On some level, Adam's been writing poetry for more than 30 years.  But it wasn't until the last 5 years that he became far more active in writing new pieces, performing at local poetry shows and slams, and hosting several of his own open mics.  He has a collection on Amazon titled

Cognitive Dissonance: Poems That Don't Suck
.

The Ever-Growing List of Poems 

Adam tends to write new poetry in spurts, but if you're on the mailing list, you'll know any time new pieces are posted.  If you only have time to browse through a few, be sure to check out Her Disease or Somewhere in Las Vegas.  Those are two of his "standards" that are often performed at live events.
I met this woman in Grand Rapids, and she worshipped me like a Greek god. She was a pixie with no life and no past and she would happily do anything I asked. Our relationship was worry-free because she adored me and she’d do anything just to be in my company. But she camped in our house like a fungus. She paid us no rent but she was constantly among us. When I left in the morning and came home at night she was sitting there like some creepy puppy that just couldn’t wait to reunite. Bitch had to go.

I met this woman in New Orleans, and she used to whisper that sexy “ay papi” shit in my ear. Her breasts made me believe in the power of prayer and there was nothing more divine than that silky black hair draped across my chest, making me feel like a millionaire. But she invited me over to her house one day and I thought I was about to have me some Latina buffet. But I didn’t realize that I’d been volunteered to sit and watch football and throw down some beers - with her husband. Bitch had to go.

I met this woman in Munich, and she lit up every room she was in. She smiled so breezily and laughed so easily and I found myself thinking of her constantly, ceaselessly. She had an innocence that was completely disarming and an intellect that at times could be jarring and any time we found ourselves parting I was immediately planning my return. But she griped every time I had a beer and if I had a cigar she would soon disappear. She laughed at the frivolity of the sports I follow and she dismissed my interests as displays of bravado. Bitch had to go.

I met this woman in Oxford, and she was one of the finest women that I’ve ever laid eyes upon. She looked like an angel and she danced like a slut and every guy in the club was trying to get a cut. She would cling to my arm and it was a huge boost to my ego and all the fellas would buzz around us like hungry mosquitoes. But she drank like a fish and she couldn’t hold her liquor. And while she was lovely to gaze upon, she fucked like a corpse and had a mouth like a wood chipper. Bitch had to go.

I met this woman in London, and she fit me like a glove. When we met on the dance floor it was instant love. We sang loudly in public spaces and got freaky in inappropriate places just to see the look on others peoples’ faces. We danced carefree and awkwardly, like only white people can, and none of our time ever required a plan. But she never met a drug she didn’t like and I knew if I stayed, I knew that I might just join her on that hike because ultimately we were far too much alike. Bitch had to go.

I met this stripper in Vegas, and she exploited every one of my burgeoning insecurities. I didn’t just screw her, I made her my wife. And I actually thought we were starting a life. She gave me two beautiful kids and a family that was rife with drama. But it ended the only way it can when you marry a stripper. We came undone like two sides of a zipper. I came to see how she controlled me and suppressed my soul with frightening consistency. Bitch had to go.

I met this woman in Jacksonville, and she was the love of my life. She was the kind of woman all my friends could adore. In public she was effervescent but in the bedroom she was a whore. We were companions and lovers and so much more. But she abandoned me in my greatest hour of need and she steadily withdrew because I would not give her a baby. But I never thought that she would be the one to dismantle our love at the point of a gun and send me a text message saying, “We’re done.”

Bitch left.
I used to be your first thought, but now I’m just an afterthought. The love that we once begot has faded from view, like a distant cosmonaut. Our growing distance has had me distraught but any protest from me goes for naught. There was a time when we were unstoppable. We were a juggernaut. But now the moments between us are continually fraught with the landmines sown amongst us every time we’ve fought. I remember when you afforded your attention to me, the attention I sought, but since that time, nothing between us has thawed.

I used to be your number one, but now I’m just a someone. You made me believe I was the chosen one, but now I just feel like anyone. Your inattention to me has made me anonymous, it’s made me numb, and I don’t think that this damage can be undone. You used to make me feel special, but now I’ve become jaded, defensive toward everyone. My self-esteem has ultimately succumbed to your relentless assault. I’ve been overcome. And the goals for us to which I have clung have left me trapped under your thumb.

I used to be your everything, but now I’m just a plaything. And while you be fronting I’m here in the background, just waiting for nothing. As I’m trying to build upon that ring, you’re treating me like just another fling. Every mistake I make is a bullet in your sling and you seem content to try to wring every ounce of drama from the tragedy that we’ve both been authoring. I’m trying to be the better man, I’m trying to be your king, but there’s nothing I can seem to do that puts us on an upswing.

I used to be your only man, but now I’m just a middleman. I’m a bridge, a transitional span, that brings you from where we once began to your new life without me, a life free of my plan. I had dreams for us that you outran – you driving our minivan and me playing the businessman. But the life I was building was your anagram – something to be scrambled like eggs in a pan – and I now know your promises were a sad kind of scam, an illusory creation – a hologram.

I used to be your anytime, but now I’m just a pastime. A man who amuses you with rhyme, like this is a game – some kind of pantomime. For me there is no greater crime than the way you’ve dismissed me and the way you’ve tried to undermine all that I have built through hard work, through overtime. If you even cared I could try to redesign my shortcomings that you’ve so carefully outlined. But the more I reach out the more you decline to meet me half way, to help me refine this relationship for which I’ve laid everything on the line.

I used to be your first thought, but now I’m just an afterthought. There’s nothing left between us that we had wrought so maybe I should, maybe I ought, just be content to live as your afterthought.
I'm here again.
I'm standing here with my throwaway friends and once again she's near again.
I swear she's looking my way but I'll ignore her and order a beer again.
And before I muster the courage to speak I'm certain that she'll disappear again.

Why can't I just talk to her?
Why do I feel like every passing smile I give is stalking her?
Why do I feel like every casual glance is the equivalent of gawking at her?
Why can't I do what any regular guy can do?
Why can't I just talk to her?

And why am I standing in this same spot again?
Why do I stand here, frozen, every night like a thief who's been caught again?
How do I know that I'll be nothing more than an afterthought again?
My stomach is twisting into the most exquisite knot again.

And why can't I just bring myself to say hello?
Why have I already played out the process of meeting and letting go?
Shouldn't I trust in some cosmic force to throw us together on the patio?
Isn't there some hidden trick that would turn me into her Romeo?

But no matter how I psyche myself up, my ass is still glued to this seat.
There's no line I can craft in my mind that's properly discrete.
Every icebreaker trying to escape my mouth hits my tongue and turns to concrete.
Every rejection from past situations plays over in my mind on constant repeat.

And I don't know when my own "game" became so obsolete.
I'm not shy. I'm not awkward. I'm not a social offbeat.
I can walk in a straight line .I can talk in sentences that are complete.
It's only when there's a hint of romance that my palms sweat and I begin to overheat.

And even as I scold myself, she's still standing there.
Her mere presence serves as a constant dare.
I'm looking for the perfect moment but I'm paranoid that I'm starting to stare.
My buddies are reminding me that there's no way in hell that I'll leave this chair.
Every minute that passes is a minute bringing me closer to despair.
This night, this fleeting chance, is fast expiring as I mentally prepare.
Every song that passes by increases my chances of playing solitaire.
Every nervous drink I down decreases my likelihood of being debonair.
But I can't fathom approaching her until I silence this internal questionnaire.
I can't bring myself to step forward while my mind is in such a state of disrepair.

And now she's gone.
And I'll spend the rest of the night thinking about what I did wrong.
I'll convince myself that I was totally gonna talk to her if she'd just hung around for one more song.
I'll rehearse all the words I was gonna say if I'd only felt a little more strong.
I'll quietly ask myself if I'll see her again.
But I know the answer to that.

She's gone.
Bang bang, I shot you down.
Bang bang, you hit the ground.
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, that’s how I shot you down.

Bang! Bang!

No sound is more American than the sound of a mother’s pain.
And no image is more American than the gun from which it sprang.
Now your elected leaders will try to fool you.
They paint gun control as some liberal voodoo.
While they tell you that the NRA headquarters is where freedom rang.
While they brace themselves against the boogeymen of brown immigrants and black gangs.
While they swear that tree’s “strange fruit” is just a picnic and some overhang.
Because they know ultimately, they can subdue you.
They melted your chains into shiny pistols, with which they overthrew you.
And now there’s nothing left to hear and nothing left to be sang but

Bang! Bang!

You can organize your boycotts and your grassroots resistance.
Go ahead… I’ll wait…
But that goose-stepping march you hear approaching somewhere in the distance
Is two hundred million white Americans who are looking to pick a fight.
Cuz there’s nothing worse in this universe than a white man bitching about his rights.
So I’ll hold your hand as together we pray,
and I’ll swear that Jesus is the one I obey,
But I’ll burn a cross on your lawn tonight.
And I’ll wave my Blue Lives Matter, pistol grip, first edition, sign-and-numbered, action figure in the eerie glow of the firelight.
And when the corpses pile up, I’ll blame it on you cuz you stubbornly refuse to underwrite
The statues dedicated to my racist, hateful, Confederate ancestor parasites.
And while that cross goes up in flames, you’ll only hear one refrain:

Bang! Bang!

