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the preamble to the deceleration of independence photo


everyone leaves the party

and I'm still at the party

I sleep on the floor some time later, leaving

a half-drunk Miller Lite within reach


there are mattresses upstairs

but I don't know about them until the day after

the host, my friend, says,

You knew about the mattresses

You've been upstairs before


I shake my head

and say a thing I say often: I forgot


I say I have to drive back to the city

to have dinner with my mom

but when I get back I fall asleep and never call


then I watch a long documentary about war

I think about war

and trying not to think about things I've never experienced

things I feel I'm not at liberty to think


the only time we invoke liberty is when we don't want to say something

when we invoke freedom, we don't have it

& the pursuit of happiness is for when we've lost the path


it turns back into night--time to go out

get drunk

or I would go somewhere


if I could be promised

unlimited alcohol and

a room dedicated to quiet


have I left my apartment 

without the destination of the Indonesian

Snack Market lately?


I have lived in 4 apartments in 4 years

since I moved to this city

they have all "not worked out"

except this 4th one which is yet to let me down


but I will move and I will leave things

on the curb and people will fight over them

and I will shrug, like, whoever gets it, gets it

like I am some person whose time matters

or at least can be spent doing more useful things


I can do some useful things

I work is what I mean

people find me useful enough to pay


I thought I'd grow up to be

someone outside of the wage labor system

but that was just a dream I had

and I quit dreaming, physically, 

after I started smoking pot every day


it's a funny side effect

I don't know what I think about at night

what my fears are, my desires, my

weird sexual stuff that I might not enact upon

a regular-type lover who is into normalish sex


I wonder if they put it on the bottles

wherever they sell pot medically 

like a warning:

people with bad nightmares

could use it to rid them

of their subconscious fears

I could move to some other state 

and tell a doctor I have night terrors

or I could continue buying it 

from my friend's brother

who really cares


people run for mayor sometimes

that is a dream they had but not the exact dream

it is a path toward the real dream

governor, senator, president


I probably will never run for mayor

not even if I start dreaming again


if I could have dinner with anyone

I would have dinner with Ali

not Ali when he was a giant, important figure

but now, so I could guide his hand

to his mouth with a forkful of food


I watch him dance on youtube in old videos

it is impossible to hit him

even back against the ropes


I stream boxing matches that cost 70 dollars

for free off a Chinese website


I am interested in men who are interested 

in hitting other men as hard as they can


I could take a punch,

I said to the bartender at the grade school dance


only twenty-two percent of bombs

came within five miles of the target

in world war II


and now? how is our progress?


I'd like a comprehensive list

of places you can never leave

because of what you saw there

and can't be allowed to take with you


you words can be dangerous

even if you're not a political person

just by living in a place where politics 

are like playing casino games:

the house, always


I'd rather pick horses

from the Daily Racing Form

and lose it all slowly


when I go to church

I don't go to pray, I go to think:

how many of these people have quit

smoking or quit drinking?


how often do they think of it

and how many years do they have


years become space

between who you are

and who you were

when you were being true

to who you are

that being an addict of course

one who can accept it

and destroy himself


in terms of myself

I need someone who will get the job done right


I could be somebody's boss

I know all the lines

like we all know all the lines


we're given the cue cards

from TV and movies 


we know the roles we can fill 

with our body types and privilege

with our intellect and motivation


my motivation is to put mustard on things

that don't normally get mustard put on them


I am losing my taste buds at twenty-six

I am smothering them

in spicy brown mustard


when it goes on sale

would you pick me up a few bottles


I want to be walking arounda grocery store

with no intention of buying a thing

listening to music subconsciously 

I mean not even really hearing it

like when TV goes to commercial

and someone comments on the commercial

and even though I am staring at the TV

I don't know what the commercial was about

but commericals are not about anything

they are only for something

and therefore against something else


anyway I want to be walking around

in the well-lit grocery store

with the music playing 

that I will only know I've heard based

on the fact that I will be humming an old pop song later

and I will have to deduce that the grocery store

was how it got there


I will not wait in line

I will go home and ask for things from people

like it is normal and not terrifying


it is not the things I always need

that I forget like meat and lettuce

but the things that last a long time

and I only need to "re-up" on sparingly


that is a drug term

so you know

I am authentic 


I am getting old

so old that I am older

then young star athletes

and most soldiers


I have spent my time getting old

doing things like unrolling tobacco

out of the ends of cigarettes

and mixing that with weed

and putting it in a rolling paper

and bringing it to a party


we lit two fires at the party

and stood in the snow between them


it was five-thirty when I fell asleep

on the floor and I remember proposing to myself

that I should watch the sun rise

just because it was happening soon

and I could drink another beer or two

not because I was particularly interested in it


in the morning I drove a friend home

and then went out and bought bagel sandwiches 

with the money I had won from playing cee-low


three bacon egg and cheeses on everything bagels

I told the guy behind the counter

he asked me where I had been

like we were old friends

but I had never seen him before

I did not know where to begin


we had stood in the snow

between two fires


some of us were struggling 

with various problems

quitting pills, drinking, bad relationships


we tried not to talk about those things

we talked about music, work

the way we felt after some exercise


I felt a strong bond to people

I had previously felt strong bonds with

it is good going home

even if a lot of people have left


the stores change

and the houses kind of fell apart

the town loses industry

and builds a casino


there are stories in the way the roads

cut through the hills

steep rock walls flecked with snow


there are signs on the roads

mentioning the precariousness

of the way the roads cut through the hills


we travel in bunches

knowing there is strength in numbers

but we travel one to a car

the roads being the same

but the destination varying


I find myself thinking about people

I have grown somewhat distanced from

and I think about what caused that distance

and sometimes what caused that distance

is unpleasant to think about

but I cannot stop thinking about it


distance was a part of the equation

in every relationship in my life

they were there and I was there


sometimes we'd go places 

depending on how long it might take us to get there

how much it might cost

and how much fun we think we might have


everything is some sort of equation

if you predict what I'm going to say

you will understand it better


but I don't understand a thing:

I thought of a poem at lunchtime

but I was not near a computer

and the lines never made it


I had been out walking

recognizing people as unfamiliar

until I saw someone I knew

who was looking at the ground


like it might start moving

and, hey, she was right--

I lost the lines there, maybe,

or just before


for all the movement that the earth requires

is more than enough

to tussle this head empty


so I stretch out this simple thought--

I leave behind being lost in nostalgia

for a prison of forgetfulness


but still, some things I can't forget:

a dead friend and what he meant to me

before he was dead and how that has changed


he never told me about his cancer

and I never told him about my alcoholism

and I'd bum him cigarettes

and he'd buy me beers and compliment

me on my writing


I know

life is surprising


when he died he was young

and getting divorced from his beautiful wife

and I thought he killed himself

and so when I found out he had cancer

which was at his funeral

I thought I should think differently 

about his death

but I didn't feel any different amount of sadness

or guilt or regret


we walked to his grave

and I waited for other people

to say goodbye


obviously he had been burned up by then

and was waiting his turn to wash away

where his body would join all the others

in the large remaining lake of everything pure


I ate food on paper plates in a reception hall

and poured myself a cup of coffee


when it was time to go I left the coffee half-finished

and uncaring since I had not paid for it


I talked on the ride home

about the expenses of death

and then my friend asked me

to drive because he wasn't feeling well

so I took over






image: Tara Wray