White Dwarf

Prozac made it hard to rise

from bed most days. I didn’t want to die.

I didn’t want to wake. I lost my pick-me-up

at the pharmacy. I couldn’t find my way

back home, so I stayed behind

and stared at walls like 3D posters,

but the patterns had no depth.

I only saw black-and-white text

I could read, but it made no sense

why I’d age fifty years instead

of trying to surf the tempests.

Either way, I’d end up dead,

either drowning in my own storm

or shriveling in a desert sun.


The “smartest” girl I know confesses on Facebook
that she’s an introvert to her one thousand friends.
She would rather read a book than go out for drinks
according to her weekly posts of Buzzfeed links.
In conversations, she refers to Mark Twain
as Samuel Clemens, and translates our laymen speak
into an esoteric dialect rehearsed
since college but she always misses my connotations.
She uses Tumblr because her thoughts won’t fit
into tweets, most of which she expresses through sunset memes.
She no longer follows my blog because I disagreed once.

She considers grammatical fallacies and misused
apostrophes torture, but she has never won
a spelling bee like me. My trophy’s at the Goodwill,
discounted to a quarter, if you want to see it.
It comes with my Mensa spam. I gave it away
because masturbation’s a sin, and I never
got laid with the results of a quiz anyway.
I half-assed my A’s to make time to sleep, watch TV,
and play video games. She worked her ass off each day
so she wouldn’t end up at Jack in the Box like I used to be.
I now work on websites, changing the colors of links.
She earned her master’s degree in teaching
and makes three-fifths what I do with my corporate BS.

She tells me I will die alone; I remind her that she will too.
She waits for Prince Charming like her Jesus godmother taught her to,
but she’s no Cinderella, Snow White, or even much of a Lady,
and I’m more Elsa than Anna when it comes to love.
I don’t need a mate because I don’t have a soul.
I don’t need a god to avoid feeling alone,
and I don’t need to be liked for a profile pic
covered with flags to show strangers I care about shit.
I burn bridges she’s terrified of crossing.
I’m Kanye West: unfiltered genius with a godlike fashion sense,
and she’s Taylor Swift: fake as shit church princess.
She says she’d rather read a book than party, but
while I slept through New Year’s, she carpet-bombed
Instagram with pictures of her friends—
teabaggers and anti-vaxxers—and thanked them
for making her poor, dumb, lonely life worth living.

I Am not a Hufflepuff

Do not call me a Hufflepuff. I want
another class—anything—not defined
by what I do for you. My loyalty
is why everyone comes to me, but not
for me. Man’s best friend, because I’m your bitch.
I like to help, but I’m not just an elf
who lives to deal with your dirty laundry.
I have a life outside of your epics.
You would know if you ever talked to me
about something other than your own battles.
Why must someone die before you see me?

I’m more than miscellaneous background.
Acknowledge me for my brain, spine, or heart,
not just for hands that carry you across
the ocean when you’re too tired or drunk to walk.
If all I could be is a Hufflepuff,
then I’ll drop out and disapparate to the streets, cloaked
with invisibility you gave me,
to gorge on sin and gluttony of the world
beyond your magical fortified island.
When the police come, I will not be named the culprit.
They’ll never see me. I’m a Hufflepuff.

You’re not so smart. You’ve passed your OWLs, but they
have never reached the heavens like mine did.
You’re not so brave, afraid to live in a world
where magic doesn’t exist. I have lived
my entire life without a wand, burning
bridges with my words to prove I could fly.
I’ve killed more demons than you’ve seen, escaped
a prison built by magicians like you,
where you sort everyone into a class
to flesh out your pyramid scheme, with you,
the lightning rod, erect at the apex.

If I am just a Hufflepuff, I do
not belong with you celebrities on stage
or with the groupies who wait for you to cast
away their dry spells. I’m not a wizard
anymore. Magic summons me to you,
transforms me into your familiar, living
portrait to pretty up your walls at night,
your own personal Uber saving you
money you’ll squander somewhere else. I have
no life within your walls. I’m just a ghost
wandering the halls at night, looking for a fight
to prove to the world that I’m still alive.
Why must someone die before you see me?

Power Fantasy

Who wouldn’t become Kilgrave if given
the power to control minds? Whether for food
or love or to bring about world peace, we want
the world to abide with us. We know what’s right.
Do others? We won’t know until we tell them so.
A superhero’s greatest power is control
over people, whether through strength or charm
or binding webs. The lines we vow to respect
wash away in a single wave of force.
The appetite does not relax when fed;
it only expands, and self-reflections
are never seen. Crusades saturate souls,
nuance blends into shadows. Justice remains,
guided by a compass attracted to good
intentions, but always our own, leading
to depths we never explored before we had

Even God may have been the love he claims
before impatience pushed him to practice
tough love on the flocks who kept acting up.
Ripping children from wombs, crushing their skulls,
aborting nations to build a paradise
where nobody dies. Christ himself did not
shed as much blood as the Israelites did.
What would Jesus do? He would die for the world
rather than save it with blood, sweat, and tears
of villains who refuse to just listen.
He forgave them anyway.

Kevin lost his chance to be saved the moment
his parents stuck the needle in his back. They extended
his life, expanded his strength, extinguished his soul.
Redemption never comes without castration
nor does the desire for it. Jesus conquered death
without assault rifles and neutron bombs,
without pillars of fire and forced obedience,
just by accepting it. The saints followed
his footsteps into the caves. Crusaders
prop up his body in front of a flag,
plug up his wounds and pierce his lapels
with campaign pins. Armed with rifles and dick
pumped up, they made a savior for real men
to follow and honest women to obey.
They made a hero to bring about the peace
they desire. A paradise in their own image.

