© Andrés Castro

 

Uneven Piece for My Online Therapist

Our start wasn’t bad,
what with uneven
asynchronous
writing.

Yet

line breaks
in this poem’s
first stanza point
to a psyche leaking

why

I suddenly
canceled you.
Wait. Hear these
endings read aloud.

Bad.

Uneven. Asynchronous.
Writing. Is this what we had?
Is this really my stream
of consciousness?
Yes? Figure in
I like to play.

So

easy to cancel someone
these days. Click Cancel.
Auto-email confirmation
a bonus.

Forget

I paid a month ahead: You,
sales reps, platform crew,
keep the change.

Still,

I want to be done with abrupt goodbyes.
Bugging out is not attractive.
I thought I was more responsible.
I wonder what got into me
last night?

Perhaps

the shots of Grey Goose & Absolut,
before seeing Birds of Prey
kick-ass eye candy

pronouncing

“I’m Harley fuckin Quinn.”
Have you seen her ex-lover,
Joker? They were good together.

Then

I was out
on a winter night,
pierced by a full moon.

Home,

I took in my new & framed Satanic Temple certificate
perfectly set on a cute silver easel between typewriters;
after checking out TST Grey Faction’s Facebook shade
on shady therapists, started thinking about Szasz’s Myth
of Mental Illness, then looked for my copies of Glasser’s
Reality Therapy and Choice Theory. Then looking through
your mix of conventional online responses felt senseless.

Crazy.

Crazy to think virtual therapy would work.
I may be a little too immature for sixty-one.
Must have been one glorious babbling baby.
Then too, you told me upfront you were not
who I asked for: someone at least forty-five,
with addictions expertise, who had worked

with

artists; should’ve said poets. My gamble.
Who is giving up more right now? You?
You remind me of my son: much too
quick to interpret, conclude, lead,
rather than pace with me,
not knowing the pain

in

a degenerating spine;
did I mention how I work,
as well as dream, stretched out
on an anti-gravity recliner?
Is this where both of you
see me trying a guilt trip?

Love

Frida Kahlo: Who was more creative
knowing pain & death as collaborators?
Kick me in the head if you think I’m asking
for pity; bend over if you believe it, I’ll kick you.

I was serious asking you get to know me on my blog.
It’s a pretty easy read, decorated with provocative images;
admittedly, some are a little disturbing. Braver, I’d go for more.
If I were you, my work would’ve been the first place I looked; voicing
what you honestly saw would have been a realized dream. Allen Ginsberg,
(strategically name-dropped here) told me this kind of reflection was precious.
But then, I would begin to make you out: there’s the rub. Safer to stay hidden
on the silent dark side of a two-way mirror, as you watch an other sweat, yes?

Yes,

you remind me of my son. He’s a good kid. “Fuck you, Dad!” I can hear him yelling,
for calling him a kid at his age. He’s not that disrespectful: his hate is more elusive.
He rattles around up in my head with some other voices I’ve gathered over a lifetime.
Doctor, guess I didn’t want to let your voice join the club. I suppose it’s an exclusive one;
the front door bouncer is a large lovely black transgender named Prudence. What voices
hanging out in your head, Doc? I’m suspicious of the one turning Psych PhD into “Doctor.”
Yes, I just used scare quotes. I can’t help myself: What’s up Doc? Always loved Bugs Bunny.

Take care, Doctor. IMNSHO, I suggest twice-a-week on-the-couch Freudian psychoanalysis,
for at least two & half years, with a good, authentically empathic woman. Freud may be old;
the craft is not. It helped me out after my back quit; my tennis pro dreams evaporated; married
just after twenty-one; Mr. Mom to son & daughter, never knowing twenty-five; sixty dead pounds
of fat; a deep depression, black-out drinking. There’s more. Should I continue, Doc? A Psychology
BA should have never taken me a decade to get. Why did I stick with it for so long? Who knows?
Should I continue, Doc? I have. I’m still here. Far more has happened since back then to now. Do
you remember me writing I enjoyed living in the moment & asking if you too? Why no answer?

Now,

I’m looking for something else at my age: perhaps someone willing to pace with me, know crazy is
in the eye of the beholder, someone to help me have my way after giving way to others for too long.
Need to meet the right ones or create them: There’s no other way. Walking by myself may have to do.
If I were younger, looking for a timely seductive religion, I might loudly proclaim: Hail Satan!

Reality check, please.

 

 

[To view poem in full layout please click here]

 

 

 

[These poems were first published on the author’s blog.]

 

American Honey

He calls to me, this memory thief,
as the reality of eating alone unfolds
like a lost history, a diseased blanket,
dirty money, a lease that never ends.

“At least you eat—
so what if alone?” he says.

“Cold comfort,” I say.

“Here,” he says, “let me
present American Honey,
Southern Comfort, if you like.”

“We’ve met,” I say,
“no, thank you”
remembering the worst.