There’s no legislation that can possibly contain,
The xenophobia,
Of those who fear a black dystopia,
Of those who will do anything in their power to restrain
The unbridled, unchecked, and unconscionable flower of black youth.
My bullets are the ultimate remedy to the power of democratic truth.
And you can arrest me now, if you think that helps, but assault rifles are easy to attain.
And while I exterminate your children the Second Amendment shields me like polyurethane in the driving rain.
And as I stockpile ammo like a Rambo commando, your kids will still be slain…
for jaywalking,
for surrendering,
for eating skittles,
for wearing a hoodie,
for playing in the park with a train,
for selling cigarettes outside a bodega,
for possessing trace amounts of cocaine.
But there’s no particular political campaign
That will protect you from the random, violent, inhumane sound of

Bang! Bang!

Bang bang, I shot you down.
Bang bang, you hit the ground.
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, that’s how I shot you down.
You’ve all heard tales of youthful exuberance, but you’ve never read a book like this. We were young. We were stupid. We naively believed we had women hanging on our hook like this. Despite what our children may think, we didn’t always look like this. That’s why it’s so baffling now that our glory days were took like this.

Our waistlines were thin and our wallets were thinner. Mac and cheese was not just a side dish. It was breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Milwaukee’s Beast was the champion of beers. Twelve ounces made you feel like a winner. And so help me if you touched my Faygo, I’d have you burned at the stake like a goddamn sinner.

This was the age of a venue that we all came to know as the Coit House. For certain young ladies it was also known as the Innocence Destroyed House. Usually, for us residents, it was the Chronically Unemployed House. But if you were dumb enough to let your wife party there, you’d soon be a deeply annoyed spouse.

The Coit House was a peculiar place where getting fucked didn’t mean that your clothes were off. You’d be ambushed by the Make-Her-Cum Soldiers if you couldn’t efficiently get her off. We fought daily, like rats in a shrinking cage. But we were all cut from the same cloth. Except for Scott. That lazy motherfucker was nothing but a worthless sloth.

Our muses were marked with a Vulcan’s pointy ears and a captain’s shiny head. We didn’t care who shot JR, but we knew that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Our music wasn’t sung by the King. It was delivered by a Prince instead. And those fluffy novels your momma read? They were replaced by darker visions from Ellison’s head.

The Coit House is now but a memory that will never be repeated again. But those times were imprinted upon my brain as just what it means to be someone’s friend. Women have left us. Employers reject us. Our children disrespect us. Neighbors misdirect us. But the people in this room will be here till the end. It’s a bond that others scarcely comprehend. The Coit House was not just a point in space or time. It was a springboard for relationships that became lifelong trends.
How do you know I'm a douchebag?

Cuz you read some of my poetry and knew that was all that you had to see. There couldn't be anything deeper about me than the knee-jerk impression you built so carelessly. One poem is obviously the mirror to my soul and two poems tells you more than you ever needed to know. No point in seeing where the rabbit hole goes. No point in asking what inspired those prose. You've read some of my poetry so you've obviously uncovered all my complexity.

How do you know I'm a douchebag?

Cuz you browsed through some snapshots on Facebook and knew there was no need for a second look. If a picture's worth a thousand words then two must be a goddamn storybook. There's no need to confront me bout the updates you spy when you're creeping on social media content in your alibi. Before we could talk you've already said goodbye. No need to discuss cuz selfies don't lie. You saw some of the pictures I took and that's all you needed to give me the hook.

How do you know I'm a douchebag?

Cuz you saw the car I drive and there's no way you'd be caught in that thing alive. If someone owns a crappy car, it's obvious they'll never thrive. If I don't escort you in a fancy chariot, then what else of you would I deprive? You have no clue where my money goes. Don't know what I earn or how it flows. You've never tried to juxtapose what I own with the life I chose. You don't wanna hear that jive cuz you can't see past the car I drive.

How do you know I'm a douchebag?

Cuz you heard that I got drunk last night and knew this must be a sign of blight. I didn't cause trouble, didn't start any fight. But I was a little loud. Was a little impolite. So this must mean that I have an addiction. My mark on this world is one of affliction. One night of drinking feeds your conviction that a future with me only leads to friction. You learned that I drink and it brings me delight so this is enough to dismiss me outright.

How do I know you're a bitch?

I don't. We've never met. And I don't pretend to know, what makes you tick, what makes you go, just because I've seen bits of your social media show. I don't give sway to chatter and scandal. Personal discussion is not too much to handle. Rumors about you don't hold a candle to the insight I could gain if conversation flows.
Heat looms over the city like a life sentence and roams his way through the busy streets and back alleys, searching for his next victim. He dances and skips, prances and flips from sidewalk to storefront, boardwalk to beachfront, bearing down upon the restless souls of the Delta.

Joey lifts his head from the glass of lemonade over which he’s been hovering and he asks in a desperate tone whether or not it's four o'clock yet. "No," I tell him. "It's one." And the sigh which follows reflects his hollow depression as he meekly tries to swallow another gulp of lemonade.

Across the street Heat jauntily harasses Old Woman of seventy, maybe eighty - even she's lost count with any certainty. Old Woman fights back – but to no avail - fanning her forehead with all the grace of a beached whale, pawing and posturing over her leathery skin, Heat cares not for her desperate travails. For a moment she catches my eye and looks to me as though I can free her from Heat’s relentless spree. But I only shrug, vainly searching the horizon for clouds.

Joey finishes off his fourth lemonade of the hour and begins to search through his pockets for another ninety-nine cents. There is only forty. He turns his head to me and squints into the sun, asking in a painful tone whether or not it's four o'clock yet. "No," I tell him. "It's one. Thirty." And the look arising on his shiny face reflects his disbelief.

Heat pounces upon Fly and feeds his massive hunger for annoyance. Buoyed by the misery of the day, Fly spins and buzzes, flitting first to one ear, then to the other. For a moment, just for an instant, I truly believe that Fly has reached my brain, causing a more exquisite kind of pain, a pain that borders on inhumane. And with the most unforgiving of disdain, Fly begins to train his attention on all that remains of my sweat-soaked sanity. The misery stains the very core of my patience as Fly tears and slices, rips and shreds until my mind can take no more. And Fly is gone; borne upon wings of humidity and oppression.

Joey wipes the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief that has seen better days and throws his fan to the ground, realizing that his futile attempts at relief have done nothing more than assist Heat in his ongoing battle. He watches several new drops roll down the bridge of his nose and fall to the sidewalk below. Lifting his head to the sound of a distant ice cream truck he wonders aloud whether or not it's four o'clock. "No," I tell him. "It's two." The resulting moan says more than words ever could.

Heat grabs Tourist and laughs at his ignorance, twisting and straining out of him whatever comfort might have remained in his corpulent body. Tourist is mounted like a five-dollar whore and Heat starts to laugh, cackling for more. Tourist doesn’t realize the stakes in this war. Cameras and handbags transform to millstones in the shimmering glare of afternoon and Tourist wishes that he had them no more. Broken air-conditioning and dingy cafes offer a landscape that Tourist has come to abhor. And Heat comes to terms with another victory.

Joey stands and rubs his clammy skin, only to surrender once again to the stoop that has become his prison, his pen. His head returns my way, trying to assess my condition and how much longer I will hold out before Heat becomes my master again. The words are checked in his throat but it's not long before he has to give in to the temptation. Trying a smile but failing miserably he asks whether or not it's four o'clock yet. "No," I tell him. "It's two."

And I realize that the hands of my watch are stuck. But for a moment, for one fleeting instant, I wonder if they really are. We both wonder if they really are.
I never used to believe in ghosts.

The specter of people long gone, and things never meant to be, was not a burden that was laid upon me. Twilight was never terribly dour and midnight was not a witching hour. But the older I get the more I cower at the growing and ever-present power of memories pushed too far beneath the surface.

As I travel through life, the ghosts, they surround me. They echo the relationships that I could not see. They dance and they sing. They bite and they sting. They dredge up the memories that I’ve been ignoring. And they mock me even as the memories grow misty. All poignant reminders of love become history. And the ghosts, they multiply far too quickly.

The ghosts always attack when I least expect it. Everyday objects are now all infected with hopes and dreams that are too long neglected. The chair where she sat. The piano he played. The games we enjoyed. The card that he made for me. When that emotion welled up I beat it back. I checked it. But the ghosts have a presence that must be respected. And their constant vigilance leaves me dejected, causing me to ponder just how I’m affected.

They hide in the shadows and wait for the moment when my head is too cloudy and my thoughts are not cogent. Their timing is brutal, my defenses are futile, and once they attack there is no useful way to manage that pain. Confronting the ghosts leads to bouts of depression but ignoring them creates an endless succession of self-destructive escapades designed only for suppression of all that haunts me.

I’m assured by others that the ghostly influence fades. But rather than waning, their power is gaining and it seems that no level of distraction or training lessens the grip that they hold on my mind. And while I’m maintaining this façade of normality others can see that my defenses are straining. They can’t see the ghosts, but they can see that I’m straying ever farther from the goals I once was attaining. And the longer I try to sustain this grind the more I’m resigned that the prison to which I’m confined cannot be escaped - because it cannot be defined.

And as I run from the ghosts, I work to spawn more. Because the scars I leave on others ensure that I will always have new ghosts in store. Every friend that I ignore, every colleague with whom I start a war, every lover that I show the door, every heart that I leave shredded on the floor - guarantees that I will have ghosts for evermore.

