writing shitty, third-string poetry. boldly dubbing it ‘poetry’ anyway. then rhyming poetry with poetry in a so-called poem. knowing that we all have to start somewhere and this is your clean slate. the previous writer at the coffee shop gifted a warm window seat, the free Wi-Fi password, and a slightly weathered stick of chalk, neon pink. the freckles on our fingertips glow in the dark.
the unpublished drafts
the phone notes
the changing of the font
and calling that a poem
the “for what it’s worth I’m sorry”
if sorry could be plural
for existing, maybe
for being there, sometimes
for not being there, enough
for showing up
and talking down
for hitting “publish”
because your brain demands
at 11:33 pm Eastern Standard Time
that this is right
that this has to get out
that these prepositions
go against everything
that middle school grammar book said
when you read it obsessively
to prepare for a pop quiz
so you could always be the best
on paper, that is
but you don’t care
about those silly rules
Que será, será.
“This parking lot is open until full.
Brought to you by the Church
across the way. Give what you can.
Pay it forward. Come again.”
Despite the red paint peeling back,
the sign still read All Are Welcome.
I sobbed in my car
while the waitress
from the pretentious lunch
twenty minutes prior
smoked her cigarette
and pretended not to notice
the rivers of mascara
flowing down my face.
The waitress “didn’t notice”
not because she was cruel,
but because of my stubborn pride
and all. The cigarette ash
fell to the green earth.
I drove away, wanting to hit the gas
but circled back to where I started
Stuffed ten dollars into the donation box
And for the first time that long-ago day,
it was enough. It was simply enough.
THIS IS NOT A BILL!!!
This is simply the preface to the bill
so that you can be prematurely pissed off
about who will be taking away your money
The EOB outlines the costs
What you owe the doctor
What your insurer owes… someone
What debt your existence owes
to a society that doesn’t really care
That Advil pill at the office even though
there’s Advil in a Ziploc in your purse?
Ten dollars. The cup you pee in?
Five ninety-five per ounce
Don’t spill it when you close the window.
Does a smile at the reception desk
bankrupt the operation? Imagine a world where
insurance cards do not dictate our worth-
where compassion is doled out, unmeasured
and it’s okay to come back for seconds.
Can we quantify the waiting room tears?
The traffic, the tropical island vacation
with family swapped out for appointment slots.
The doctor who is not seeing her lunch break
will see you now, instead.
You both are tired of fighting
a system that feels it is better to explain
“benefits” than to explain why
none of this is fair, why your pain
will not break with the fever.
We can’t explain why the cancer spread,
its roots strangling the beating heart.
We can’t explain the silent prayers
sent up in parking garages late at night
when the city lights blink off.
The explanation of benefits is simple, really:
Sit with us, outside on the sun-bleached bench
On what our brains will dub the Bad News Day
where the whole world stops and all that is left
are the parking garage prayers said outside, together.
My friend with a high IQ and a poor memory
carries a journal in his back pocket
in which he scrawls seemingly-important
information for the future
gathered from local bars
in the present.
Liked: new hipster IPA at Main St. Pizza
Disliked: third slice of pepperoni following 7 new hipster IPAs on a work night
I’m big on notes, too.
Neon yellow Post-Its decorate my cubicle
Piecing together someone else’s life
Confirmed PTSD stressor: IED blast
resulting in multiple casualties from unit
The note in my head remembers that disinfectant
only works on wounds that are visible
The notes in my purse
are things I’d like to say at therapy
but don’t always
It’s more organic
to just vomit out words instead
and see where the path takes us
The note for Twitter has a lengthy title-
People in the U.S. who have died
due to lack of insulin access:
There are three names that we know of
And honor where we can
We hope that note stays stagnant
Never updated again
The To-Do list reminds you that
Life’s too short
The doctor’s electronic health record
reveals the same thing it always has
Diagnostic codes, plus an afterthought
She’s too smart for her own good and
has made this harder than it has to be
The grocery store menu doubles as
a Millennials’ dating app:
-Something fun and easy
The footnote is the hat tip to
Someone likely smarter than you
Whose brain imprinted upon the earth first
The Notebook set the highest bar
The tattoo was supposed to be a Bible verse
about how nourishment is felt deeper
if you’ve known hunger beforehand
The birthday card note reads
Here’s a cute animal photo!
I hope this year is better
You deserve to be happy
My head hurts
The ache has been there
for a long time now
My heart hurts
The ache has been there
When I tried to voice this
out loud, the words
the air and my tonsils
“I don’t feel well.
I’ve felt this way for
“Let me check the
air pressure of
your car tires
before you drive
away,” he said.
“I’ll check anyway.”
As if the quick fix
we’re all looking for
could be quantified by
pounds per square inch,
like a car tire or
the DNA of a human being.
Where is the Emotional Bacitracin?
To refill our souls the way
the air plumps up the tires,
so that they can traverse the
great expanse of life
leaving their mark in
the fullest possible way.