When death comes calling, today’s options are far too many:
Dial 1 for pandemics. 2 for domestic terrorists.
Dial 3 for parents murdering their children. 4 for children killing their parents.
5 for the zombie apocalypse.
Dial 6 for suicide. 7 for hate crimes.
The list goes on and on. New options added daily.
The devil grows fiercer in the details, archangels lurk in the architecture.
Me, I’m just waiting for the option to press when we can all be offered a few moments of peace.
I’ve had intuition rescue me from the cliff’s edge, and commonsense fail me like a busted-tooth piano.
Evenings when I’ve fallen into rose-petal beds, and days wracked with restless bad habits.
I’ve sunken like a weighted ghost into the depths of myself, and have risen immaculate from the wreckage on car-crash highways.
I’ve found myself going when I was already becoming.
I’ve been Steve McQueen-cool, and have gnawed on bullets for breath mints.
Still, when the moon is high, and the wolves’ song is just right, I’ve created the finest of cathedrals from my greatest inconsistencies.
My apartment snores; my bookcase has a lousy spine;
my fridge has a fever; my computer, a toothache.
My heater clangs like a dinner bell for bulldozers.
The toilet groans as if it’s the victim in a religious sacrifice.
The light bulbs hum “Dixie” forwards and backward.
My microwave hosts all-night raves for radioactive radicals.
My mattress has a mantra of “bomb.”
My candles have extinguished themselves and have retreated to the dark side of the room.
All this and some still wonder why I have a hard time sleeping.
There’s a hotel filled with broken dreams.
Its mirrors are made of ashes.
Skeleton bellboys dressed in fog and ghost stories.
A Ouija board for a telephone where you can only speak to yourself and the dead.
Sheets long enough to hang from your window but not strong enough to ensure your escape.
Wobbly drawers filled with busted eyeglasses and broken hearts, lost socks and keys that open no doors.
In the lobby, the desperate wait for a miracle drug that’s nothing more than gunpowder wrapped in sugar.
Across the street from the hotel, a cemetery with a trap door leading back to life.
When your heart’s piano tuner becomes tone-deaf;
when your soul’s window washer forgets to clean your eyes;
when the walls of your thoughts are painted beige and left taken for granted;
when a bird in the hand feels more like a nail in the foot;
when every sentence you speak feels more like a life sentence in Sing Sing;
when your lips feel like the zombie apocalypse;
when you wear your face like a pair of unpressed pants;
when your socks feel like Nagasaki;
when your heart’s drummer becomes a total bummer—
for goodness sake, don’t forget to breathe.
When you’re miles from home, a dogged heart can sniff the roads ahead and get you where you’re going.
This heart—built from dog logic and the four directions—is a GPS of tailsway and muzzlenuzzle stuff.
It knows the high roads and low roads, the fast roads and slow roads.
Treat the human body well.
It’s a dog bed for a heart whose intuition is far keener than our kind.
In these early morning hours, one can almost witness their human twilight— their eventual shimmery fading—amidst swarms of fiery stars whose countless constellations fuel the heavenly Inferno above our heads.
In moments like these, it is no coincidence that we are made of stardust.
We breathe the sky, the sky breathes us.
When human life slips away, when a star blinks its final light, we are part of one another’s passing.
In our final fade, let the light be passed sweetly to another.
It’s the season of wild dogs and runaway trains;
when prayers get caught in the throat and mistaken for choked-on bones;
when the wind moves through bare winter trees, sounding like a roll-call for the lost.
It is not enough to whisper the names of those we miss with all our hearts.
We must erect pyramids of pale blooms in the empty spaces between us, trusting the seasons will one day change them to the lush colors of mercy’s high notes.
For now, we gather the broken notations of our sorrow songs, work to heal them into the real.
There’ve been lifetimes when we have experienced only nights. Nights when we’ve lived lifetimes.
It’s like how on certain nights the evening wind is a whiskey you can drink in, become deliriously drunk as all the patrons in all the bars lining the jeweled boulevards.
Or how the moon reminds us, it’s the silver dollar in night’s slot machine coming up all stars.
Or how our restless minds can sometimes become as quiet as a motel Bible.
Or how gravity can go a little easier on us at times, lighten our load.
Occasions like these, we get so filled with joy and awe it feels like our bodies are about to push outward until we are one with the four directions.
Hush now, listen.
It’s the sound of the belled soul ringing by our own hands.
Chief Joseph led over a thousand men, women, and children on a trailblazing journey towards freedom, yet there are days when I can barely lead a single thought to water.
Still, I’ve managed to build a crawlspace beneath my heart where shreds of optimism gather to weave themselves into mercies.
I’ve learned that the difference between a kiss and finding a crumpled ten in my pocket still adds up to good fortune;
that the clouds above won’t allow us to throw a noose over them;
that even a wild beat can’t always raise the bail for self-imprisoned feet.
Our alternatives aren’t exhausted; they’re just getting a second wind.