And while the ghosts, they won’t abandon me – at times, they are all that comforts me, silent partners keeping me company. I never used to believe in ghosts but now I know that they are part of me. They have become, and will continue to be, the darker side of my reality.
So much more to say
But nothing more can be said
Waiting for tomorrow
But now one of us is dead
Unspoken apologies
Runnin round my head
No time to hang out
No more time to break bread

There’s part of you inside me
That I know will never die
You made a rebel of me
One that will never comply
Our memories have ended
But I feel them multiply
There’s too much inside me
To wanna say goodbye

I wanna listen again
To your countless stories
I wanna see your smile
As you relive those glories
They bored me then
But they were your territory
Without you here
I’m stuck in purgatory

Sometimes I wonder
If I still know your voice
Is it still in my brain?
Or is it part of the noise?
Time spent apart
Is always a choice
But to see you again
Would make me rejoice

I never appreciated
That one day you’d be gone
I always believed
That you’d be part of this song
But now I’m here alone
And I have to carry on
But seasons drag by
And the years are so long

Yeah, we had our time
And to me it was everything
I know things get better
I’m due for an upswing
But it’s hard to let go
When I still wanna cling
To a time that is past
A time that’s expiring
She yells at me in the color of stout.
In her calmer moments, she’s amber,
But it’s rare that she doesn’t shout.
And in her rising anger, the ceiling slides into deeper shades of porter.
She does nothing more than lay about but she’s the one who gives orders.
But when the vitriol is truly flowing, the entire world is filtered through the chocolate hues of stout.
The brightest day turns nocturnal and darkness strains its borders
And clouds gather in the clearest sky when my eyes are stained with maudlin tones of toasted malt.

Our forecast is driven by the blinding light of juniper berries and pine.
The tickle of cane syrup may lead to softer landings,
But olives and vermouth make a toxic brine.
The flashing stench of sour mash is a desperate plea to batten down the hatches.

Our environment transforms into fun house mirrors when reflected through the warping of one-point-seven-five-liter glass.

She still simmers over last night’s argument,
The details of which neither one of us remembers.
And the straw man she’s been whipping since noon is always on the verge of being dismembered,
But nothing can keep it in tact better than a thick, sticky shot of Crown.
And every drop of bitters is a life preserver on which we both will drown.

She’s buying.
I’m still lying.
Cuz nothing I say now can be held against me in a court of rye.
Nothing sticks to me cuz everything sticks to the floor,
But there’s nothing slipperier than amber spirts that haunt my throat.
And there’s nothing scarier than the wrath she’ll bring to bear when the golden curtain is drawn.
But for now, I’m still concentrating – squinting, straining, everything but focusing – on the haze of malted sugars that have colonized my soul.

She stacks the screaming bottles like layers of bowling pins.
They’re balanced on the nervous tinkling of glass that’s been stretched too thin.
I can smell the tension of etched crystal as it nervously eyes the rubbish bin,
And any correction on my part is just an invitation for conflict.
The bottles scold me.
They say that I should just be diving in.
But there’s nothing but emptiness within.
There’s nothing left from which we can begin.

She yells something delicious as I inspect the bottom of my glass.
There’s something in her rant that’s nutritious.
Her seething hatred blossoms on agave plants.
And there’s something savory in her pain that can’t be surpassed.
The corn planted in the backyard is already rotten and brown.
And the potatoes are riddled with black spots even as we try to choke them down.
But we’re living on insults and barley,
And hops are the sweetest fruit we can harvest while her missiles attempt to scar me.

She’s painting on a dulcet canvas of malt.
Every surface under my fingers fades to umber.
Our memories swirl in a maelstrom of lime and salt.
And there is no volume of the brown water that can satisfy this hunger.
So we’ll eat, and we’ll drink, and we’ll launch projectiles until we’ve lost all memory of times when we were younger.
As she sits across from me, I watch her fidgeting restlessly, shuffling coasters between her fingers, as compulsion strips away her dignity. Her body is rigid but her shoulders are limp, as the weight of her burden erodes our relationship. I observe as she squints, as the thoughts rise up to the surface, a flinch, as she fights to define her expression, a wince, and she retreats to her core, defeated again.

The silence is only broken by the tinkling of ice in my whiskey, and by the wispy shredding of napkins that happens efficiently and quickly. She tears them into identical strips and stacks them, fiercely, with a careful attention to detail that she has never afforded to me. The silverware is severely aligned, and each of her motions is eerily designed, to preserve the only corner of her world she controls with absolute certainty.

She begins to speak, but only manages to mumble. I try to engage, but her world starts to crumble with every word that tumbles from my mouth. Her hand acquires a tremor, and she visibly recoils at my tenor. I press her for answers but it makes me the aggressor and my questions are nothing to her but stressors, pushing her closer to panic - a panic that simmers in her like an ember. Feeling helpless before her like a beggar, I give up the fight and retreat altogether.

She offers her hand - not in tenderness, but as a trap, set and sprung by the treacherous. I grab it and it feels cadaverous, a hand that affords me no deference. I don’t know where she wants to be, but I know I’m not her preference. I portray a sense of warmth, of gentleness. But as I do, her shallow breath loses its resonance and her palm acquires a clamminess that I have never felt before. Every pore of her skin screams, "Escape!" As though the touch of my hand is akin to rape. Facing her repulsion, I start to deflate and rather than fight I evacuate back into my corner of the booth.

She taps the table repeatedly, with a cadence that belies her meekness, as though she's trying to complete a sequence, heatedly. Each of my gestures interrupts her focus, causing her to respond freakishly, and forcing her to reboot the process, fatiguingly, with a frustrated sigh. Waiting for the ritual’s end is futile, but halting it only fuels her disapproval. I confront her compulsions, but I’m met with refusals - and tensions between us spawn the accrual of bitterness that underlies her condition.

The meal that I eat offends her. The mere sound of my voice upends her. The color of my jacket apprehends her. The tone of my words condescends her. The touch of my hand discontents her. The topic I discuss only extends her anxiety and the man I’ve become now prevents her from reaching her hopes and dreams. Every empty gaze I receive from her makes me wonder why I haven’t taken leave of her and it baffles me to think that I was once interweaved with her. There was a time when I thought that all could be achieved with her but now all I know are dinners that are grieved with her.

As we head to the car I try to walk by her side, as though we’re a couple, a loving husband and bride. But she takes great pains to ensure the divide between us is only multiplied. As I absorb another hit to my pride it is clear that she cannot abide the thought that I might reside anywhere within her presence. And as we settle into the car I can see that she’s mortified, that she’d rather be crucified than spend another minute alongside me.

The ride home is a study in distraction. I listen to the banal contraption of talk radio while she feeds her attraction to Facebook, and Twitter, and Pinterest, and Instagram - and any other proxy for real interaction. Each of us is a singular faction searching in vain for our own lonely satisfaction. There was a time, so long ago, when we both had compassion, when conversation between us was more than a transaction. But every word we speak now only leads to retraction, so it’s easier to stay silent than to risk a reaction.

I used to believe that she had an affliction, that the friction between us could be cured by prescription. But years of silent contrition have taught me the folly of that position. There is only one way to secure her remission and it requires the removal of my implicit opposition. Because there are no others who make her freeze, and when she’s alone she feels totally at ease. It’s only in my presence that she starts to wheeze. And though there are no guarantees it doesn’t take much expertise to see that I’m her catalyst. I’m her agitant. I am her disease.
I choose you.

It’s not a choice in the absence of options.
I’ve seen enough of the dating flotsam.
Everyone else is long since forgotten.
And the fruit of those fields is now dead and rotten.
But the light I see in you erases the pain of my past.
And though our future holds untold challenges,
I know those are trials that won’t last.
Because our die has already been cast.
And the joy we feel now can only be surpassed.
So to anyone foolish enough to question our path
I can only offer one reply:

I choose you.

I choose your morning breath.
I choose this journey we’ve begun that can only end in death.
I choose your late-night rants,
And the awkward grace with which you dance.
I choose everything in you that my friends warned me about.
I choose the crazy ideas that you sometimes spout.
I choose your bad days
And your tired days
And your cranky days
And the days when you’re filled with doubt.
I choose your insecurities and all your abundant impurities.
I lovingly choose all of your idiosyncrasies
Because they comprise the package that is you.
And that’s a package I don’t want to live without.

I’ve grown past saying that I want you.
I’ve long ceased praying that I need you.
You know that I’m staying, because I choose you.

Like the seedling chooses rain.
Like the baker chooses grain.
Like Caesar chooses romaine.
Like old folks choose the mundane.
Like the lighter chooses butane.
Like a crusader chooses to campaign.
Like the racecar chooses to hydroplane.
Like the leftover chooses cellophane.

In this crazy world of conflicting choices,
When all objections equate to noises,
Amidst the sway of dueling voices,
There is only one choice for which my heart rejoices.

I. Choose. You.
I don't know.

I don't know anymore what I'm supposed to say to my friends.
I don't know how to explain that justice depends
On the color of your skin and the money you can spend.
I don't know.

I don't know how it all went to shit.
I don't know why we argue about who's life is legit.
I don't know why no one listens when I spit.
There are no breadcrumbs leading homeward.
There’s no way to pinpoint the first time this occurred.
I can't find any white friends who don't want the last word.
I can't find any black friends who don't feel slurred.
I don't know how we find peace when justice is deferred.

I don't know.

