Pre-Alcoholic

I wish I could tell it better. As
this is a poem. Just
at my desk in rainy

January thinking about
the last night of last year,
when I did something that made me

examine my drinking. I know
I am supposed to talk about what.
So this must be frustrating, the

vagueness. It wasn’t a car crash,
necessarily. I didn’t kill
anyone but, perhaps, the old me,

now a zombie walking
out the dregs of the new
year and hovering

outside my door. He wants
to knock. My knowing his
wanting to knock is

his knocking. And if
I haven’t killed anyone
yet, maybe it should be him.

But I can’t bring myself
to do it. I stopped hard liquor.
And beer, for now. Forever,

maybe. Just saying it
is gunpowder on my tongue.
I can’t stop eating candy,

and I’m very thirsty. But
is selfishness refusing to call
Kaveh’s wolf a wolf? Like

pre-diabetic. What will
kill me is the refusal
to kill.

(originally published in Red Rover Magazine, Spring 2021)

Alcoholic Thoughts

It’s early and I
can’t fall back asleep– maybe, before work,
I can enjoy a beer or two.
                                          [I deliver food]

Cut to: work
It’s slow.
               Maybe I can sneak home
               and have a can in the car.

The depth of craving
                   I scoff and deny.

What keeps me going is each lap’s checkered flag–
if you can get to February, you can drink. [my partner]

Cut to: February [sober]
I don’t think we should drink.
We can wait another month.

It’s Saturday night and I have drymouth
and the house crawls with

bottles, chasers, faucets, an empty
champagne bottle on display on a table.

Such is a trophy. Gold-adorned
bubbly. I can tell you the kind
of night it was that drank it:

ordinary.

I was how I was.
Who can I become?

 

(originally published in TreeHouse: An Exhibition of the Arts, Summer 2019)

Transition

I walk this familiar street
of spring. Cherry blossoms,

sunshine, the desire
to drink. Yesterday

I snuck into a field
with a flask to avoid

the knife room I
tell myself to stay

out of. My longing a black
rolled-up rug. I tell myself

Stay wound, trying how
I can before I let again

the drunk in me to walk
through the door,

spill me out in scuff
marks and mudprints

just after the rain.

 

(originally published in Penmen Review, Summer 2019)

Diffusion / NBA Finals, 2016

Pacing around the bar crowd, watching
the Cavaliers transfer heat to one another through
bullet passes around invisible perimeters, Kurt

and I keep drinking the strangers toward us.
“Gaseous diffusion,” he offers. “Alcohol
is only molecules bumping into each other.”

Our bodies generate more heat with every swig,
the atmosphere tense but warm through
our gullets. We chug chaos in the blur,

invite a thousand basketballs to bounce up
and down halfcourt. The players don’t notice
our dribbled words in soundwaves processed

a million different ways in the space between
earlobe and brain. Endlessly the spectators
chant go to sleep because no one we want

to talk to wants to talk to us, our zigzagged steps
combining with the sound of a team on the verge
of climbing a challenging mountain though

the peak is steep so we try nothing more
but the drinks that keep us moving. To stop
would be to hear the room’s haunting cheer.

 

(originally published in The Drunken Llama, Fall 2018)

Greyhound

is what we call grapefruit juice club soda
and vodka. Also the name of a wolf and
cost-efficient bus. There is where you told

me stop drinking. But it gives me fangs,
these gnarly sharps I say I need, let me keep–
tires spin in the mud, my bedroom where I

drink alone. There’s a delay. Of course.
It’s 6 PM. It’s 4 AM. Half-crescent awake
drink through morning again. Stringshaped

street I’m twirling aloof. I know there’s
been some kind of mistake. This dim
lobby with icy hands. Who knows. The sun

might go away. Your call. You called my name
at the last stop– I wanted to be wheeled some-
where south of here warm all the time. Where

I can shave all my fur and sweep back up.
Lounge by the beach my tongue of drool hot
midwinter. Past the equator. Don’t you see

those yellow lines you’re swerving over…
underneath my shirt is another shirt I want
to remove. I’m running out of fumes. Soon

you will wait for me in the corner-forest
where it’s okay to talk to the passenger
next to you. I promise. You’ll talk

a head clean off and refuel.