Prayer Warrior

You often end your notes and letters adding I remain in your prayers
daily. Please, I do not want your prayers…even if you think I need them.
Remember, we who believe Buddha’s non-sectarian words are God-free.
Gotama taught meditation, learning by experience, left prayers to prayers.
If funerals are for the living rather than dead, perhaps, prayers are dying
sentences. Harsh, but stay with me. I need something more tangible, since
living; you can have your way with me when I am dead; how could I resist
you then? If you really wish me well, when we eat at your choice T Bone
Diner, after respectfully watching you pray, remember me; forget the bacon.

 

What Third Eye?

Approaching a horse
on the side of the road,
crows on its back,
tearing its flesh out,
pecking its eye out,
I turned my head
to the airport—gray runway
a finger pointing
home
to my apartment,
my bed.
No horses, no crows.

I can’t lie: it’s good
to be home;
yet, not good enough
to hear
The Law of Attraction,
how to
create my own reality
in the blink of an eye,
how the universe is mine
once I learn
the magic formula
from you, Guru.
No horses, no crows.

 

Watching Their Building Burn to the Ground

A.
Did you expect it
to cave in
like that?
B.
Our world was meant
to shrink
in this universe.

 

A.
What makes you
say that?
B.
You know the assassins
plan and get away.

 

A.
This flaming ruin
has to scare you.
B.
I’ve broken in
my bequeathed paranoia.

 

The landlord’s
smirking adolescent boy
with calculated short hair
& a gallon tin of gasoline
walks by & winks.

 

A.
I want to scream,
but who
will hear us?
Who at all
would want to hear us?
B.
You were never ready
for this, were you?
Not even a change
of underwear.

 

A.
I learned too late.
B.
Why don’t you
put that on your headstone?

 

 

Street art by Omen (Photo – Jody Freeman)

 

Early Work History:

 

Sold sugary fruit-flavored shaved ice piraguas
on busy South Bronx streets for chump change.

Opened laundromat mornings to sweep mop
roll down lock steely cocoon face at night.

Loaded outdoor lumberyard truck with plywood
sheet-rock sandbags cement—Delivered.

Worked unlicensed plumbing in basement
crotch-high stagnant water setting pumps,
breaking walls for sewer lines leading nowhere.

Sat atop towering ladder over dime-store field
of plastic electric terry-cloth trash as security;
in Christmas rush didn’t care who stole what.

Shelved books at green Hudson Valley C.C. library;
set up embalming cadaver film strips for pale Jr. morticians.

Painted plastered removed generations of paint
from Victorian moldings doorways crafted doors.

Cleaned up broken glass salsa & pickles on aisle eight;
stacked Coco Puffs above Raisin Bran above Cheerios.

Cornered soft retired old lady over my quick-dial phone
into buying TV Guide and Time—10% for cop widows!

Lifted back-breaking boxes off rattling conveyer belts
overnight to load UPS trucks for morning deliveries.

Wore shirt and tie and lied about assets and mortgages
to bankers in Bed Stuy Forest Hills on Fifth Avenue;
mystery shopping reminded racism’s still green.

Did Saturday nights in a creaking Jamaica Queens house
to room-check ten teenage lost boys—kept knives
dispensed meds—labeled a counselor but not.

Switched roles to help state-fostered delusionals
leave psych wards for apartments—but stuck
in office writing weekly billable fiction—
counting Prozac, Haldol, Prolixin on home visits.

There’s more but I should get to the point:
the application had three spaces for work history.

The interviewer smirked & told me to sit.
Twenty years is a long time teaching tennis…
ever done anything else?

“A few jobs here and there but look
my tennis resume is solid is pretty solid
& all the references are easy to check.”

I was selling TVs and Camcorders that winter
for base salary & commissions—said
thirty-nine was too old to keep teaching tennis.

What I wanted to do was write poems.

 

(A version of this poem first appeared in Longshot.)

 

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

 

Old School Sweating

 

I was trained to watch the ball—

the (back in the day)
              white tennis ball—
Watch the ball’s spin—
              the ball’s bounce—
Watch the ball leap
              into my gut-strung racquet face.

I was trained to run and watch—
  to sweat and watch—
     the ball’s flight over a torn public-park net—
See a straight line drive—
  See a spinning arcing parabola—
     See a mountainous flight reaching for the clouds—

Follow its descent.

I was trained to keep precisely fixed—no matter what—on
the ball—
    forget the South Bronx burning all around me—

and only love it.

 

Notes for the younger generation: tennis balls were, indeed, once white; racquets were made out of wood and they were strung with “cat gut”—not actually made from cat guts, but from (less disturbing?) cow intestines. Also, back in the day, black and brown people were excluded from tennis clubs and banned from the United States Tennis Association’s local and national tournaments; the racial barrier didn’t start to come down until the 1950s. And still discouraged from playing at white-owned tennis clubs and in USTA-sanctioned events into the 1970s, many black players continued to participate in their own American Tennis Association, which was founded in 1917 and still exists to this day.

(First appeared on the author’s blog)