I don't know how I lived so long in the dark,
How I blindly ignored every racist remark.
Or how I dismissed the bigotry as harmless snark.
All this crap around me seemed so hidden, subdued,
But now it smacks me in the face and it's so goddamn stark.
And all I want is to make it right,
But I have no confidence, cuz I know my people.
We'd rather vote for Trump cuz my brothers are sheeple.
They don't fight for YOUR rights.
They lean on their privilege while they hide in their steeples.
And they'll risk absolutely NOTHING as they watch through their peep holes.
But how do we bridge this gap??

I don't know.

I don't know how to solve a problem that I never even knew existed.
I don't know how to work with people that all my ancestors resisted.
How do we find common ground when all of my logic is twisted??
How do we learn to love each other when my blood is the blood that assisted in your demise?

I don't know.

But what I do know is this:
We cannot continue on this path.
We can’t build a society on based hatred and wrath.
We can't blame our ancestors for this aftermath.
We can't keep painting others as the psychopaths.
We gotta own this shit.

We gotta learn to put ourselves in another man's shoes.
We gotta realize that our kids learn from us how to choose
Between wisdom and stereotypes that are all untrue.
And we can't tell them that we didn't know what to do.
We can't tell them our message was misconstrued.
We can't give them any anti-hatred shampoo.
We can't ask them to ignore this hateful residue.
We can't expect them to rise above the hatred that we imbued.
We can't magically grant them a respect for others –
When it’s a respect that we ourselves never knew.

All we can do is stop the cycle right here.
Right now.
With no excuses.
But how do we do that?

I don't know.
I just don't know.
I know your other man had a taste for girls on the side, and his legendary escapades have been long-since verified. As he selfishly gratified every sexual impulse his brain could provide another piece of your soul became petrified – terrified at the thought that you would never again be able to safely confide in any member of the opposite sex.

But baby I’m not that guy - and I don’t know what makes a lucky man want more. I don’t know why men ignore ladies for whores. And while I know you still feel a need to even the score, there’s nothing you can do to me that will make him sore. So since I can’t erase your past, all I can do is implore you to recognize me as nothing more than collateral damage in your ongoing war.

I know your other man was still hung up on his ex. And I know he thought of her every time the two of you had sex. While you were working two jobs to pay off his debts, he sat at home on the phone with her and sent her freaky texts. The scents on his clothes were not your scents. And as his stories became more immense you went to ever increasing lengths to discover the truth behind his dalliance.

But baby I’m not that guy – and I don’t know why a fool would chase the bitch who left him. When a woman lifts him up, why would he pine for the one who depressed him? I know that for all those years you were the only one who blessed him, but he didn’t want the one who’d love him. He only wanted the one who’d molest him. And while you tried to comfort him, he returned to the one who stressed him.

I know your other man couldn’t distinguish between truth and lies. Every evasive word from his mouth was only meant to deceive, to disguise. He didn’t care if your trust was jeopardized, as long as he had the key to your thighs. And as you waited patiently for his replies he fabricated words that fostered your demise.

But baby I’m not that guy – and my word has never been of question. If you’re ever unsure of my intention just ask me upfront for my direction and I will lay it out for you without exception. I’ve been guilty of many things – but never guilty of deception. I don’t see you as my possession, but instead I hope I’m worthy of your attention and I will expose all of me if it will help to ensure that I am your selection.

I know your other man spoke to you in disrespectful tones– and the words that came from his mouth were words that make me groan. There was nothing about his verbiage that I could ever condone because his offhand remarks cut you to the bone. And the verbal seeds he had sown proved that he could never atone for the pain he spread through his thoughtless oral cyclone.

But baby I’m not that guy – and I don’t know why a knight would disrespect his queen. If you denigrate the one you love, then how can anything be serene? If you respect the woman in front of you, then is she someone you would demean? To me, this is something that should be routine. To her, you should never say anything obscene, because she’s the one who keeps your happiness evergreen.

I know your other man spent your money like it was water. Your bank account was just another victim of his senseless financial slaughter. While he lived like a king you lived in squalor. While you slaved away at the office he camped out in your house like a squatter. He couldn’t find time for a job but he always had time for the gambling parlor. But when it came time to pick up the tab he could never conjure a dollar. While you did everything you could to support his habits, he just hung on you like a collar.

But baby I’m not that guy – and I don’t know why a man wouldn’t pay his own way. I don’t need your money. I’ve got salary for days and I don’t need to put anything on layaway. We don’t need to split the check. You don’t need to meet me halfway. And the extent of my support is not a shade of grey. I don’t know why some guys think it’s okay to show that they have no vertebrae when the bill is delivered and they conveniently look away.

I know your other men put a priority on everything but you. And they really had no time for you unless they thought you were gonna screw. They treated your conversation as though it was taboo. They never recognized you as someone they should pursue. They never once respected your unique and intelligent points of view. They never acted like you had a clue. And the more they hung you out to dry, the more I have to deal with their residue.

Cuz baby I’m none of those guys – and I don’t know why men can’t realize the value they see when they look in your eyes. As long as you’re by my side I’ll never want to womanize. But I cannot apologize for all the assholes who came before me who were just too stupid to recognize the beauty and the intelligence that occupies the depths of your soul – a soul I have come to idolize. So while I know their stupidity constantly defies common sense, I can only ask you to memorize the fact that baby, I’m none of those guys.
I always thought you'd be there for me -
That even with all of our differences
You'd never cease to care for me.
I know it sounds so silly to say
But I thought that you were the final one -
That as all the couples around us imploded
Ours was the interwoven one.
And now I'm here alone
And you're nowhere to be found.
I'm trying to carry on but it cuts me to the bone
That I'm searching for you and you're not around.

I waited up every night for you
But you were too busy playing poker.
You never had the time to meet me for dinner
But you made time for every useless joker.
Every random stranger who begged your attention
Meant more to you than your lover.
I was never your "final one"
I was simply someone other.
And now I know that there's a world beyond you,
And you wonder why no one's there to calm you?
Maybe you should look in the mirror
To see what blame lays upon you.

We've been through all of this before.
We both came here today to say so much more.
But it's clear now that we have no more rapport.
Every verbal engagement only leads to war.
There’s no use in rehashing the promises we swore.
Every potential solution is a pathway already explored.
And the longer we stare and bore holes through each other,
The clearer it is that there's simply nothing left to say.

I thought about all the things I would share with you.
I wanted a life that no one could compare with you.
There was no one who I trusted more.
For no one did I ever lust more.
But everything was a hope and a prayer with you.
Every obstacle in our path
Became a verbal snare for you.
My idiosyncrasies only fostered despair in you.
I thought we were a team.
I wanted to be there for you.
We’d talk all night.
We’d argue til dawn.
But nothing was ever square with you.

You were always there for me
Like the Nazis were there for the Jews.
The marks you left on me
Amount to nothing but concentration camp tattoos.
Your attention was always with others,
Cuz you saw me as someone you couldn’t lose.
I was home every night waiting patiently for you.
I did all the chores that you wouldn't do,
or refused to do, or simply assumed that I would do
I was putting on a brave face
cuz I still believed we could work this through.
But in return I received nothing from you
But absence, and silence, and blues.
We never talked all night
unless you're counting when I had to talk at you.
Through you. Around you.
We were a team of one and now you’re just
The childish mascot that I outgrew.

There's nothing new under the sun.
And there's no mystery now to what should have been done.
To save this. To repave this.
To avert a disaster before it's begun.
All I needed was the faintest sign that I meant anything to you.
That I registered to you as someone
But it's clear that the pain's too raw to overcome.
And as we avoid conversation in awkward silence
it's obvious that there's nothing left to say.

I thought we were here for mutual support?
In the darkest of storms you were always my port.
I needed one safe place to report -
A comforting voice that wouldn’t resort
To witty rebuttals and snarky retorts.
Instead I was left with a stranger.
What should have been our haven
Became a constant source of danger.
The partner that I saw in you
Became little more than a stranger -
A hostile cell mate who addressed me
With bitterness and anger

Cell mates only arise
From the prison that you create.
Bitterness naturally accrues from the stories
That you decided to fabricate.
My charity only reached its limit
When you refused to reciprocate.
Our partnership ceased to exist
When you’re only move was to isolate.
I understood that I was “one”
When I could no longer be bothered to investigate.
I knew that I was done
When I no longer cared enough to retaliate.

We could stare at each other all night.
We could watch the clock tick till dark becomes light.
But there’s nothing left in my mind that might
Lead to reconciliation.
There’s nothing I can offer that would alleviate your frustration.
In this final hour, it’s clear
We’ve both passed the point of mediation.
So as this silent conversation
Devolves into nothing more than verbal stagnation
We both realize that
There’s nothing left to say.
Where are all the white guys spittin? And why is poetry a gig that only black folks are hittin? We all speak English and to my mind it’s fittin that we should all project truth, we should all be transmittin. Every week on the mic I’m constantly submittin the pain that I feel, the pain I’m admittin. But most white folks I know, they’re silent – they’re quittin. They could expand your mind but instead they’re ommittin the thoughts that make them human, cuz to them it’s forbidden. They’re more concerned about their societal position so their power of expression is forgotten, it’s slippin.

