When to quit:

I must admit, I have no clue
Been wondering for a year or two
At last my hopes have come unglued.

One more clumsy cellphone message
Bet I’ve left the wrong impression –
Unintended misdirection

And if I’m weirded out, I’m sure
That you’re uncomfortable times four
A date’s not what I’m looking for

Now, to correct should I call back?
Feels like I’m on a sneak attack
To spend some time; it’s time you lack

At least – it seems – where I’m concerned
If there’s one thing I should have learned
Some friendships end, once crushes burned

Collins rain

At night you can’t see the sidewalks
on East Collins Street
There’s no surer formula
for wet feet

While the darkness conceals
our first rain in two months
Two cold blocks of small holes –
step in each at least once

And of all of the evenings
to not wear a hat!
Most of nature’s against me,
must remember that

Sadly realistic

I like girls who are out of reach
but you know — just can’t reach them.

I’m sure that they would like me, too
if somehow I could teach them.

The crazy ones are best because
they sort of pay attention.

Attractive and insane? That’s more
lost hours than I could mention.

Now when I talk to a cute girl
to find out what she’s into…

I’m almost starting to expect
“I’m married, and I’m hindu.”

neutral

i am going nowhere
sitting in neutral,
angrily pumping the gas

frustrated my steering
is so unresponsive
and wond’ring how long this could last

i will not shift back into gear,
for that would take too long
i’d rather whine while sitting here
listening to pointless songs

and always changing
stations til
the battery runs dead

distracted, caught
in neutral by
the poisons in my head

Part Two

I thought of you for no reason at all
…or so I’d like to think…
While deciding whether or not to get up.
Did I say whether or not to give up?

My subconscious must be even more
insanely persistent than the
all-six-cylinders part of my brain.
(you’d think by now I’d have it trained)

At least, I thought so. But then,
I also thought we were talking again,
Until it turned out we weren’t. That’s the
thing with not talking, I’ve noticed.

There should be an official grace period
so you know for sure. “Hmm, three weeks.
Guess we’re no longer talking.” Then
you could make a note not to try again.

Of course, I could mark it on
my forehead and still forget —
isn’t it hard to remember when you
repeatedly decide you don’t want to?

And maybe this is admirable,
but it probably is not. A full
inspection would show I do
want you to be happy; no lie.

Except that I want you to
be happy 90 percent out of
selflessness, 10 percent cause
I somehow blame myself if you’re not.

Don’t know where the line falls;
does admitting I’m partly jerk
make my jerk part partly shrink?
I’d go hook, line and kitchen sink

For any scheme that just
resulted in a healthy ‘us’
for long enough so I might see
that you’re ok and I’m not needed.

Must be the thought that maybe you
pick comfort over minor risk
that keeps you in my head.
I, for once, tried risk instead

But there’s the problem
with talking to girls:
Half of every turn we take
is wholly not my own to make.

Crack

I read yesterday on the station’s website
that rebound cases are likely to strike
those who use over-the-counter medications
three times a week or more.

Doesn’t that completely figure…
As if my hand weren’t already on the trigger
of my own painful or pain-free state
Now I have to decide what hurts bad enough…

What hurts bad enough, and what does not
to make it worth risking another shot
of pain as bad – or worse – later in the week.
Another factor to mull over as I wake up

Every single day and wonder, ”
Will I want to cry by after-
noon?” Did I sleep too little,
too much, or in the wrong position?

At least with drugs you get the high
(or so I’ve heard) before your eyes
Go dim from pain. I should try crack
to keep things interesting

if I’m going to end up feeling nasty anyway.

A Journey

Early I awoke, that I may depart
Early as well, to do my work and
Then set out for home.
The storm (which had been forecast
for last night) greeted me,
Grey through blinds where I expected sun.
Loudly falling on the panes and roof.

All the better, I thought,
for the hard rain to finish while I were indoors.
At least my travel west would not be slowed.
As planned, I dressed and left
and, soaked from a mere moment outside,
Tried the office door to find it sealed.
The front room empty, I called it a day
As I ran back to the car.

One brief errand
Through drowned city streets
was nearly one too many.
The potholes hid underwater,
clutching to themselves pools
of grimy rain. Slippery asphalt
and flooded turn lanes
Made me all the more eager to leave.

No reason to change into comfortable clothes –
they would have been drenched in seconds.
I gathered some things into my pack,
then one more run through the falling sky
splashing back to the car before setting out.

The sky remained grey… not dangerous black.
Nonetheless, the rain came
in rotating periods of hard, and harder.

The highway only made things worse,
heavy drops seemed heavier
to travelers moving more rapidly.

I moved slowly, in no hurry
so vital as to find myself wrecked.
Passerby on the left slipped suddenly into
and back out of visibility
as they hurried off towards destinations
so important they were worth the risk
of other travelers’ lives.
Were it not for the scarlet spots of light pressing on ahead of me,
the clouds would have blended seamlessly with the road

When the storm slowed I felt relief,
glad to see clearly
even if the sky was still dark
and my path still hazardous.

Then it struck again,
angry I had praised its departure,
with faster and thicker drops than
I had seen in months – a feat, in the Midwest.
Wipers became stripes of black on a field of grey.

Still fools rushed past,
weaving in and out of traffic
Blink -blink -blink -blink
with their flashers on…
Watch -out -I -suck
I kept right and exited as soon as pavement allowed,
made an unplanned visit to lovely West Jefferson.
Filled at a station where fuel was cheap,
turned back and made for I-70 again

Thrice more the rain struck hard
Once just before my escape from the highway
Twice passing through small towns
And each time it was annoying
but never it did me harm.
By noon, something that resembled sunlight
made its way to my eyes.
By noon, home safe at last.

What I Need

A solid place to stand;
Smooth stone for soft feet
Enough light to see;
Warm sun for weak eyes
Truth behind lies and
Silent grace beneath the noise.

I need what’s been given
But am reluctant to grasp,
To listen,
To read,
To daily choose.

Don’t need more time,
More convincing;
Just reminders for
A stubborn brain:

Blue behind clouds.
Water running through
Breeze-blown trees
As dirt is hidden
by new growth.

Illumination by fools
doing it wrong,
By friends doing it right.
Clarity in furthest wanderings.
Correction. Foregiveness.

Head down, keep walking

I crossed the street without looking today
Granted, it was just a quiet one-way
Avoid eye contact when there’s nothing to say
Don’t turn if there’s risk that she’s looking

Eight or ten steps from one curb to the next
A short twelve feet further from nothing, at best
And to think, push time backwards twenty steps
I thought we had chances or something

Morning

The world is wrapped
in a thin blanket,
impatient for morning

Like the east,
my eyes are heavy
with possibility –
possibilities that are exciting
and ones likely to come true
and others, always empty,

My imagination tries
to pad the spaces
to warm my head
As the sun now warms
the Midwest through
a layer of fraying flannel

Little may still be exciting
when I open my eyes.
The decision to delay
is all it takes to
scatter leftover dreams;
they dissolve like burning clouds

But my mind is not
as sharp as the sun…
all morning I will chase
The fading fog of chances
unrewarded which I did
or did not take.

In clearest day
I’ll fight to fill
these phantom hopes.
Something into nothing,
patience with no time.
To save myself trouble

Not much left is exciting
I’ve looked and have not seen
I’ll squint a while longer,
Since it’s harder to
get out of bed –
but life won’t meet me here