One Child Survived the Village Purge

are all the goodbyes I never
got to say,
those that had many chances
but were always held back,
set aside for another day,
another late-night conversation
under the eaves of
a shared misery,
hanging on the glowing embers
of another drag
from the last cigarette
before we’d part ways
and catch different cabs
to where our separate
were waiting…

Always that one goodbye
left unspoken,
the repeated gamble that
there would be tomorrow
to share,
to have the same four walls,
the same artificial light
surround that festering brokenness
upon which we had built
a matchstick tower of co-dependency,
of sacrifice and selflessness,
and of growing in the knowing
of each other
even if there was never
really enough time,
and of the illusory moments
when we believed,
despite our jadedness and our
mutually exclusive agendas
that we were friends…

The goodbyes that never
got the last contact
we were entitled to,
that last drunken, defiant
“fuck you!” to the world
after which we might have
high-fived or fist-bumped
or toasted what we had
for the last time
for luck
have dried upon the cheeks
with the bitterest tears
never shed, scrawled
on a million words on paper boats
floating away down a flood
and on paper cranes swallowed
over and over by a burning sky,
where our once entangled existence
scared the Big Brothers so much
they obliterated every last word
we might have exchanged.

But it lives in my heart all this time,
and I keep these goodbyes warm
with all the soiled honor
and tamed belligerence I have left.
Call me a fool,
but maybe someday,
in another place,
I’d turn them all into a new hello
with all of you.

A Lifetime Supply of Blank Pages and White Canvas

The artistry of your life has touched me

where every heartbeat is deliberate
and every pain is masterful
like brush strokes dipped
in forty-two shades of blue

how your every indulgence is a poem
and your every addiction is
the opening chords to
a soulful song

how your failures are part
of the rhythm of living
and you never stop dancing

how the contradictions
in your character are the edges
of the tiles in a glorious mosaic
each of them burning with life
each of them bearing a story
how in pieces, you are complete

I almost envy you
the way you wear your purpose
tattooed to your every choice
and you dye your hair with
the individuality that
no frame can contain
or hang on a wall

knowing you is enough for me
to put my own existence
in perspective
and understand that there are
different kinds of friendship
and that the kind we have is
that of transcendence
we will always share a memory
that we can recreate in many
shades and shapes of beauty
and as long as we can flow
we are connected


I used to think of you
as my destroyer
and I swore I would rebuild

and prayed so hard
to be delivered
from vindictiveness;
karma does not forget
and I should forgive
at least myself.

But the hunger for closure
is a bitch
and as I walk this new road
I’d find myself looking back,
craning my neck to see
if the truth has caught up on you
and made you pay for
everything you’ve done.
Deep inside
I want to scour your ruins
and take back the part of me
you’ve stolen,
never mind if it no longer fits,
never mind if it will
now render me uglier.

But see, that’s just
wishful thinking.
There wouldn’t be a tragic
downfall that finishes you,
no bankruptcy or incarceration,
no mutiny to overthrow you.
Real life rarely indulges
in poetic justice; it is more subtle.
Instead, you will never rise
out of mediocrity
and shall remain in obscurity.
You will try hard, but accomplish
nothing of value. Your name
will fade unremembered.

That kind of existence
is my worst nightmare, see.
I’d suffer anything
just to not be irrelevant.
And if I ever learned a thing
from that abhorrent memory
we now mutually mutely share,
it’s that you and I
are so much alike.
You are my alter ago.
You are what I almost became
if I hadn’t been
as vigilant as I’d been.
You represent the worst that
life could have brought out in me.
In an alternate universe I am you.

This version then, I know now,
will deprive me of the sweet,
definitive taste of revenge
in catching news that life
has crumbled you to dust
and spat on your dreams
the way you did to me and mine.
But you will pursue those dreams
in circles
and never see them come true.
Neither of us loses,
neither of us really wins.

Pain Becomes Parable

And then, out of the pain
came beauty,

beating its majestic black wings
and bearing all the flaws
that conspired to
make it perfect and pure.

Vagabond soul
hand painted,
torn and tormented
by people who take
a twisted kind of pleasure
in being unexpectedly cruel,
the grinding gears of chance,
being at the wrong place
at the wrong time
through fate’s obscure design,
found alleys of kindness
to sleep in
on days of rough weather
and kept pieces of warmth
in her pockets
to turn into the only currency
honored by angels.

Legend has it
she hurt until
she learned
to dance with lightning,
wept enough tears to
set fire to the rain,
conquered the night
on her bare feet and
casually passed words
in a roomful of philosophers
over shot glasses of poison
and Russian roulette

and came out alive,

the science of her
inimitable survival
writing her name on the wall
and tattooing the sun.

There, now,
she sits in the solace
of her secrets
on the edge of the living sky
with the world in her hands.

The Monster Inside

It’s been enough time now
and on the surface the dust has settled
I am far enough away and still gaining
from the wreckage of the inevitable denouement
of your reckless downward spiraling
and my naive attempt to stay at a place
where I knew I could never know peace
I no longer think about you
you can no longer reach me
not in flesh nor in thought

but sometimes I still have nightmares
about it
about you
and all the things I should have said
and all the things I should have thought to do
on the day my discontent got too loud
and cornered your black heart
and you lay down your last desperate card
and decided to make it clear that
I am nothing but a disposable pawn to you
and you had me dragged away from the empire
of spent time I had lost my heart on,
the smell of burning bridges clinging to my clothes

it happens again and again

and in all those nightmares
I see the faces I thought I had forgotten
but there’s an alternate ending
I was unafraid and I fought back
and made a bigger mess
than what your bourgeois sensibilities
feigned shock about,
I tore everything open
for fate to sort out later
and in those nightmares
I held justice in my bloodied hands
before you shut the door on me
and it was much easier to forget everything
least of all your common, insignificant beings

x x x

and it only still hurts
not because you matter
not because my regrets
are bigger than the freedom
but because it is still yet to be revealed
one, why it happened
two, where it fits

Snakes and Ladders

I thought I’d never write about healing.
I thought people just—healed,
that it was a private thing
universally recognized,
that people would be brave and focused
on the closing of the wound,
shrouded in inertia, not
even in lessons learned; I thought
the lessons systematically came later,
that, meantime, they lay in wait
until there was only a scar
where torn flesh used to be.
I thought absolution was a cocoon,
a kind of break
from this giant blender of humanity.

But children have to be fed,
love has to be loved,
and a cross has to be carried
over the hill,
rain or shine.
Chances are, everyone in the street
is in some state of brokenness.
The dawn makes no excuses.
Everyone has an agenda,
and people’s agendas overlap,
and some of them will cut
across your sacred garden irreverently.
Some questions will not be asked politely.

Healing, then, is a negotiation,
a walk in the wild among moments,
both those bittersweet past
and these sullen present,
a tripping and falling
where old hurts are fair game
to draw blood from again
by a chance meeting
or the mere mention of a name,
or to build on top of
with more hurts
dealt by the different hands
of the same faces
of your own vulnerability,
of the lessons that waited too long.

Forgiveness is an ascent
to places that
only the catalysis of
pain and strength
makes possible.
You live,
you live,
most painfully so.
Sometimes wisdom is a knife
that purges as it enters.
Hold on to the kind words;
they get rarer over time.
And remember: you are still an actor
in someone else’s story, even
as you wait for the storm to pass.
Speak your lines, even
if every fiber of you is weeping.
Don’t forget to make movement.
The direction is forward,