White folks have done poetry for thousands of years - from Homer to Shakespeare, from the Iliad to King Lear. But bring a mic and some beats and we all disappear. Oh, we talk a good game. We swear we’ll be at your premier. We wanna be seen reading at the coffee house, looking wise and sincere. But when it’s time to spit true knowledge, there’s none of us here. If Robert Frost were alive today he’d be an engineer. And if Kerouac could see us now, he’d say that we’re all queer.

I’m the only one here with a sunburn. And I could teach you some things, but if you’re not here you can’t learn. So it’s usually only the brothers who discern what I’m doing up here, and the stereotypes I overturn. I don’t know when white folks decided to spurn our own poetic history, a history we earned. But somehow, we decided to disaffirm the power of the spoken word, a power that is not so easily returned.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not tryin to be black y’all. Cuz I definitely can’t dance and I sure as hell can’t ball. But when I’m on this mic it’s my time to stand tall and these aren’t white words or black words, they’re just words that I scrawl on old bits of paper when I’m alone in the hall. I don’t know why white folks don’t have the gall. We have the emotion, but we don’t feel the call. I’m always amazed, I’m always enthralled, by the brothers who get up here and give it their all. But I guess my folks are just too appalled. We’re content to stand there with our backs on the wall.

So where are all the white guys spittin? I don’t know, but I’m gettin tired of predictin. Maybe we just don’t appreciate diction, or maybe our words are a source of friction. But that’s ok, cuz you can’t do this shit without conviction – a desire to reach others that borders on addiction. And luckily, I’m just fine in a room full of pigment. And if my white friends won’t join me, then fuck’em. I’m indignant. Cuz the words I spit here spread like cancer – it’s malignant. And if white folks aren’t feelin me they’re just straight up ignorant.
Preacher Man stands on the street corner and yells obscene bits of scripture. At everybody. At nobody. He tells me his god is stricter. He tells me that I'm going to hell, as if he is the predictor. Then he yells at me to get the fuck off his sidewalk. And just when I’m beginning to grasp his message he engages in some odd type of side talk. With somebody. With nobody. His hands gesture wildly but his feet are anchors, counterbalanced against his feverish rancor, holding him to this particular slab of concrete, like a sandbar holds a supertanker. And as Moses parted the Red Sea, he divides the stream of pedestrians effortlessly. Secretaries and bankers squeeze by awkwardly, trying to avoid the creepy power of his empty glare.

But as I stand there it occurs to me that he is somebody's son. In some young mother’s eyes, he was once her chosen one. And there had to be others who saw so much promise in him – friends and family who could not foresee the dramas in him. There were those out there who’d have written sagas for him. Somebody out there was his playmate. And somebody out there was his first date -somebody who adored his every trait. He wasn’t always someone you had to tolerate. There was a time when his spirit was still straight, when he had thoughtful words and insights to donate. But now he rails against the shapeless demons of his mind.

Globules of acrid spit fly from his lips as angry damnation fluidly transmits from one passerby to another. While others try to ignore him, I am utterly transfixed by the psychotic nature of his spasms and ticks. His words are not his own. His motions are overblown. The world he inhabits is utterly unknown – a world in which he’s utterly alone. Maybe his god comforts him, but it’s a god that was long ago disowned by the lawyers and executives who call this skyline their home – yuppies who absorb his baritone words like water is absorbed by a stone.

And as I stand there it occurs to me that he was probably someone's husband. He must have loved, and lost, and loved again. Somebody saw him as a better man. So much more than just a beggar man. Somewhere there are scrapbooks filled with his old snapshots, kept by a woman who never forgot, a woman who saw him as more than an afterthought. He may not have been an astronaut and he may never have bought a yacht, but he was part of someone else’s plot before his sanity fled and his mind was shot. And that woman still cherishes his pictures and she remembers him when he wasn't screaming scripture, long before he became a homeless fixture in this barren urban landscape.

The oppressive summer heat bakes his leathery skin - or at least the small portion that can be seen from within his flannel shirt, and his wool sweater, and his raggedy winter coat – clothes hanging so loose they highlight that he is painfully thin. Much to the pedestrians’ chagrin, every wave of his bundled arm emits the aroma of sweat and urine and gin, wafting through the thick August air like the smell of a prostitute covered in sin. Wal-Mart bags, tied strategically his arms and legs, apparently hold his holiness within. And every mark on his weathered face is a road map of where he’s been.

But as I stand there it occurs to me that he is probably someone’s father. And if this was my dad, would I even try to engage? Would I even bother to remember when he gave me love and affection? Or would I try to forget him now as an embarrassing imperfection? Somewhere there are people who think of this man during quiet introspection. When they look back at their childhood now there is an odd intersection between the Preacher Man we see today and the man they once looked to for direction. Do they admit what he’s become, or do they simply claim that their father’s dead? It’s far too easy to leave family secrets unsaid, and it must be painful to see him as your figurehead. So do they even know if he has a bed? Do they wonder, late at night, where he lays his head?

As I walk away his voice trails off in the relentless summer heat, and I know that as I sleep safe in my bed he’ll be sleeping on the street. His is an arduous life stuck on endless repeat. Every day he will be battling that which he cannot defeat - the neuroses crowding his mind that refuse to take a backseat. Because our demons are not his demons, and he does not easily find peace. You might think that you can help him, but his anxiety will only increase. So rather than fix him, I’ve come to accept his repetitive masterpiece. Because the Preacher Man has a purpose and a mission that, while flawed, will never cease.
I can still taste her on my lips. Her acrid spice infects my meals and poisons every breath that invades my lungs. She is the salt on my ice cream. She is the mayonnaise in my cocktail. She is the chili powder on my Danish. Her residue will not be erased and her path of destruction is still easily traced. And no amount of mouthwash will ever replace the bitterness that I still savor.

I can still smell her on my clothes. Her putrid odor permeates every garment in my closet and every square inch of upholstery on my furniture. She is the shit in my flowerbox. She is the decaying rat between my walls. She is the February milk in my June refrigerator. Her stench cannot be perfumed because her memories are constantly exhumed, and regardless of how much others presume I’m over her, she still haunts me.

I can still see her in my mirror. Her ominous visage paints my sight, clouding my mind with dulcet tones of black, and grey, and crimson. She is the crow’s foot on my rested eye. She is the rash on my tanned skin. She is the sadness in my casual smile. Try though I may, there is no mask that can disguise her in my recent past. And no matter how often, alone, I’ve asked, for forgiveness, there is no reprieve.

I gave her me, and she chose to flee, but every artifact holds a memory. While I’ve learned to ignore when she walked out that door, my senses are still sharp and they constantly implore me to rehash the relationship I’ve come to abhor – a love that’s long dead but lives on evermore.
She said… She said that I was distant.

But she never understood that the thoughts plaguing my mind were not the kind to be shared amongst friends. Or lovers. Or enemies. And the more she tried to reach me, the more she tried to teach me, the more she tried to impeach me for my dalliances, the more I tried to shield her from the ugliness of my obsessions.

She said… She said that I was immature.

But she never even noticed that I saved her from her job, from her friends who were leaches and slobs, from her family mob, and most of all, from herself. And the more she tried to age me, the more she tried to change me, the more she tried to engage me - the more I had to withdraw to maintain her delusion of self-sufficiency.

She said… She said that I was moody.

She had no fucking idea. She was oblivious to the radical notions floating through my mind as she continued to find ingenious ways to grind, and bind, and confine every dream within my soul. And the more she tried to invoke my wrath, the more I found that silence was my only source of control.

She said… She said that I was cruel.

But she would not admit, that the worst crime I could commit would be to allow us to continue in the zombified state that we both inhabited, too mindless to split. And as the circular ritual of our lives became ever more ingrained in our soulless bodies I had no choice but to use whatever means necessary to break that cycle.

She said… She said that I was apathetic.

Now I’m not big on ten dollar words, but if “apathetic” means that I was not sympathetic to the notion that everything between us was copacetic, then yeah, I guess I was apathetic. And as she punched and prodded, kicked and screamed – anything to get a reaction, she found that my responses never offered her traction

She said… She said that I was arrogant.

Hell yeah, I was arrogant. But my arrogance protected me from the most vulnerable, the most palpable, the most corruptible of my weaknesses - and the most combustible of her backlashes. And the more she tried to humble me, the more she became an affront to me, and a symbol of everything that I used to be. I knew then and there we were history.

She said… She said that I was not the man she fell in love with.

But she knew that man was a fiction - replaced by a man with too many addictions, suffering from peculiar afflictions, and too committed to his own convictions. And when she left me in the ring against the Superman of her dreams she found that the victor was someone who made her squeamish.

She said… I can’t remember everything that she said. I don’t want to remember anything that she said.

All I know is that... she said. And she was right.
It’s 11 p.m. I’m drunk. I’m high. And I’m in Las Vegas.

I’m sitting at a blackjack table, restlessly, and the 60-year-old transvestite sitting next to me, can’t keep his purse or his hands off my knee. I’d get up and leave, but I’m on a crazy winning streak, and I can’t help but think, that somehow my luck is tied to this freak. As the count decreases I double down, and I begin to drown, in a sea of chips as the pit bosses frown. I order the table another round, and these losers find themselves hopelessly bound, to this game they despise – a game that confounds. And as their kids’ college funds are whittled away, every chip that they lose seems to ricochet my way. The more that I drink, the more recklessly I play. But my luck doesn’t turn - it only multiplies, and throws the casino into disarray. After an incredible run, of 21s, the floor manager taps me on the shoulder and says, “Son, your time in our casino is definitely done.” But I just laugh indignantly, as I get up and walk out triumphantly, with five thousand dollars of crisp new money - and the tranny gazes after me wistfully.

