HOW TO BE ALONE
I always thought paisley was a foreign cuisine that tasted like sunset over a city I’d never see. I was wrong about that but not the affordability of plane tickets. An imperfect education punctuated by bouts of seclusion and drug use. I was wrong to think everything could be swallowed if you keep your head tilted up. When the silence comes, nobody checks its ID before letting it in. We sit and we wait and we try not to move too much. It’s so easy to break things by nudging them out of place, without even meaning to. It’s so easy to let the ruin know your name. I thought I’d surrounded my heart in wood, but you trained termites just to show me. Now, everything gets in and I’ve gone to bed from the chill. I’ve learned so much from you. Argyle isn’t a color. Up isn’t a direction on a street map. All the people I thought were a bad time were, no matter how much you defended their music choices. You cried once, early on, saying I’d never love you as much as you loved me. I guess I proved you wrong.
Poem with Tiger Lilies and Dust Jackets
The tiger lilies on the side of the road have died back in the heat, so I’m not sure why I’m still coming to work, except that it’s where I keep my oatmeal. I don’t know what to do for breakfast, otherwise, except hit the drive through and feel sick and useless all day. Let me tell you what’s wrong with your dust jacket pics. You don’t know shit about life. That’s the whole point of being a poet. The knowing smile, the smug condescension. Show yourself confused at a four-way stop, and I’ll buy your book. Show yourself lost and stupid when they leave your selfish ass, and I’ll applaud when you smile sheepishly and pause at the coffee shop. You can’t win poetry, no matter how many awards you throw at it. Your teacher or someone just like him is judging the thing. You’re not fooling anyone but yourself. I smile in mine, but I’m embarrassed by my teeth. I can’t afford to get them fixed. If you don’t know that’s poetry, I can’t help you.
SORROW ALL AROUND
I saw my landlord sitting on the curb, crying. All around him, people were toting their belongings to the backs of pickup trucks, piling them into the street where traffic already honked around them. “No one cries for me,” he said, his nose big and red, his eyes dead. I tried to be cautious around him ever since he caught me trying to fit into a bird’s nest in a tree. He stood under me and asked what I was doing. I said I just wanted to know what it felt like to be an egg. “I’m not liable,” he said and shook the tree. I broke my collarbone when I fell. He made me pay for the concrete that was already cracked, even though I didn’t fall on it. I’m pretty sure it was his boot that ruined my nose, but he wouldn’t admit it. “What happened?” I asked. “I have feelings,” he said. I didn’t believe him. “To them,” I said, pointing. He shrugged. He was sitting right in the way of several of them, sobbing loudly. I decided that if anyone came by carrying a piano, I’d trip them right over his head. I tried to pass him, but he shifted so I had to step around. “No walking on the grass,” he said. “Then move,” I said. That’s the kind of thing that gets your rent raised, but I was tired from working two jobs that day, just to afford living there. “You’re just like them,” he said. “You don’t care about who I am inside.” I had no choice but to stand and watch him. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you’ve made the regrettable decision not to be born rich. Nobody’s fault but my own. “No one cries for me,” he said again. “You’ve made plenty of us cry,” I said. “Which is close to the same thing.” That satisfied him enough. He wandered away. I went inside to the mice and noise. Another wasted day. Another lost night.
Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in Love, Grief Bacon, and his newest, Driving Around, Looking in Other People’s Windows, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and the forthcoming The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.