200 bad poems (1-52)

Today I found 36 poems on my hard drive that I did not remember writing in (apparently) April of 2017. I thought it would be fun to add to these poems and so I wrote 16 more. Now I think this is a new fun challenge that I am doing, to write 200 bad poems (after Anthony Clark’s 200 bad comics). I think it makes sense to do this within two weeks so that is what I will do.

too sad to think
I am too sad
but I am writing poems
poems don’t need thought

a poem about economic insecurity
economic insecurity sucks
there’s a moth
always crushing your brain

tips for managing yr workload
throw your task list
into the garbage can
no one will ever notice

a crisis for office managers
dave said he couldn’t work Thursday
but shirley booked Thursday off
well, someone needs to be here

when your boss hates your life
with a wink and a grin he says
you don’t have to come in Monday
“come in only when I want you”

he says he’s never been called a fag
I wouldn’t say he leads a privileged life
but someone should go back in time
and kick him in the pants

why don’t you
why don’t you do this?
this has always come easy to me
or you could do this instead?

remember when money was real
when money came from god
or depravity or violence
there was no need for illusion

when you keep checking your phone
the flowers stop blooming
a gust of wind blows through an alley
I’m waiting for you

it’s not fun being fun
when everything has to be “good”
what are you?
a libertine of others’ kindness

you make me second guess myself
I wish I could be pure and free
riding on a motorcycle
gunning it through god’s will

I wish God existed
it’s so hard living without Him
no one ever says hi to me
peering from my hole

wait what’s depression
is it this
or this
or maybe this

when you can’t get out of bed
there’s an owl perched on your shoulder
now it’s walking down your back
now its head is turning around

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Museum station was closed, doors he had never before seen in the evening imperfectly sealing the way to the subway at the bottom of the stairs, yellow light gleaming behind their seams. He thought, initially, it was a suicide, but the shuttle bus that would later pass him on Bloor indicated a plan to the closure. Between the museum stairs and two party limos parked at the curb, filled with suited white men, gleeful and anonymous, drinking beers, a forklift slowly drove, then turned and indolently dug its teeth into only a four inch snowbank. At the library exit a woman he had found in the stacks once after closing, who had confessed that she had been so lost in thought she had missed his announcement, asked what day it was. The other library assistant had said, “Tuesday.” They talked about it being Tuesday for some time. But it was Monday. He wished her good luck after correcting them both. All day he had worried about “lack” and now he was thinking “How is today any different from the past?” It was important to him that things be different this time but he had never really thought about it before, not meaningfully, before he made the decision that things would be different now. He had been reading Augustine, who was describing a method that only made his absence feel more pronounced. The method that Augustine described was barred to him. He thought of something he had once said to a friend of his, in a rare moment of clarity, explaining that of the kind of person who felt their own absence deeply there were two kinds: those who tried to account for it in themselves and those who made others responsible for it. He did not say that there was nothing stopping him or anyone from being both at once. His friend had said “André I am thrilled by this.” 

Betrayed by Mathews’s Algorithm

1.

The car creeped slowly down the street with its hazard lights on. Inside there were three people doing their laundry: they looked rough, like they’d been there all night, and they gazed at me suspiciously. A dark car: sometimes the interior lights are on, sometimes they are not. A man came in and said that it was so quiet outside he wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead.

2.

Sometimes I will spend the entire day inside and only leave my apartment well after the onset of night. The two women running the bar didn’t know what to do—we stayed inside but not away from the windows. At night things become softer, like a whisper, like being wrapped in a cool blanket. He told us that the shooting had taken place across the street, and that the shooter had fled on foot.

3.

In the morning I went to the coin laundry to exchange my ten dollar bill. It parks in the same spot every night, idling right in the middle of the street, forcing traffic to maneuver into the opposite lane—even if there’s a space for it somewhere against the curb. Afterwards I sat in the coffee shop and waited for my breakfast—the coffee shop was completely empty. Sometimes the car has its engine running and I can hear it from my apartment, and sometimes it sits there in complete silence, as quiet as a ghost.

4.

We heard the gunshots from inside the bar. I found my head swimming as I entered the world dazzled by that dim clarity. Soon a police officer arrived. I feel impatient, when I’m walking outside—impatient to fit the whole world inside my head.

When I feel this way, what has happened? I’m looking for something much larger than me. I want relief but no relief will ever come—not in the way I imagine. Somehow it seems tied to neglect. When I feel neglected, even or especially if I’m the one neglecting myself, I imagine, on a subconscious level, that there is a solution to this feeling. That something will liberate me from these feelings. That I will be pulled into some kind of peaceful understanding. 