It’s 1 a.m. I’m drunk. I’m high. And I’m in Las Vegas.

I’m standing in a nightclub. And I’m not sure if it’s a strip club, or a gay club, but I know it’s not the right club. All I can confirm is that it’s a grimy hub, full of strangers searching for any excuse to pump and grind and rub. I’m motionless, at the center of the dance floor, as the sea of bodies throbs in time and implores the DJ for more, and more, and more. They are oblivious to my presence, beating down on me as the ocean beats upon the shore. But amazingly, a cocktail waitress cuts and slices her way to me, through the undulating crowd, paying no attention to elbows that bruise her grievously. Having reached my island of rigidity, she stares through me, vacuously, and asks if I’d like anything to drink. I order a shot of Patron, a white Russian, a whiskey sour, a vodka martini, and three whole mangos. Without hesitation she heads back to the bar. I gaze at the light show, as an astronomer gazes at the stars, savoring hallucinations, grotesque and bizarre, that are spawned by the sting of cheap cigars, and the lasers that cause corneal scars.

It’s 2 a.m. I’m drunk. I’m high. And I’m in Las Vegas.

After 20 minutes of staring at the dashboard, I finally pass the test. I remember how to start my car and I begin the quest for breakfast. Casino lights streak across my windshield leaving me hypnotized, possessed. And while the speedometer races my head nods, and I know that I need rest, but I still believe that I can somehow find a cold beer and welcoming breasts. Maybe one night this will end in arrest, but for now it seems I’m constantly blessed. So rather than curling up in my bed, I’ll find somewhere else to be an awkward guest. The asshole sitting next to me at the stop light, stares into my car like he’s never seen the sight, of a white guy blasting N.W.A. from his Volkswagen Rabbit in the dead of the night. I’m about to flip him off when he throws on his flashers, and pulls over the idiot who just ran the light in front of us like a party crasher, and as I cruise down the street my casual escape only makes me bolder. It makes me brasher.

It’s 3 a.m. I’m drunk. I’m high. And I’m in Las Vegas.

There’s an amazing crew at Sam Woo’s Barbecue, so I decide that this is where I’m gonna chew. As I walk in, 50 silent Asians stare at me like I haven’t got a clue. The hostess yells some gibberish at me and I don’t know what to do, but when she realizes I’m not going away, she gives in and escorts me through, giving me the premium table right next to the kitchen doors and the shitter. When my food arrives I have to wonder if those Chinese chefs are spitters. They give me rice, pork on the bone, and chopsticks – cuz apparently forks and knives are only for round-eyed quitters. I’ve never used chopsticks in my life, but I won’t let them know I’m bitter. I spend the next two agonizing hours struggling mightily with those sticks. Every bite that falls back to the bowl, makes me more like a raving lunatic. I fruitlessly stab and stir and toss, searching for the magic trick, the key that somehow gets barbecue into my belly before I get sick. Finally, I realize that I’m too hungry to be slick, and I’ll sell my soul – hell, I’ll sell my mom - if I can just find a way to eat this quick. So I hold the bowl to my mouth and scoop the food in like a beggar. And I devour Sam Woo’s Barbecue like a crazy, wild-eyed, wrecker. And when I leave that place with sauce plastered on my face, the Asians gawk at me like a leper.

It’s 5 a.m. I’m drunk. I’m high. And I’m in Las Vegas.

I’ll be reporting for duty in two hours, but there’s no time left for alarm clocks and showers. Later I’ll be scolded by military powers, but for now I’m still searching for candy to devour. The couch I sit on is not my own. The home I’m in looks like a war zone. The people in this house are all unknown, and they all commit acts that cannot be condoned. There are three gay guys fucking in the back bedroom. There are two lesbians making out in the front room – with two other guys hovering so close, they can identify the girls’ perfumes. The stereo spits, a spastic mix, of gangsta rap, country music, and show tunes. The girl nestled next to me gives me no legroom, and she stares at me with an awkward mixture of lust and impending doom. I can’t tell from her expression whether she wants to fuck, or if there is something horrible stuck, to my face, something she wishes she could pluck. Her touch is warm and inviting but I’m disturbed, I’m thunderstruck, by the fact that I can’t judge her beauty. My mind has run amok. My brain can process all the details of her face. I can identify her hair color, her smile, her weight, her race. But somehow the categories of ugly and gorgeous have both become interlaced. She strokes the bulge in my pants and tries to come in for a kiss, but my fleeting attention has already become completely and utterly focused, on the center of the living room and a 50-year-old cocktail waitress. She dances awkwardly and alone, but doesn’t realize anything’s amiss. She waves her arms around like a little girl who needs to take a piss. And when she closes her eyes, I can visualize, as she starts to reminisce, about a time when she wasn’t an embarrassment, when she wasn’t a meth addict. No one else seems to notice her, and I wonder if she even exists. She motions to me to join her and I shake my head, but she insists. And at this point in the morning I’m not really sure exactly what I can resist. For that matter, I’m not sure if the tongue in my ear belongs to the girl on my side, and I would escape this place if I could only remember just how to get outside. But the confusion that I’m dealing with now is the confusion that I supplied. So I close my eyes and wait patiently for the daylight to be my guide.

It’s 7 a.m. I’m still drunk. I’m still high. And I’m somewhere in Las Vegas.
If I tell you I love you will you just go away? We’ve been here all night and I have nothing to say. The light of day hastens night’s decay and the longer we talk, the longer we stray from the original pain that led us astray. This should not be a contest to see who holds sway, to decide who has lost and who must obey. I tried to give in - tried to meet you halfway. But your stubbornness will not be allayed. So if I tell you I love you will you just go away?

If I tell you I need you will you leave me alone? With every hour that goes by you blow up my phone. The sins for which I’ve tried to atone are held against me in a penalty zone. Every minor infraction is now overblown and you preach down to me from your almighty throne. Neither of us will ever condone ours sins against each other – some forgotten, some unknown. The stench of this situation is immune to cologne. So if I tell you I need you will you leave me alone?

If I tell you I want you will you give me some peace? Your millstone of nagging is unlikely to cease and every bit of evidence is just another chess piece for you to maneuver until I’m deceased. Words don’t dissipate – they only increase – and every point of contention extends the lease of misery in our lives, growing smug and obese. There are no courts, no higher power, no treaties, no police. So if I tell you I want you will you give me some peace?

If I tell you you’re right can we call it a night? It’s far too late for me to rewrite the history of “us” in a way that’s polite. The more you sit tight, the more rage it incites, and the more I see there’s no logical choice between wrong or right, between fight or flight. The drama of our lives has become a ritual, a rite, and the longer we stay here the more likely we might do something we both regret under glare of daylight. So if I tell you you’re right can we call it a night?

If I tell you I’m sorry will you shut the fuck up? The friction of anger has worn a deep rut and each of your retorts is a kick in my nuts. I’m tired of sentences that start with “actually” and “but” and the more I try to see your side the more I’m undercut by your endless stream of witty rebuttals. If you want me to grovel, if you’re dying to strut, I’ll pour self-righteousness into your cup. So if I tell you I’m sorry will you shut the fuck up?
I’m thankful for new beginnings.
I’m thankful that no matter how often I repent, there are always new chances for sinnings.
I’m thankful for wanton debauchery.
I’m thankful that there is more to life than what my Sunday school teachers taught to me.
I’m thankful for every friend I’ve let down.
For every temporary lover I’ve found.
Even the ones who were constantly surrounded with drama and insecurity.
I’m thankful for awkward silences.
For fierce conversations and righteous defiances.
I’m thankful for flimsy religions that melt away in the heat of the sciences.
I’m thankful that my time here has a limit.
And that my mark on this world amounts to nothing more than a divot.
And I’m thankful for anyone who maintains that perspective.
For anyone who struggles to rise above the invective.
For anyone who understands that all their world views are subjective.
I’m thankful for those I’ve laid low.
For those who were big enough to silently absorb the blows.
For those whose sacrifices I’ll never know.
And for those who have the balls to go where I cannot go, or will not go, or dare not go.
I’m thankful for the people who listen to my shit.
For the people who support me when I’ve done nothing to deserve it.
For the friends who maintain my self-esteem when I’ve done nothing to preserve it.
For the strangers who absorb my attacks. I assault the peace, but they conserve it.
But ultimately what I’m thankful for
Is the fact that there will undoubtedly be more.
More relationships to regret
More truces to upset
More birthdays to forget
More pain, more tears, more sweat
More companions to cloud my silhouette
More angels to whom I owe more debts.
Because gratitude shouldn’t be limited to the items that are locked in our past.
The promise of new adventures is a gift that can’t be surpassed.
No matter how many memories I’ve amassed
I can’t allow my future to become clouded and overcast.
I’m thankful. Thankful for tomorrow.
How many tomorrows? I haven’t asked.
But there’s still tomorrow. And that tomorrow is better than anything I’ve already unmasked.
I’m here to put you all on notice,
So you have no right to act surprised.
While you were under electoral hypnosis,
The enemy goose-stepped to a White House prize.
And now that “alternative facts” pass for news,
The revolution will not be televised.
Cuz the rebels were replaced by sit-com crews
And the media have all been anesthetized.

