A bandage covers his ear

lobe he’s pulled to a bloody grape,

so he works at the nostril


scabbed from compulsive picking,

digging into some comfort of routine,

a rhythm rattled on skin,


ringing manipulations, ticking tasks

like fingernails, cigarettes, and fever dreams—

repetitions—cooking schemes for smuggling


whiskey under the noses of the uniformed

staff serving prune juice and Dixie

cups of Dilaudid or Percocet.


Constipation holds him hostage—

he needs to go but can’t, so he sits

in limbo and waits for shit


he wants and doesn’t want, what he needs

and can’t let go, like trying

to wake from a nightmare


in Caracas or Baghdad, somewhere he doesn’t know,

some place his pale face makes him a target

for breathing there—a dark room,


the closet he’s locked inside—

blind as Oedipus or those

horses used in underground mines


to pull ore carts in traces

until they died—desperately

he fumbles for the light he cannot find.


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3 Responses to ARSE POETICAL

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