorces... so far, any way). Anyway, this family I was staying with made a big deal about watching the game, along with tons of food, and I was invited to join in. And so I watched the first football game in approximately 30 years, give or take.

It went pretty much the way I remembered and, a few minutes before what appeared by all evidence a defeat for the Patriots, and I was tired, and so I bade the family goodnight and wished their team some miraculous recovery in the last few minutes of the game. And, indeed, such a thing happened, and the Patriots beat the St.Louis Rams, 20 to 17. Two years later, and different circumstances in a different place, I again found myself watching the game, and feeling the writing was firmly upon the wall, I went to bed a few minutes before the Patriots came from behind to beat the Florida Panthers, 32 to 29. Clearly, I was some unwitting good luck charm for that team, my indifference being their four-leaf clover, their lucky number, their percentage chance arriving, even as I left.

Skip ahead to 2008. A record-breaking all wins/no losses season behind them, the Patriots found themselves at the Superbowl again. Myself, I was at a sleep clinic, having tests to determine if I had Sleep Apnea (I did) and how bad I had it (bad). One of the few perks of being soft-wired to a number of sensory machines, in a not-dark room (with a camera on you as well, and then being told to relax and fall asleep) was a television that had full cable, including the Food Channel, Cartoon and Comedy Channels, and A&E before it became awful and, again in that total fog I'm in regarding the Superbowl in general, completely forgot about it and spent the night watching Iron Chef, instead. Apparently, it is my ignoring the New England only for the last few minutes, and only after having invested time enough for a few quarters, at least, that makes magically luck. We all know how Superbowl XLII ended for the Patriots.

Depending on whether you believe in jinx or not, that may have been My Bad.

2008 was also the year (April, the month) that I opted to get a vasectomy, after having fathered three children. It's a relatively quick, non-invasive, out-patient operation and I was there in the operating room of a leading Urologist, known for his skill in this particular surgery. So, there I was, on the table, naked from the waist down, with a little cloth wall across my abdomen, preventing me from seeing the operation. It's a minor operation, as these things go, but still, both local and general anesthetics are used, so I was fairly loopy, and since I couldn't watch the action, as it were, my eyes drifted lazily around the room, taking in the various signed photographs of Patriots players across the years, along with pennants, posters, news articles, etc.

If you see where this is going, you are fortunate; I lacked that insight at the time.

I started, "Hey Doc, you're a fan of the Patriots?" He nodded. "I've got a weird story for you!" And I started in on the story, and got about two-thirds of the way in, when it occurred to me that I was not thinking clearly, and my audience was not only not the appropriate audience for this story, but that indeed, they also had, at that moment, unrestricted access to my genitals and a number of surgical tools very nearby. You'd think I would have trailed off, or changed the story.

You'd think.

But, no; and cheerily medicated and in wonder at my own apparent powers over chance and circumstance, I went on through to the very end. At which point, I noticed wisps of smoke, rising above the little cloth-wall across my abdomen. "UM..." I said as steadily as I could, given the anesthetic still going WEEEEEEE! in my head, and my sudden awareness that I should not make any kind of sudden move, "Ha ha! Are you burning "Patriots Rule!" down there. He didn't even look up as he said, "No, that's to cauterize the incision... although I did consider it for a moment..." and winked at me. Relieved, and still medicated, I listened to him talk about ice-packs and sitting on them, nothing strenuous for a week or two, and something about there being "deep bruising" and I shouldn't be too alarmed when I see it.

I'm pretty sure that was his delayed revenge, knowing that I listened and heard him, but not really heard him about the bruising. Two days later, I notice, when I went to urinate, THAT EVERYTHING DOWN THERE LOOKED AS BLACKENED A PURPLE AS YOU EXPECT THE CLOUDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD TO LOOK LIKE BEFORE THEY RAIN FIRE.

"Hello, this is Dr.____________'s office. Can you hold?"


A few days later, the bruising cleared-up, everything worked as it should, and while my attention to things Superbowl has not improved at all (I guess 2012 was on me, as well. My Bad.) but I have managed to check in on a quarter or so of the games in 2015, and this year, when I marveled at how unlikely it would be for the Patriots to come back from a 25 point deficit, well into the 3rd quarter. So I shut my computer down and went to bed.

Patriot Nation? You are welcome.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

On Borderline as Punchline

There is a line in Humor, a border, if you will,
between making fun of the already marginalized
or moments of trancendent defiance. Punching up
vs punching down. A young poet makes a joke
using Borderline Personality as a blunt weapon

to make political haha. The inaccuracy of shooting
from the hip diagnostics aside, he doesn't just miss
the funny, clearly he made no effort to be accurate
either. Ridicule is easy, and that's not even the point.
Let me share how Borderline feels from the inside.

I live my life on the outskirts of Hell, all the time,
and that Hell is me. I know they must have broken
the mold the day I was born, because I came out broken.
Made bad somewhere fated and deep, flawed
crystal, rogue bit of virus code, secret mutant freak.

I live on the borderline of a drought and a volcano,
I call those my emotions. I'm never sure which
place I'll go when I know I'm about to act out, except
I know it will be the wrong one. Because that is
what I am, that is the damage I do with my feelings.

Borderline is living with an infection of phantoms;
a wine-cellar of every hurt ever felt, carefully vintage'd:
the year, the details, the pain fresh again; and helpful notes
like, "True Love, 1985. A deep, heart-stab red, with hints
of dead hopes, faded flowers, and anything crushed."

Borderline is every bad memory gets charged negative,
I'm positive, every time. I attract them by just being me.
Also why I inevitably repel away from anything positive,
without meaning to, because that's how magnets work; also
I do the Math: Life equals a sum I subtract myself from.

I want to end this poem by saying you didn't bother me,
I want to end it by saying I forgive you, by saying go read
a book and learn something. But let's stick to Comedy:
how many dull comedians does it take to make light
about someone else's struggle? This too, is an easy joke,

but I bet you don't want to be a punchline either.