You see, I’m here to hand out indictments.
And maybe you think you’re on the right side
So now you’re full of excitement.
But when it mattered most you were nullified.
Cuz on Election Day you were silent.
And simply by doing nothing at all
You paved the way for a tyrant.

White women, I’m looking at you.
Would you vote for a man who grabs you in the pussy
If that man was a Mexican, or a black, or a Jew?
You can cling to the quaint views of your fathers,
And you can clutch your Bible against all that bothers,
But you voted for the very same evil that your forefathers overthrew.

Black folks, I’m looking at you.
You came out in droves for Obama,
But you couldn’t be bothered to stop this coup.
And when he’s tired of badgering Muslims and gays,
When he’s got you all in the Sunken Place,
It’s only then that you’ll come to realize just how thoroughly you’re screwed.

Middle class, I’m looking at all of you.
You trusted your future to a billionaire,
But he’s cashing campaign checks on accounts you overdrew.
And does he represent the Jesus to which you give prayer?
Or are you happy just being part of his reality show crew?

White men – you knew I was coming for you.
With your dad bods and your Fox News hairdos.
You wouldn’t trust that man alone with your daughter
But you’ll vote for any white guy who’s rich.
And while you lined up at the polls like sheep to the slaughter
The Russians treated you like their own little bitch.

That sound that you hear is a steady tick-tockin -
A timer counting down till it's your life they’re shockin.
You may think that you're immune,
But soon they’ll come knockin on your door.
Cuz a fascist’s only skill is to grow hate.
He sows dissention between you and your brothers,
And then he builds walls to separate.
And you may be content to sit by idly and wait,
But I’m handing out these indictments.
I’m holding all of us accountable
For each of the dictator’s incitements.
You can’t raise your hands in the air
And claim that you didn’t know what this fight meant.
And now that he’s seized the throne
Don’t come asking me where your rights went.
Cuz when he’s destroyed everything you hold dear
And he’s drained your account of its last cent,
You’ll remember this day when you look around
And realize that there’s nothing left, but this indictment.
You see, I got a problem, cuz someone on the internet is wrong
And I know I could set'em straight but first I gotta set down this bong.
It was around here somewhere.
Oh wait. That's right. It's in my hand.
I should probably sit here for a minute before I try to stand.
But that song. It's spinning round my head on a loop - a loop that's not too long.
But it's a loop that won't go away till it's gone.
You know the loop. It goes:
Shoop. Shoop-be-doop. Shoop-be-doop. Shoop-be-doopie-doopie-doop
I know I'm gettin a little loopy and I should probably just lay down
but I'm still thinking about that groupie
Cuz she's just one of the prettiest things I've found.
Tonight. In the back of this shitty bar.
With the 2-4-1 specials on Crown.
And the cheap plastic toilet seats that are cracked and brown.
She's short a few teeth but you can only tell when she frowns.
And there goes that loop again.
But not really. It's not the same shoop again.
It's more like a "whoop-whoop" again.
And that's the sound of the police.
Wait. No. That's not right.
That's the sound of Charice.
That's her name. Right?
I coulda swore it was Charice.
Or was it Latrice?
Jesus. It could be fucking Maurice for all I know.
And since when did this place start playing hip-hop?
Or is this not the place I thought?
I hope so. They have my card on file.
Well, to be more exact,
They have someone’s card that they could reconcile.
Or is it at the place down the road about a mile?
I’m sure I’ve been here before
But it’s quite unfamiliar for
Someplace that I supposedly come to a lot.
And how did that internet asshole find me at this spot?
I should stop using this phone. It's hot.
Was it stupid of me to "check in" here?
And was I on GPS the whole while?
The last thing I need is another agent following me.
Of course, Maurice can follow me,
But he's gotta bring his own weed. Or speed.
Or whatever it is they sell in the streets these days to feed Republican greed.
I should probably leave but the bartender’s yelling about my tab
And I believe that I could probably weave my way out the back door
But there’s a crack whore blocking my way to the cab.
What the hell did she give me that smack for?
All I did was ask about that scab.
I could ask her to explain, but that’d probably only make her attack more.
And maybe it’s best if I just sidestep this ho like a fiddler crab,
But sidestepping only makes my back sore.
And I may not be stepping anywhere if I don’t find some munchies to grab,
But I don’t know how to get to the snack store.
Maybe that guy will point me in the right direction.
But the closer I get, the more he looks like an agent.
Another faceless clone in a white coat trying to give me another injection
While my face is planted on the pavement.
But as the shadows change their inflection,
I don't know – maybe it's just another vagrant.
Maybe I can just walk past him?
He doesn’t really seem to be paying attention.
And the chase appears to have gassed him
But it does nothing to relieve my apprehension.
I’m sure he’s calling for backup,
But my therapist swears it’s just part of my inner tension.
It’s the karmic debt that I’ve racked up,
A sea of conflicts that are all of my own invention.
But the store clerk doesn’t seem to be in my mind.
He’s yelling something in Hindi beyond my comprehension.
And he can stand here and scream til the sun rises
But it’s not my fault that my card was declined.
Our financial masters are always full of surprises.
And there’s no way to do what my shrink advises
When my meds are so hard to find.
Maybe it’s not Hindi? Could it possibly be English?
Why can’t I process what he verbalizes?
I should leave before the agents arrive.
This cardboard display will look great in my kitchen.
I asked him how much it costs,
But I don’t think he likes what I’m pitchin’.
I can hear the lights. They’re on overdrive.
The agents are on their way to deprive
Me of this beef stick for which I’ve been itchin’.
And that loop is callin me home,
The loop plays in my head like a drone
With drum kits and saxophones.
It’s a loop that’s heard by me alone.
And it’s tellin me to leave before this situation gets overblown
Cuz that internet asshole’s still wrong
And I’ll let him know as soon as I find my phone.
There is a moment when you realize that every day before this day has been prelude. That you've been wandering through your days like an aimless drunk filled with cheap liquor and Quaaludes. The pleasures that so satisfied you yesterday now leave you in a somber mood. And the so-called friends who monopolize your time are revealed to you now as shallow and rude.

This feels so familiar because you remember all the previous moments you ignored. Those times when you deferred to others – those were times that you could have soared. There were so many adventures you could have explored. There were so many relationships you could have restored. So many chances for reward – each one carelessly tossed overboard.

But this moment is not a moment when you're condemned to regret your past. No! This is a moment when you embrace the wreckage as a sign of trials that won't last. Every obstacle strewn behind you is proof of standards that you've surpassed. Every jerk you've been made to suffer is just an actor in an epic cast.

Every adversary who bested you. Every douchebag who tested you. Every filthy cop who arrested you. Every former lover who detested you. Every family creep who incested you. Every shallow pig who undresseded you. Have uniquely prepared you for the challenges now for which your life has selected you.

When you realize that the world's an arena and your whole life has been spent in training. To the apprentice who wrestled life's mysteries there is no more need for explaining. Every trial through which you've suffered is tangible proof that your power is gaining. And your muscles bulge with every burden against which you've been straining.

But this moment must serve as a catalyst, because the moment itself cannot stay. Every minute that you hesitate drives the moment closer to yesterday. The moment is a fleeting mistress and that mistress is slipping away. There is nothing you can say that will make it obey. No ransom that you pay that will cease the decay. The test for you is not how long you can hold the moment at bay. The test for you is how many moments you create for others who have strayed.

The moment is a beautiful virus that can only infect if you give it away. You must look at the strangers around you as a sculptor gazes upon clay. Sure, some will scoff and dismiss your vision with derision and dismay. You may wonder at times if the power in your bones is a delusion born of naiveté. But there is only one absolute certainty – that this moment is passing away. This moment that loomed so clearly before you – is now blurry and faraway. There is no excuse to delay. Do everything you can to multiply this moment before it falls into disarray.

This moment is quickly going away…

This moment is gone. It’s gone away.
In the beginning, there was the word. And it was good. It was not a twitch or a sigh. It was not to sell or to buy. It was not deciphered by the whims of an audience or of passersby. It was the word, pure and simple. And it was good.

The word has taken many forms. We sing it in joy. We play it like a toy. We use it to build up, and then to annoy. We could inspire others, but instead we destroy. Every plan, every ploy that we seek to enjoy – begins with the word.

The word cannot be avoided or ignored. We defend but it cuts like a sword. Every time that we're quiet, every time that we're bored, the word dances through the cluttered halls of our minds. It screams to us from public radio. It streams to us from podcast shows. Even when no one possibly knows a goddamn thing that they're talking about, the word keeps spewing forth.

The word can tell you which cereal to eat. It will tell you why her beat is better than his beat. It will give you the whitest of teeth and the tastiest of treats. It will amaze you with worthless feats, broadcast to your brain on YouTube.

The word cannot be owned or contained. The words you hated last year are the words you'll love today. They come to you in the usual way - muttered by beautiful people when you can't hear what they say. They're plastered on billboards, when you're just trying to make your way. They scream to you every night and day. And though they litter every visual space, you will not give them sway. But they will not be ignored.

Contrary to popular belief, the revolution was televised. It was streamed across Netflix, and Hulu, and Google, and Yahoo so the pundits could start to homogenize and generalize every original thought that it once contained. It was drilled into your brain until you were paralyzed. The flood of media around you means that your every thought is minimized. The word rains down on us all, until you can no longer sympathize with the plight of your fellow man.