(originally published in Thin Air Online, Summer 2018)

Frosted Flakes

To curb today’s desire
to drink, I part the
lips of a childhood
friend– Tony the Tiger
on cardboard blue–
and rip the bag
to snow
a bowl of corn
and white.
Nintendo used
to be my fix,
controller gripped
through loud
and colorful
screens
until the light
of morning.
And when I
started drinking
I didn’t think
one day
I’d need
to stop.
I eat
bowl
after
bowl
until
I
pour
the

d

u

s

t

.

(originally published in Goat Farm Poetry Society – Edges Zine, Winter 2019)

Profile Pictures

It was easy
in college
for every profile pic
to be a drunk photo
smiling. Beer cans
in hands in a bar,
at the beach,
in a house, in
a car. We were
all young and
happy
thinking us
adults. Legally,
sure, yes.
We were.
But the me
in those photos
wasn’t thinking
about bills
the endless
stack of debt
I still cannot
afford.
Of which
I was
in those moments
accumulating.
Like snow clouds
beckoning
over Lake Erie
I hoped would
cancel class
so I could drink.

 

(originally published in Wilderness House Literary Review, Fall 2018)

Dean’s Birthday

Sometimes a Saturday is candle wax
the length from Cleveland to Columbus, a highway
of years burning blue in early spring, a handful

of flowers you hand an old friend who seems
a little aged now: a new house, a long mortgage,
a luxury car and me, unemployed,

eating pizza and fries.
He drinks red wine (party
hard weekend) –

these blood-drinks of youth.
I buy him nothing
he gives me space in return.

 

(originally published in The Heartland Review, Fall 2018)

Death, 2009 (College)

Flowers & God–
you tell me, slipshod,
there’s an afterlife
in the party we’re cheersing
to tonight our whole life
with small glasses of Granddad’s,
noisemakers, & drinking
games. I’d like to drown
the tissues
in something, listen to Gaelic
music like Dad used to
driving us from school with Pizza Hut
wafting from the trunk those
sunny afternoons. & now that you’ve
lost someone you’re willing to lose
your Bill Hicks-views-sense-
of-self-meaning like we all
funnel ethereal spirit into sky
& swig the rain with
drunken angels I know
you know you’re better than that.
I know you know once
the last attendee’s passed out
on the couch heavy breathing
lips purple you’d check
on him, too. You’d be alone
in the house you grew up in
with phone in your hand
calm and through the static of 911
racing to get the address out
the foaming of your mouth
and when a cop comes you
beg please don’t break this party up
and deny the red flashing lights
come

 

(originally published in 8 Poems, Summer 2018)

January 28

I really want to drink today.

The sun is shining. It’s warmer than usual.

I should try to ween myself off, right? None of this cold
turkey shit.

I haven’t drank a drink this year, the miracle
of it. Today, I am alone.

I scrubbed white the kitchen tiles, but there are
always dirt stains, smudges when you look
a little harder.

Sanitized the kitchen table with towels,
swept its crumbs from the floor.

The cat sprints from one end of the room
to the other over
and over, imaginary laps.

What every day is, these days,
running a relay race, handing
the baton to tomorrow’s me
with the trust I won’t– today,

it’s a sleep’s worth heavier than yesterday.

Long minutes the placemarks I pass

I can’t make time go faster. It is my day
off work, and in its nothingness I trudge
through sludge. Old habit,

you don’t die hard because
you’re not dying. You’re
as alive as me: refreshed yet craving,

gazing through the window to the light-
stained street, the shadows cast from trees
out toward the river.

 

(originally published in Stickman Review, Spring 2018)