In my mid-twenties, when everything went sideways,
It seemed I ended up in Elkins West Virginia,
for no other reason than it was the last town before those old mother mountains
took over, wrapping addled heads in gauze, putting spinning thoughts to sleep.
Outside Elkins, heaven was a hole in a rock,
seen clear from the highway, cars and microbuses parked on the berm in neat lines.
If you jumped the fence, skinny down the gulley, back up the other side,
there would be greetings from private property waterfalls,
forty foot drops, open cavern doubling as shallow lake.
hippie girls and boys passed joints,
kids played in the falls
old people sat on canvas chairs
Fall and winter, alone at the pulpit
respite found and passed in silent congregation.
Eventually those mother mountains couldn’t hold me.
In return, years later, heaven desolate, heaven gone.
Water dammed above empty holes in rocks
sun seated on interstate clouds
Lake nothing, a series of dried muddy stones.
I wonder to an empty cliff face whether stories of
are enough to keep you, to insulate you when
whatever nest you build starts to come down.
I wonder what is man without heaven?
The Hymn to Grease
the breakfast McDonalds smell
to the lunch McDonalds smell
The ear infection no better
it took over with an upper repertory infection
a few weeks ago
I barely function
I’ve been out of work a few months
shit hasn’t gotten serious yet
lungs rattle regular now
I had a panic attack the other night
edge of the bed
short gulps at air
almost an hour
my girlfriend insisting on a hospital
it takes full minutes to explain
aversions to hospital bills
by a six thousand dollar ER visit
I get bills for paper hats
send a ten spot check every time
this is reality
with no insurance
today I’m talking to the McDonald’s manager
about the management program
sipping a small coke
hand over my mouth
to keep dry heaves down
every question answered behind my eyes
“Do Not Vomit”
deep breathe answers
He asks another question
grease smell attack
I think about a girl I dated
about the time of the hospital bill
she worked burger king
we’d race her home
race out of clothes
into a shower
so we didn’t breathe that smell
done with questions
he never took note of what I said
I’ll get the job
if you show up
you weed yourself out
you’re desperate enough to stay
I won’t show for the shift
I find better work
a silver lining
Ohio is forever
variable roadways eat speed.
and it’s the perfect night for speed,
the perfect night for Adderall
the perfect night for Ephedrine
but I never could handle speed.
It makes my heart into a hummingbird dying in my chest.
I already see thing too clearly, too loud,
speed makes all that vision hurt.
Instead, I eat miniature candy bars, Altoids
chase a sugar rush, crash and repeat
Tonight, Orion’s belt is guide.
If unbuckled the sky open
would rain corn stalks and bibles.
Corn stalks and bibles
it’s twenty years ago,
racing interstates after a sixteen hour work day.
Crazy Mike and a bag of Doritos as passengers.
Frozen solid Ohio
the night proves
all highways have ghosts
it’s only a matter of how tired you are,
how split open you are.
We hit Dayton 5 am,
our buddy Brian said we’re twelve hours late.
Payphone calls, convenience stores, below zero nights,
he was at his girls place
He shook his roommate up with telephones
his addled roommate who tried to kill himself a month before,
standing at dorm entrances late night disheveled
holding open doors so we could crash,
kill some sleep
nervous paranoid sleep.
We skated around Dayton less than twelve hours
before parting with a snowstorm.
On the other side of that front
I found my grandfather had a heart attack.
I drove three hours caught and re-caught a storm
crashed the floor of an imaginary trailer park.
all these years
My grandfather was dead in months.
Brian tossed a bullet in his head in ‘02
a failing marriage and no job were too much,
unless you believe
that his wife’s parents knocked him off to avoid a messy divorce.
Crazy Mike blurted out his suicide to me
Christmas eve that year.
I was busy holding down a record shop,
he was stalling, waiting, finally blurting
I excused myself, went to catch a cigarette
Indianapolis seemed so far away.
Crazy Mike is still crazy
we haven’t talked much since the night
he clocked me in the face with a guitar.
He still chases demons that have already gotten away.
Last time we spoke he used words like schizophrenia
It should be no surprise that that time escapes
rattles, drifts, evaporates, years seem so far away.
I drive, a nauseous dizzy feeling
that would be speed except its sugar.
I wind the engine damn near 100
bleary, I should pull over
but I’m too deep in my head
I can’t stop.
I barely notice the deer
drop off accelerator, swerve
I expect the red and blue splash in the rearview
The officer, one am aviators,
“son, what’s your hurry?”
my eyes dilated diamonds
smile wide as stars says
“baby, I’m just trying
to make Pittsburgh for last call