Summer of ’99

Summer field by Theophilos Papadopoulos
Photograph by Theophilos Papadopoulos

I had a headache, so I grabbed a bottle of Tylenol.
The instructions suggested two pills, but my head
really hurt so I grabbed a few more—I took forty,
but I still couldn’t sleep. They fell out my mouth
before they could work. The doctors smoldered
me with charcoal, threatened me with catheters.
Three days I lay undead in a hospital bed,
wondering why I even tried. I wanted life
outside of dreams in which I couldn’t move or speak
and thought I’d wake up if I pinched hard enough.

Comparisons to the incontinent in convalescence
convinced me to give life another try. I could walk,
talk, think, dream. I just couldn’t speak, but maybe
I’d find my voice if I continued the effort.
Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin never helped; surely Zoloft would!
I left that hospital with newfound appreciation for life,
ready to write, make new friends, find true love.
All I had needed was a more positive attitude spiced
with courage to sweeten my dull days, and I finally found it!

Three days later, I lost it, but I couldn’t try again.
Plan B already failed, and I couldn’t experiment.
I was just a teenager without a car, without a gun,
afraid of the world, afraid of trains, afraid of razor blades.
That summer of ninety-nine, I gave up on death
and spent the rest of my time in bed listening
to my thoughts as the Cure sedated me.

An Apostate’s Apology

I say I hate Jesus and his body, but that’s not really true.
I cried during the Passion; not as much as I did for Batman,
but I still felt bad for him as he hung from the cross.
I admire Francis and his namesake, Wilberforce and Bell too.
Ignoring all deities, we overlap more than we disagree
and work to make Heaven a place on Earth just as Carlisle sings.

I was sick once, so I went to church, but a hospital’s no use
when overrun by the inmates, and though diagnosed mentally ill,
I’m not so crazy that I’ll embrace hate and call it love,
tighten up marriage while loosening my pants for Ashley Madison,
cultivate life while I celebrate the deaths of jaywalking teens,
show more love toward a flag than children who are gay, trans,
female, black, or anybody else considered second class.
Though born again, I’m still old enough to understand hypocrisy;
I understood since I was three.

The body of Christ is sick, covered in its own shit,
anus agape, pouring out keepers of broken promise
from the Duggars and Robertsons to the Camerons and Grahams,
mimicking Ace Ventura as it speaks to the world
and declares itself the salt of the earth because it’s stench
stings the eyes and wounds of every lost soul.
It needs a bath in water, fire, and vinegar.
Scrub away all the Republican. Underneath,
there may be flesh worth following. If not,
at least it’ll be clean.

Revel in the Rodeo

He climbs onto my shoulders like I’m his titan.
He steers me in the right direction
with constant detours toward the toy section.
Little hands break my faux-hawk style
and give me bed-head despite
not touching the mattress since he left his.
My racoon eyelids hide beneath the glow
I get whenever he speaks his five-year-old dialect.
Even though he strains my neck, my back
has never stood as firm
before I fought to protect him against pitbulls
and bullish parents who bite and poke
to try to shape him into a well-behaved,
medically tranquil, spiritually wrangled model citizen
like generations of men who knew discipline and respect
and still enslaved nations and murdered the rest.
I block their volleys. I won’t shock him off me
even when he’s running on walls
I remain beside him, guarding
his journey through the frontier.

One-Sided Conversation

Feels good to write again. My poem for day 3’s prompt of Writers Digest’s 2014 April Poem-a-Day Challenge: Write a message poem.

r u hungry? let’s go 2 panera!! :)
thats cool. im busy 2. :(
still need help w/math?? im a wiz! :)
no didnt take statistics :( maybe i can help anyway :)
how’s the essay coming along? need help with that? :)
no. i never read that book.
ready for a break? let’s hang out a bit. i’m just chillin’ in the library.
that’s a lot of homework. i have lots too. i should work on my essay.
No, I finished it, but I should probably look over it again. :) See you next week!
Oh. Well, have fun at Disneyland with your boyfriend. I’m so jealous.

Minimum Day

It’s about time I wrote again. My poem for day 2’s prompt of Writers Digest’s 2014 April Poem-a-Day Challenge: Write a voyage poem.

Home lay over the overpass,
but a yellow sign forbid two ten-year-olds from crossing.
I thought the trek around would be as straight,
but streets branched into industries
we never saw on drives back home.
The paths I hoped would lead us back
ended in walls we wouldn’t scale.
I understood street names as little
as graffiti on the sides of empty buildings
and company logos unseen at Toys’R’Us.
The few passersby that drove these streets
would neither stop nor slow for us—
we knew not to talk to strangers anyway.
A nudge and a prayer guided my way.

We crawled through the labyrinth
hungry for food and home and Sega games;
I wished I could reset now that we were stuck.
I would’ve listened to my brother when
he said we should walk to grandma’s two blocks from school
or even wait for mom to pick us up,
but I knew the way home, just not below
the overpass we had driven across before.
Halfway through, we couldn’t turn back.
Tall blocks of buildings hid east from west—
as if I could read a compass anyway—
but a hunch encouraged me forward.
I just had to find the right direction.
Home lay only a few blocks away.

Justin Bieber in the News

A tweet delivered the news to the world:
Bieber arrested, a DUI.
At only nineteen, Icarus
ascended the sky, danced with the stars.
Young wings melt fast; fame doesn’t last.
The world watches as he crashes
from YouTube to MTV to has-been,
but dozens of hits still inside him.

His mother gone, thugs usher him
into a cell. The cameras watch.
Men with batons wait for a mistake
to smash his pretty, heartthrob face.
His entourage abandoned ship;
new criminals surrounding him.
No money to give, bankrupt and broke,
no longer a hit, no longer at home.

Old men with blogs rejoice at the news.
It’s given them a voice to share,
another reason to exist.
Fanatics burn the effigies
the bloggers build from stepped-on straw
as if they won a victory.
Another star fell from the sky;
another hit for TMZ.

Rustic Mansion

Their home kept out the rain, but nothing else
waited at the door. Broken windows
invited typhoons in; furniture fell
off tables and nightstands and dressers
when breezes passed by. They could not escape
the winter’s chill or summer’s blaze in rooms
without insulation or electricity.
Only the roof remained intact. It hid
the sun that lit each day and stars
decorated stained off-white walls,
but at least it kept out the rain as well.

The door had no lock, but thieves paid no mind
to enter a shack that lacked such basic needs
as refrigeration and indoor plumbing.
Such a man would do better to dig through
the sands of the beach that lay footsteps away.
It tapers into waters extending
to horizons aglow with purple tinge.
Emerald islands in the distance tempt
swimmers into cool waters toward greener pastures
than could be found at insulated homes,
but no amount of money could own such a sight
unless one spent millions for the property.