Short-Term Evangelist

Michigan Avenue
Photograph by Jason Carpenter. © Creative Commons.

I helped my church plant a garden in Chicago’s inner city,
but the plants withered, because we forgot
to water the leaves, declaring our mission accomplished once
we planted the seeds. One of the boys who pretended
to shoot me as my friends handed out cafeteria trays
asked if I’d return to play with them the next day.
I had to say no, because we planned to take a trip
to Michigan Avenue where I entered my first Apple Store.
Homeless men and women begged at the doors of Starbucks,
still holding the pamphlets on the Four Spiritual Laws we gave them
that morning during the evangelist phase of the mission.
I gave them no money because I only carry plastic,
but I gave one the rest of my vanilla bean frappe.
He wanted to talk about Jesus—I wanted to talk to a girl,
but God was watching, and so was she,
so I listened to his testimony, waiting for the opportunity
to present mine and close the sale, get close to my soulmate,
but his testimony ran too long, didn’t adhere
to the three-hundred-word limit we wrote
and rehearsed the morning we arrived in Illinois.
I drowned out his tragedies with prayers to return home
on dates with porn stars I promised I’d leave behind
once God blessed me with a family of my own,
until he stopped, and I could finally brush him away
with a passionate prayer, but though free, she already left
to see Blue Man Group with the rest of the flock.
I wandered through Michigan Avenue in search
of a light, a sign, whether it came from the sky or from a strip club.

Nostalgic for You

cemetery flowers
© Flysnow | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

I never considered you more than a friend,
but time multiplied by distance reshapes
your face, mutates friends into obsessions,
molds love out of nothing, perverts the chaste.

Dreams photoshop your eyes a greener shade
as porn expands your breasts a couple cups.
Old songs reheard weave us into new fate
revised by porn with girls who have your butt.

I found you on Twitter again. Your tweets
praised Trump, raised guns for Ohio, teabagged
women and children. Were you always so sweet?
I never noticed. I never saw through masks.

My dreams now have you bind me, torture me
with whips and wax until I vote GOP.

I Wish I Were White

© Patrimonio | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

If I were white, I could’ve been Jesus in the passion.
No, he wasn’t white, the church reluctantly admits, but
Chad, the varsity quarterback who scored
four touchdowns in one game, makes such a great Son of God!
Brittany, his cheerleader girlfriend and pastor’s daughter,
is already Mary, his mom. Why break such great chemistry
and cause strife among the elders just to make
a political point about an ethnic Jesus?

The college pastor/eHarmony matchmaker
might have tried to set me up with the girl I loved
rather than the only other brown one in the ministry.
Did he not notice how devotedly I followed her,
or was the idea of us together inconceivable?
She would’ve still said no when I asked her out,
but rejection would’ve arrived before the date rather than after
she realized the feelings I expressed to her weren’t just a joke,
and I wouldn’t have spent an entire week preparing
for a chance I never had—not even one in a million.

If I were white, it wouldn’t be so ironic
when white social justice warriors tell me to check my white privilege
because I dared disagree with them on what it means to be different.
I would be their equal rather than their damsel in distress
who congratulates them with cake for defending me against myself.
They wouldn’t call me self-hating because I dislike mariachi music
and never learned Spanish. I chose to follow the goth girl to French instead.
I’d have followed her into the crowd, but black and white clashed with me.
So did the Hispanic and Asian crowds.
I just sat on a bench and watched the goths from afar as I listened
to Morrissey on my smuggled-in Discman.

If I were white, nobody would ask me whether or not the white boy
I take the park is my son; it would never happen.
Nobody would ask me where I was from.
Nobody would respond, “I mean before California,”
when I answered.

If I were white, I could choose my own class.
I’d be the default character: a clean slate, perfectly average
with limitless potential. I would be the human,
not the elf who only works well with magics
or the dwarf who’d better be a tank if he wants to be useful.
I could be a paladin, wizard, or ranger.
I could be a dashing rogue and not just a thug.
I could even be a ninja, because some ninjas are white,
but a ninja of Hispanic or Southeast Asian origins? Inconceivable.
I could be just American. I could be the everyman,
the star of every video game and movie, the god of every religion.
I could be Jesus transfigured, shining in white.

Dampened Dreamer

eroded sandcastle
© Steve Hardy under Creative Commons.

Go fund yourself, I replied when you asked for money.
Begging at burnt bridges surprises nobody, but even
on your Jesus year, you wait on rooftops for miracles
and shoo away would-be friends who won’t pay
to be your clients. You say you’ve earned success,
but what have you done besides plant azaleas
you quit watering when the summer arrived?
The waves washed up your sandcastles,
and your resume has no references because nobody
returns your calls anymore. Those who do,
you threaten to sue or accuse of assault
to shake them down for some investor capital.

I satisfied your wanderlust for a weekend—you burnt me
the next, but I’m not upset the plans we made withered.
I don’t miss your shadow boxing or your crazy antics,
but you aren’t crazy, just spoiled. Exotic eastern spiritualities
can’t fill the holes Hollywood and Paris left in you.
I can’t either—your problems are too large
for my quaint life cultivated through crises you experienced
but never adapted to. You still wear the ring and dress
with a oneway ticket back to your hometown
to see your should’ve-been husband again.
Strike your flint to reignite old flames, but
you already scorched your earth. Ashes won’t burn again.
Say hi to his new family for me.

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.