It is a deeply religious feeling. And I know it is tied to not getting something at a time so far back I cannot remember. I would never be able to tell you what I did not “get.” I can only guess myself. 

But it is something so integral—I imagine—that if I got it my reality would solve itself. 

I will never find this peace that I crave. But the feeling has a strong hold over me, even when I know that the things it tells me I want are wrong. When there is no way that they could save me, could in fact only cause me more problems, more want. I suppose perhaps that is what I want—to feel that irrepressible need, as if an acknowledgement of my lack, or maybe more accurately a dwelling in it would make more sense to me than to think that—possibly—I might already have more than I could ever want. 

More than once this term I have said, to Alex, “I don’t like Jimmy Corrigan, I hate his misery, his abominable sadness. The way his misery comes from inappropriate want.” But of course I also hate that in myself. 

What do I want? I am not sure, except that I know that I am always wanting. To what extent this is merely a physiological circumstance is unclear to me: I know running helps. I know I can want less. I know I can want more. At the Medieval Women Workshop a man reads about love (as madness) in the Symposium and love (as madness) in the work of a medieval female mystic. The conversation turned to dissolution, and language. 

I wanted to say, “On the topic of dissolution I always think of Dido on the bonfire in the Aeneid, the Trojans glimpsing the smoke from afar.” In response to a question from the back making the connection between Plato and the mystic their use of language, I wanted to say, “Language—as both Jacques Lacan says in Seminar XX and Anne Carson in her study of the origins of the Ancient Greek lyric—is the origin of want. It is where boundaries of self are first threatened.” 

I said neither of those things. I thought it better to keep my ideas to myself, as if in doing so they will be made stronger, which is the opposite of what will take place. It is a delusion. 

And sometimes love is. Love is madness but also is not. There are many kinds of love—divine love, romantic love, love for your neighbour, charitable love, lust. Their meanings are twisted and turned and shifted: love for the divine is romantic, lustful; love for the divine is merely the love for your neighbour who wishes to do you well and loves you in turn out of obligation, no more or less than he loves anyone else. What would it mean to love the divine so powerfully that he fulfills the want that is always inside you?

This is a question that I think of, sometimes, not because I have a particular desire to be religious but because I sometimes feel so undone by desire. 

In the past when you have been followed by something your response has been to say—I am nothing, so how could anything be in my wake? I create no wake. 

Lately I have felt bitter, burnt out, distracted. I have been both apologetic and fatalistic, upset to see the parts of myself I have wished to keep under the surface leak out. Wild and unrestrained, lingering like a bad taste.

And yet I know my life is good. 

This despite the fact that I am not sure I am always in it. Reflecting today on a conversation I had in May—one that felt meaningful to me. About precisely this feeling. And realizing that I had completely forgotten it. I could not bring it back.

I know my life is good, but it is not enough to have a good life, a life that looks all right from the outside. All right, except. I have said no to that life a thousand times. I do not want it. I want—certain things. And those things will not complete me in the way that I imagine. I often want completion—I feel myself nearing it, like I am a technique or a concentrated afternoon away. No. It will never come. It will always be far away. If I don’t live like that—if I live like what I want is always just out of my grasp, I will spend the rest of my live staring intently at it. I will float through life, and I will die not having realized what I want. 

And what I want is only: to acknowledge what is missing. To dwell in it, not in a perverse, wallowing way—instead as if in contemplation. To meditate on it, to turn what is missing into a strength. To take the question—what is missing?—and hold it in my hands. 

Lethophobia

The larcener ceased his assay nigh the wiket—dight with no cliket, he was frore, rude as to how he would prik the pale beyond without. Tocsins rang in his crumpet: he was no mooncalf, he was sure he had kept it compeer, lest he be ruth at the pelf he had paid for it. It was not a doit! The varlet thought he would overset. But then the cliket appeared suddenly on his scrag. The pale’s glebe began to rack with nought to rack it, and something made him feel like a bruit, fearing ambuscade. And the wiket seemed now fervent, as if it might measure into sea smoke. He followed it: a glim, demit from his estate. 

(The Fear of Oblivion)

The thief ceased his attempt near the gate—equipped with no latchkey, he was frozen, ignorant as to how he would pierce its bounds without. Alarms rang in his head: he was no fool, he was sure he had kept it a close companion, lest he be grieved at the money he had paid for it. It was not a small amount! The rogue thought he would capsize. But then the latchkey appeared again on his neck. The bound’s meadow began to be driven by the wind, though with nothing to drive it, and something made him feel like a rumour, fearing ambush. And the gate now seemed glowing, as if it might dance into fog. He followed it: a candle, resigned from his condition.