The word is still among us, but you've grown numb. Your words could affect change but you twiddle your thumbs. You try to speak out but your tongue has grown numb. There was a time when you knew the power of words, a time before you succumbed. But no matter where you go, no matter what you become, in the end there will still be the word.
My girl says that this is my therapy.
And you know? I think that she’s right.
Cuz I’m adrift in a world of disparity
And these words are all I have to ignite
A dream that I can somehow find clarity,
Before resorting to social media fights.

I could pay a shrink a hundred an hour,
But that’s a hefty cost to explain that black lives never really mattered.
And a doctor’s office is just another kind of ivory tower
When the lives of people I know are shattered.
So I’m sorry if I’m taking the shine off that flower.
And I’m sorry if my words don’t make you feel flattered.
But I’m gonna cough up all the bile I’ve devoured
And when I’m done you can return to your prime-time, politically-correct, trigger-free, happy-go-lucky banter

Cuz I don’t know of any better therapy
When guns are more plentiful than birth control.
And I’ve got no recourse but to stand here and get free
When they’re building pipelines from here to the North Pole.
So if you care more about assault rifles than clean drinking water
Then maybe, just possibly, you should reassess your goals.

What happened to the days when we exported wheat?
Now we only send troops to Iraq.
We prop up war lords while the president tweets,
Cuz nothing’s holier than the price of Blackwater stock.
And as it rises and fills those pockets on Wall Street,
We’ll be holding the bag in the next housing shock.

So I’m gonna grab this mic and spit it
Cuz the next time a brother screams, “I can’t breathe”
I’ll have to look my friends in the eye and admit it.
And white folk will fashion new excuses to weave,
As they turn their heads and permit it.
And as families of victims gather to grieve
The courts will always acquit it.
And the Administration continues to lie and deceive
As long as they have mindless stooges like Christie, or Conway, or Giuliani to smile and transmit it.

Maybe this is self-indulgent, but I gotta get some things off my chest.
How do you lose by three million votes
Then claim that your people are the ones who are oppressed?
It was your wives and your grandparents that came over on those boats.
But you think that immigration is the problem to address?
And when the wall fails, will you start digging a moat?
Or will you just find a new minority to suppress?
What would happen if instead you decided to devote
All those billions to the poor folk that you so obviously detest?

You see, this stage is the only place I know
Where truth doesn’t cower in the light of day.
So you can read your bible in the Lord’s loving glow
But Jesus never told you to send refugees away.
And there’s nothing in that book that will help you overthrow
The established scientific fact that global warming’s here to stay.
So excuse me while I get some of this therapy,
Cuz I don’t have a hundred bucks an hour to pay.
Why have you stolen my anger? Continual rage was a close friend, and my bitterness meant I didn’t have to pretend. But now I see myself as a stranger. Somehow you replaced my love of danger. What have you done with my pain? How can only thoughts of you remain? Are you my savior or are you my strangler?

There was a familiar time before you, when the ghost of my ex haunted me, when her various misdeeds taunted me, but those memories were a convenient rendezvous. Now when I try to hate that shrew, I can only envision your face. I can only feel your warm embrace, but it’s part of me that you overthrew.

My mind is clouded by your touch. The bitch who left me starts to recede. Slowly I forget her betrayal, her greed. The shit she pulled doesn’t amount to much. The insults she flung aren’t remembered as such. I know you represent better days, but my mind still clings to a furious haze. I still find myself using that crutch.

Sometimes I wonder why you’re here. If you were my daughter I’d tell you to run. The battles I’m fighting cannot be won. When I warn you, you show no fear. And when I break down, you persevere. I don’t know if you’re my lifeline, or someone who’s sent to undermine, my natural proclivity for anarchy and fear.

As you step forward I step back. The venom in my mind is a powerful drug. I replay my past because I can’t unplug. The empathy you show is an emotion I lack. I wish I was an amnesiac. I wonder how you replaced my wrath. You placed love in the mind of a sociopath. But I crave my vengeance like a junkie craves crack.
So I’m glad to hear that you’re “white and woke”.
And you probably believe you’re one of those “better folk”.
And I don’t know,
Maybe you really do get it.
Maybe you’ve learned to own up to our past
And now you’ve come to regret it.
But justice ain’t designed to help you clear your conscience.
And the more you confess,
The more you praise the oppressed,
The more I see that your slogans only serve to augment
Your own insecurities because you still provoke.
You still live a life based on mirrors and smoke.
And no matter how much you protest,
I still wonder if you have any clue
About what it truly means to be woke.

You see, wisdom doesn’t come on a t-shirt.
And your memes won’t erase all the centuries of hurt,
Because activism doesn’t happen on Facebook
And liking my post won’t return what we took.
You can offer up your “thoughts and prayers”
But those words just sound like gobbledygook.
So you can make your case til you’re blue in the face,
And you can tell me all day you’re alert.
But I don’t really care about what’s on your t-shirt.

So maybe you really are woke?
But I got suspicions that your moral compass is broke.
And the more you have to tell me you’re down,
The more you brag about friends who are brown,
The more that I suspect you’re on the closet racist squad.
And as you prance around in your equality crown,
I see clearly through your crumbling façade.
If your daughter brought home a brother, would you have a stroke?
Or is that discrimination the kind that’s sanctioned by god?
Can you relax in a room where you're the only white bloke?
Or would that situation make you feel odd?
Maybe you think you're under attack,
But this is just a poke.
Only you can say if you're full of smoke.
And only you know what's in your heart
And what you meant when you told that joke.
Maybe it came across all wrong.
Maybe you just misspoke.
So I'm not dictating how you should act,
But if I was in your shoes,
I wouldn't be spouting off to everyone about how I'm so woke.

You see, justice ain't sold on Amazon Prime.
And you ain't walked a mile in their shoes
Just cuz you listened to some rhyme.
Your YouTube channel may be sounding the alert,
But silent white activists make a very long line.
And maybe your racism isn't so overt,
But your bias is still easy to define.
So while I'm happy that truth is what you're working to assert,
You’re trying to skip dinner to go straight to dessert.
You can holler bout how much others’ lives are worth,
And you can brag about your own spiritual rebirth
But your heart’s not exposed in your Instagram memes.
It can only be proven through your deeds and your works.
So I don't really care about what's on your fucking t-shirt.
You couldn’t talk to me for a year, but suddenly you remember how to text. And now you think I want to know about the man in your life who’s next? I’m not sure why you think, that the person you labeled second best, is now the perfect confidant to tell how much your life is blessed. And I’m not hatin’ on the dude you're with now, but if there’s one thing to which I attest, it’s that I don’t need any updates from you about your latest romantic quest.

You hit me up with questions, like I’m your own personal Google. But when we were together you treated me like your own personal poodle. And now you come asking for my advice, like I’m the teacher and you’re my pupil? But the words I’d like to share with you now aren’t helpful, they’re fucking brutal. Maybe there will be a day when I can offer thoughts that are useful, but the scars are deep, and the wounds are fresh, and I can’t treat you in a way that’s neutral.

I don’t need to know about your relationship. And if you’re happy now that’s great, but I don’t want to hear that shit. You may think it’s cute to constantly send me your trite little thoughts and quips. But when you showed me the door I didn’t laugh and skip, and through sleepless nights it gave me fits. It took me a while, but I finally got a grip. And now that I did, I don’t need to know about your relationship.

I’m glad you think we can still be friends, but even friends have borders. And every time you talk about him, it leaves my life in disorder. You’re naïve enough to believe this is healthy, but to me, it’s simply torture. I used to long for your communication, but your messages just paint me in a corner. And if you want to explain how he’s better than me, there’s no way I can be your supporter.

You want to talk to me, about your hobbies that he doesn’t share, but I’m not here to fill the gaps of which he’s not aware. I was never equipped to play second fiddle, to be your verbal affair. And if you need to discuss things out of his depth, then you’ll have to look elsewhere. Cuz I’m not your therapist and I’m not the bridge that gets you from here to there. So the next time you reach out to me you really need to prepare, that I may not be available to answer your questionnaire.

I don’t need to know about your relationship. And if you’re happy now that’s great, but I don’t want to hear that shit. You may think it’s cute to constantly send me your trite little thoughts and quips. But when you showed me the door I didn’t laugh and skip, and through sleepless nights it gave me fits. It took me a while, but I finally got a grip. And now that I did, I don’t need to know about your relationship.

When things get tough for you, it seems I’m still your lifeline. And to this day I'm left to wonder, if that was your original design. I’m not good enough to be your man, but I’m good enough to be on your mind. And I think that’s my fault - cuz I never wanted to undermine, your thoughts and your hopes and your dreams – dreams that only I could define. But I know there will soon come a time, when your call is the only call that I choose to decline.

And when this man inevitably falls short, my shoulder you’ll want to cry on. But for the first time in your life, I won’t be the one to rely on. I won’t be your protector in the jungle. I will not be your lion. I don't monitor your escapades and you won’t be the one that I spy on. I don't offer words of solace cuz nothing's left in us to get high on. And the altar of our love was one I ultimately died on.

So I don’t need to know about your relationship. And if you’re happy now that’s great, but I don’t want to hear that shit. You may think it’s cute to constantly send me your trite little thoughts and quips. But when you showed me the door I didn’t laugh and skip, and through sleepless nights it gave me fits. It took me a while, but I finally got a grip. And now that I did, I don’t need to know about your fucking relationship.

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