The Pretend River Flatters Me, Plots My Demise (poem)

I’m deeply distrustful, and often terrified of, water.

The Pretend River Flatters Me, Plots My Demise

“Did you think of me as someone handsome?”
I asked, “someone capable, strong, with vibrant eyes,
quick, sure smiles, and hardy handshakes?”

“I certainly do,” Old Man River said and winked,
its banks rife with flowers and redolent with miracles,
its rocks glittering under a made-for-TV sunset.

“I competed in the Depressive Olympics,” I said, “and I medaled
in Free-Floating Anxiety and Abandonment Issues.
When they played the national dirge, I hid.”

“That’s the saddest thing I’ve heard,” Old Man River said.
and I know from sad. People dump their tears in me.
I’m more salt than freshwater at this point, did you know that?

“I often wring myself out like a murderer who regrets killing,”
I told Old Man River (which was masquerading…it was actually
just a creek with a over-sized ego and a penchant for flooding).

“You’re a golden man, and I’m deeply in love with you,”
the pretend river sang, but I didn’t believe one gurgling word,
because water lies, and it waits for the right moment to drown us.

Tale of the Sad Girl and the Sad Boy

As some of you know, I have clinical depression. I treat it with medication and go to therapy, but there’s no magic pill, just as there are no magic words that will ever completely banish my depression. I manage it, and some days are better than others. Today’s not a great day.

Writing helps. This poem showed up and reminded me that I need people in my life, though my instinct is to withdraw and isolate.

Tale of the Sad Girl and the Sad Boy

I’m so sad, she said.
Me too, he replied. Let’s be sad together.
No, that’s a bad idea.
Why is that a bad idea?
Two sad people make exponentially more
sadness…it isn’t just taking your sadness
and mine and combining them–it multiplies and multiples
until you stop counting the tears and start measuring
sadness in lifetimes, entire generations lost
to the darkness with no hope of it ever lifting.

Oh, he said.

Yeah, she said.

And so they parted, with regrets,
but knowing they’d probably made the right decision.

I Seem to be Taking a Break

A break from creative writing, at least, and I’m good with that. It all started a few weeks ago when I received the weekly poetry market update newsletter from Duotrope. I scanned the list half-heartedly. The idea of going through poems to see which ones would be a good fit for a particular market made me tired. When I sat down to write, nothing came. I shrugged and moved onto other things.

I’ve been shrugging and moving on since then, and I’m not worried about it. I’ve spent many years in anxious turmoil over my writing, pressing myself beyond healthy limits to produce. When I turned thirty and hadn’t published anything, I went into a tailspin of depression. Ditto that for when I turned forty. Then I got sober, went into therapy, and discovered an effective combo of meds with the help of a wonderful psychiatrist. These days, if I skip a day or two of writing, that’s just the way it goes. I’m on the hunt for a full-time job, I’m raising two young children with my wife, and I have a lovely coterie of animals I care for. I have a full life. And I’m sober, to boot.

I’ve been thanking God lately, in particular, for the ability to let a particular story line go. I don’t mean fiction; I mean the story line of my life that dictates that I have to a Writer. The capital letter is important. I’m already a writer and always will be, but I’m also other things. Robert the Writer, though, is hyper-focused on getting published to the exclusion of other things. Rober the Writer won’t rest until he’s exhausted himself mentally and spiritually, racing to beat the clock, up against self-imposed deadlines. Also, Robert the Writer is a selfish bastard. I have no more use for him, so I’m letting that story line go (for more info on story lines and attachment, check out this article by Pema Chodron).

I couldn’t have been this kind to myself without getting sober, and I also imagine that I couldn’t have done it (sober or not) in my thirties due to a stunning lack of emotional maturity. Not that I’m a paragon of emotional maturity these days, but I’m a hell of a lot easier on myself than I used to be. I accept and deal with my anxiety which springs from a variety of sources, but I no longer give myself panic attacks for missing non-existant milestones in my life. I don’t have a book deal at 43? Fine. I only publish poetry on web-based journals? Cool. I can look at other aspects of my life and celebrate them and not dwell on things I thought I needed.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking of myself as more than just a writer. Currently, I prefer the term “creative.” I’m a creative. I write poems, stories, and songs. I draw cartoons. No matter where my life takes me, I’ll always find ways to express creativity. Writing this blog is another way.

So I’m going to take a break from creative writing because the still, small voice inside me says it’s time to. I spent many years ignoring that voice and drowing it with alcohol. These days, I do my best to listen to it.

Diary Entry or Letter or Something From Charlie

Bear with me on this, folks. As some of you know, I recently bought an old typewriter, which has been an enormous source of inspiration (and a bit of frustration, too).

typewriter poem
When I use the typewriter, certain distinct voices emerge, voices decidedly different from the ones that make themselves known when I use pen and paper and when I use a word processing program. That makes sense. Frederick Nietzsche’s friends said his writing changed after he began using a typing ball. Not that I’m Nietzsche or anything, but I imagine most writers are sensitive to which medium they choose for writing.

When I took the typewriter yesterday, the voice of a man named Charlie emerged. From what I can tell, Charlie has a drinking problem (shocking). There’s more to his story, but the pieces come to me slowly. I sussed out some more details on the drive to work today (like who Liza and Tom are…still not clear on Brother George). I also don’t exactly know where Charlie lives. Anyway, here’s an image of the diary entry or letter with a transcription following:


I woke up with a bird beside me. You read that correctly; a small finch had perched itself on the mattress to the left of my head. It regarded me curiously and without fear.  For my part, I studied it for a few moments before becoming alarmed. Was I dreaming? But I knew it wasn’t a dream. The bird was real.


I wasn’t sure what to do next. How often does one find the way of being in the world? i resist the urge to tell the truth, i know. let me die in peace. there wont be a better time my dear than to say than today when all are weak and weary they ask me if i been drinking so i tell them the truth. yes. old liza aint happy with that but that dont matter. it was just a matter of time before i started again. thats what brother george said and he should know. hes an old drunk like me.

A bit more…

I worry about liza though cuz she too old to start down tha path. she eyes my bottle though like it some kind of treasure. it aint but thats between me and the devil and god if the three of us ever get to talking. i suspect we will one day or night.

there aint much left of this old ribbon so id better stop. tom wont get a new one until next month.

-charlie, june 7, 1966.

Hmm. I’m interested in how Charlie’s diction changes as he types. At first, I imagine him waking sober (if hung-over). As the entry progress, his lack of punctuation and general disregard for grammar makes me think he’s drinking as he writes.

More updates coming.