Ten Steps Forward, Nine Steps Back

The only one to make you better?

I’m sorry but it’s you.

Saying that something, or someone

is what makes you a better person

well, hell

that ain’t right.

You can’t put that on people,

especially those you love.

Addiction is a gentle knife, often dull

and shaped rather like a spoon,

it enters without consent

and slowly starts digging.


Scooping out the pieces

you’d rather soon forget,

digging through the rind

that makes you human.

And for what, pleasure?

But whoever said life should be a pleasure?

I mean yes, life should be pleasurable,

but not all the time.

That would be ludicrous.

I’d go as far to say that pleasure causes

complacency, and complacency causes

a false sense of security

we are often unaware of and then it’s too late.

Perhaps, it should be a struggle.

Perhaps, life is, and should be hard.

That being said

let’s cut out the middle man—perhaps—

and come to terms that, life is hard.

But don’t worry,

I’m not going to give you the Jesus treatment.

That He—and it’s always a he—won’t give you

anything you can’t handle, because

there are many things, alone, that one can not handle.

That’s why we ask for help.

That’s why we phone a friend.

That’s why we open ourselves up

to people we don’t know.

Sometimes, even people we don’t like.

Some will learn these lessons

while others simply won’t.

We’re all a bit jaded, yet we can still smile.

We’re all racing the clock, yet still find time to waste.

We’re all so fine and dandy, with heads so full of doubt.

Isn’t it a trip how when we find that someone

who makes us feel whole, who makes us feel safe

that looking deep into their eyes,

what we see’s our own reflection.

And if we try hard enough, working at ourselves

day after day, after month, after year

we aren’t so much invested in ourselves as we think

but rather our investment lies within those eyes

that believed in us, long before we ever did.

By living for ourselves, we live for the well-being of other’s.

You probably won’t recognize it when it’s happening,

but it’s happening. It’s happening all the time.

That someone may even recognize your efforts,

and when they do, you’ll thank them.

And maybe you’ll start seeing You,

the way they did and always have.

Maybe you’ll start seeing them,

like they’ve never seen themselves.

Maybe I sound like a fizzling balloon of hot air, but

that really doesn’t matter, since I’m talking to myself.

And if I’m doing any sort of good, I’m talking at least a little bit

to you.

That Day

I was walking a hopeful road that day.

It felt almost like a dream beside her

looking at the ocean, high above the city below.

Tall blades of grass swayed golden in the sun.

From that high up the ocean appeared silent,

and the black dots riding waves were people

gliding against the tranquil bed of water.

Like a stenographer I listened while she spoke

nodding in agreement, wanting her to like me.

We talked all about everything that day

and she sang Life Is A Highway while I blushed.

It’s hard to read you, she said. But I didn’t mind.

Because the world seemed new and exciting,

like nothing else mattered but our feet and the ground.

Everyone else was COVID crazy but

we had that, before the first kiss feeling

that no one can deny, that nothing could dismantle—

you know, that private little world between ignorance and bliss.

Nobody quite wore a baseball cap like her.

Or looked at me with such uncertain eyes,

like she knew then I couldn’t be trusted.

Or perhaps she thought I was it?

The future took a different course

when the surf died down and the people disappeared.

No wave can last forever, but

it’s remembering those tiny moments,

the inside jokes, and playful voices.

It’s remembering the good stuff,

while the bad we just let rest.

It’s remembering we’re human,

human enough to forgive,

and human enough to be civil.

It’s the poems written in bed

and the songs sung in our infancy—

The Essence Of Her Core (unpublished).

It’s knowing I’ll see her again, as friends

and I’ll be glad to hear her voice,

to see her smile, and know she’s well.

The road may not be ours together anymore

but that doesn’t mean the road’s less hopeful.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll stop walking.

The Good Fight

Sometimes, not very often

but sometimes,

I’m afraid to read my own writing.

I have my reasons for most

though others I don’t.

It’s the one’s I don’t remember

writing, I think

that alarm me more than any.

It’s the one’s that keep

coming back

in different forms over the years

that sound my silent alarm.

It’s the breath you forget taking.

It’s the secret you don’t tell.

After playing with enough language

what room is there for air?

It’s not very often, but sometimes

yes sometimes, I’m frankly more aware

of the sirens through my window

reminding me to breathe,

reminding me to listen,

reminding me to fear

not that what I have written

but what I’ve yet to right—

there’s so much life within me still

sometimes, it feels

I’ve just begun this fight.


I can not keep pretending

that things were all o.k.

when in fact I’d climbed

that Brooklyn roof

long before they got worse.

You see, the memory has it’s way

of cutting up the past,

rearranging it like a scrapbook

where you only have to see the good.

I can’t keep pretending

that things could go back

to the way they were,

even before I moved to Maine.

Because even if I could,

it wasn’t how I imagine.

Second chances only work

the second time around.

After that it’s just sad.

It’s denial.

It’s that last drink you take

knowing you don’t need another.

It’s that expensive perfume you buy

in hope’s it will cover your mistakes.

It’s the pictures you post smiling

having almost killed one another

the night before.

When make believe becomes your norm

I guess it gets some people by


I can not keep pretending—

I had jumped so long ago.

Scott’s message.

It really hit home

when Scott looked into my

diverted eyes, already out the door

and told me he knew I had

my ups and downs, that it would be o.k.

and what a joy it was to have me around,

though I could tell he knew I’d lost faith

and let me go without it getting weird,

holding my breath till the ignition caught

then wailing to the heavens refusal

I felt her worried words in my worried head—

who would you be without all this pain?

I think you’re beautiful, but

are you too afraid to find out?—

and answering her honestly

I whispered,

yes, to no avail,

just the car behind me

laying on the horn

telling me to run—

Scott’s message from my airport layover

let me know I’d be o.k.

What he said was for my ears,

nothing special, but

I keep it like a talisman.


Abuse, abuse is all we know.

It’s what we’re good at.

You can see it in the eyes.

Spelled in cigarette smoke.

The vape clouds.

Each yellowing smile.

Abuse, it’s what we’re good at.

Our unspoken bond.

It’s our courage.

Our rebellion.

Thinking ourselves to an early grave.

Then paying a stranger to lay our roses.

Forcing ourselves to sleep in a cell we call a bedroom.

Abuse, it’s all we know.

It’s what we’re good at.

What keeps us going.

What keeps us tough.

One drink is never the cure.

One love is one too few.

Abuse, it’s what we’re good at.

Denying right for wrong.

Selling ourselves short.

Sleeping before death.

Cradling despair.

Overthinking till we can’t tell if we ever thought at all.

Abuse, abuse is all we know.

It’s terrifying to grip.

But hardest to let go.

We crawled before we walked.

And sang before we spoke.

The message mouthed for nonsense—

I’m starting to understand.

Let’s hope it’s not too late.

life’s biggest conundrum

Ah,with all the time in the world

oh how I’ll do nothing,

yet with no time to spare

I’ll yearn to do everything.

And that’s hardly life’s biggest conundrum.

What is often disgust’s me…

To have something worth saying,

and oh how miserably I’ve failed.

Grains Of Sand

There’s nothing you can do for me,

that I can not do for myself.

Your little brother’s gonna be,

a burning light or living hell.

See all these insecurities,

are what keep him from getting help.

It makes no difference don’t you see,

either way I’ll be wishing you well.

There’s something I can do for you,

that surely once was done for me.

See your kid brother understands,

only what is in his hands.

Without these insecurities,

he wouldn’t have the strength to stand.

It’s like I’ve said this all before,

just grains of sand through my hand.