You are not unique or talented. Face it. Gut up. You are normal, banal, a plastic cup of water. Oh sure, occasionally a cube of ice will clink in your cup, but it melts, doesn’t it? That moment where you make a sound fades into the ocean of everything else. The world swamps up and consumes. Ripple all you want, like the glass on the dash in Jurassic Park. It doesn’t matter. That rippling can’t escape the cup. The cup can’t escape the dash. The dash is part of the jeep that’ll suffer the crashing teeth and meat-blood breath of some beast pounding behind you. It doesn’t matter. You’re doomed. We’re doomed. All of us grind under a pestle.
Your daughter turns away. Your wife waits for you to pass instead of squeezing through with you. People walk by and don’t glance. The world is blind to your pain. Those who came before you have rubbed the pulse of the world raw with want. Lay your thumb on the wrist of humanity. Go ahead. Is there a purple throb? Perhaps you’ll detect a faint beat. Between the systole and diastole, the long and tragic lull of yours. You are like the line painted on a road that doesn’t match the arc of the curve. That’s bad work, your stiff father will say. Poor execution, clucks the manager. Others just shake their head. Your line smashes into the curb.
Fear is more than trembling before a beach ball. You know this. It’s waking up alone thirty years of days in a row. It’s a slow lurch off a step before the ground lunges. It’s the machine beat of heart synchronized with a green line, only an electric plug to keep it going. Your mouth full of dirt. Fingers bloodied against a coffin. Being found out. Caught in lies. Fear is a girl laughing at your cock, a scar on a breast, your diary in the newspaper. A chainsaw bucking out of a log. Motion in the dark. How do we continue to exist when so much can go wrong?
Don’t run along the edge of the pool. Look both ways. Make sure the strap is secure. There have been accidents, I’m telling you. You better listen. You’ve heard it, haven’t you? Listen up. Old men lean against the clapboard, grass stalks bobbing in their jaws. They speak of the injustice, the things they’ve seen. Their fingers thick as mop handles. You think you know it all, they tell you, but you’re a stupid shit. You don’t know jack squat. Back in my day things weren’t as easy as they are now. Those fingers wave dismissively. We were whipped and we hauled rocks. You bang on keyboards. Get over yourself, the old men say. We certainly have.
Your poem isn’t good enough. It’s diluted, like a drop of blood in a cup of water. That image distracts. You have a pimple on your chin. God, it’s huge, she says. I’m trying not to look, but I can’t stop. You’re like a highway accident, I swear. You are the Jerry Springer of writers. Haven’t you learned, she says, slim fingers on your shoulder, no one cares?
The phone rings and it’s a salesman. You listen because he wants to talk to you. You mention a rash you have and he responds with a special offer. This is the way the world works. You keep talking. Skinned knees, premature ejaculations, getting fired, dented fenders, dead puppies soft as pudding, an ache in your back like an orange electric cord, ketchup on your shirt, limping across a finish line, rejections, running out of ink, paper cuts. You cover it all. You keep talking even though he’s already hung up.