I’ve always wanted to be Ellen. (A Crowdsourced Poem.)

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John Prine

John Prine died today. He was my first concert. He wrote every song I love that I don’t remember who wrote. He wrote this poem, too, but he wrote it through me. I’ll miss him. One day I’d like to see him again.

I had a feeling I could be someone.

You’ll only feel by listening 

to the same song

fifty versions

but none better than the downtown boy

with hair like Dylan

accepted to Yale when I was

but dropped out 

and now plays to a Farmers’ market audience–

an empty picnic blanket and me. 

At 24 years old,

he looks more like twelve

and sings folk like a wizened bluesman.

Will he go anywhere

or stay in Fairfax forever,

wearing the same uncool shoes

as the classmate I bullied in 4th grade. 

If America’s misfits come to San Francisco

and SF’s go to Oakland,

where do Oakland’s go?

We’re only fifteen miles north of The City,

but you can believe in the stars having a plan for you

and we’ll still believe in you.  

If you move too quick,

you hit the speed of loneliness

like a too-fast car,

breaking the sound barrier,

collapsing into yourself,

emptying out.

We all feel that way. 

Some of us become. 

We all pass away. 

“Thwack!” goes my head, pummeling the van door.

“Thwack!” goes my head, pummeling the van door.

See bright spots of light. Can’t balance no more.

Closed out my phone call, “I love you. Uh, bye.”

Stumbled to my knees, my head hanging high.

 

Called my chum Em’ly, the reason I’m here

Coordinated as if drunk on beer.

“I’ll call you in ten,” she said and hung up,

so I wondered whether I was wrung up. 

 

Am I concussed? I had seen stars. And my

neck mashed. From whacking it hard and uh, high.

Big ol’ thwackin’! A painful a-whackin’!

I pray the world fades not to, uh, black, and

 

but if it does, at least I’d’ve learned… Not

much of anything. An accident turned

me into a grave. A silly way to

die. In future, I’ll be A-More-Aware-of-Surroundings Guy.

 

If I wanted a Boat

The boat I would get, if I wanted a boat, would be everything that I am not.

Carefree and easy and flexing completely, withstand wind and rain and hot,

Skating along atop cresting blue waves, easing through shifting tides…

 

The boat I would get, if I wanted a boat, would not take me for a ride,

but summon me near, caring not if I come, chuckling and holding the ropes.

The boat I would get, if I wanted a boat, would dash dreams in favor of hopes.

“You’ll never go far with that kind of boat”

But I’m already too far, too fast.

The boat I would get, if I wanted a boat, would be one that my soul cries would last.

 

Days turn to weeks turn to months turn to years,

Then one day my boat turns on me

And I’d be its ears.

And it be my eyes.

Together, we’d share a mouth.

 

We’d turn, heading down, past the capes with a frown

To the warmest of waters due south,

Under the bridges of eyes and sand ridges, I’d sweat hard, shoveling coal

And my boat would tell me, “You’re working too hard. Where are we trying to go?”

I’d poke my head up, consumed in the clouds, and not help but utter an, “oh.”

Sometimes I write in pictures.

You!
Yes, you!
Look at this guy:
A short, squat gnome
With a big paunched belly
And an erect penis
And neck
This text is here purely for formatting reasons
Born a dewdrop
That jiggled on a leaf,
Slurped up by a ladybug
That hums above the field.
Clouds billow, foretold shocks:
“Don’t hum begrudging agreement.
It’s not what you’ll want tomorrow-
Just what they demand today.”
This text is here purely for formatting reasons
He writes from a place southwest of my sternum
Aflame from rotting friends.
He wants to show you.
Take a look?
Or run.
“Please don’t run.”

One, Two Pizzas

Why did you buy two pizza pies?

You’re only one man, and you have thighs

That will grow fatter

If you eat all that batter.


“They were deep dish,

Which makes me its bitch

When combined with the heaven

Of ‘second pie costs $7.'”


Well, that explains

Your stretched-tummy pains.

Now go and count sheep

You should be asleep.


“I would be! I would!

But it’s hard to be good.

After crunching all week,

I feel so… uh, weak.”


That I can see!

It’s going to be

A much-needed weekend

Spent with a friend.

When people ask “How are you feeling?”, I wish they wanted this sort of answer.

When people ask “How are you feeling?”, I wish they wanted this sort of answer:

I have this…

Deep, rich, weeping.

Eyes tight, throat… Tingling down my back and a dry mouth.

I shiver though I don’t move.

A cold breeze passes through my head.

A cold breath, a dry mouth, a buzz across the back; a tight lower back, furrowed brow.

 

Wide, blubbery second chin.  Dry mouth, fast breath.

Stab right shoulder, under scapula.

Stab throbs.

Furrowed Brow.

Stab sinks.

I’ll test this sometime: dropping in and describing my felt sensations in real time.

 

I’ll test it 6 times in different contexts (because I’ll only get comfortable after the first few experiments).

Ode to Xfinity

Xfinity, you tease

In the unlikeliest of places

By stoking my hopes with the promise of bars

Then dashing them all with a “cannot connect!”

 

I must say I’d rather

Have no WiFi at all—

Be forced ‘pon my phone’s hotspot

Than hear your wispy false claims.

 

But sometimes, my dear,

You appease this old soul—

Like this ‘forenoon, when I video called

My boss from the street.

Though your robustness did waver

So we switched to “just audio,”

You did remain connected! Aye, you stood strong throughout,

Leaving boss none the wiser

That I’m a van-confined hobo.

 

Why do you toy so, dear Xfinity,

With me, of all people—loyal lover of your service

As I try to log in

With my dad’s friend’s account?

Ode to a keychain

Keychain,

Tiny desire for identity

In a cookie-cutter world.

 

But this one’s “so you,”

Just like thousands

Have thought before.

 

Original–truly novel–

Frightens the close-minded…

And we’re all close-minded.

So we stick to

The same safe deviance

As everyone else.

 

But it brings you joy.

What more do you seek?

What more is there?

It’s only two dollars.

Just buy it already.