It just doesn’t work,
the sun, the streets,
scented and alive
with human mouths,
and old women
burdened with cardigans
and shopping bags full of
old rainstorms.

None of it’s working properly.
But I know that I am
the screw that came loose,
the crate of fruit that
fell from the cart and
left a stain in the street.

You see, I just can’t
go straight like the others anymore,
straight lines, straight shots,
straight loves,
because a bitter family has
entered my soul
and has pitched their tent.
They are roasting marshmallows
over my tormented and charred lung.

There are people that
live in houses happily,
and get in cars happily,
and stroll through
straight-jacket parks
with pleasant, asinine music
on their lips.

They feed cats and kiss their wives
the way they would raise a glass
of moderately priced wine to their lips,
and they converse together
with cordial eyebrows.
It is all just too strange,
like filling in potholes,
or painting over obscene words
on bathroom walls.

The broken ones never go out.
I never see the ones who lost,
the left-out, the wayward, the confused.
They’re never found
in public gardens with
their smiling, clipped roses.
The ones who tripped on
the pavement of life,
with a stubbed toe and
an enraged beard,

the jilted, the stood-up,
the ones who failed at every thing,
because their was hurt,
and unspeakable loves
that went wrong, so awfully wrong,
and skies of squeezed orange juice,
and dawns that killed
all their ambitions.
And because of all this,
not despite it,
they wear their breakdown like
a masterpiece.

It doesn’t work,
it’s all stopped ticking over.
But sometimes, I need to fail.

The Wires

I do not know how the others can take it.
Every day, the sky that pretends to return,
the awful houses that hurl deathly flowers to the pavement,
the things that outlive us,

the poles and the wires that were already here long before us,
that glower on every street corner
like grandfathers disapproving of our fashion.

I do not know how they put up with
smiles on girls, dynasties of red lipstick sinking beneath parking lots,
rusted trolleys silently leading tramps
down dingy lanes that want only to die from an assault of lice,

the brains of rats that go off like grenades in fashionable cafes,
and of course the birds,
the pigeons that reek of ammonia, watching us,
while we pretend not to notice an offspring of dust
that collects behind our genitals and ruins our best laid plans.

We, who pretend to know equations of infinity,
perfect roses, poems of love and heroic laughter.
But the heart of the matter is this:
we live in the worn-out grooves that dead tycoons,

hideous philanthropists, and insects of lust once left for us.
There are dogs that play on a wreckage of beach
with a new owner every day.
There are couples that follow each other off the same old piers,
into the same green sea, that is neither sad nor alive,

and a sky that returns and returns and returns.
I do not know how the others tolerate
these corners piled with assassinated leaves.

Upgrade Me

The trees wilt

in the belching air,

the city effaces itself

with cheap wine and rust,

the rivers choke on trash,

the elderly vomit

and talk to themselves,

reciting dead phone numbers,

and even the sun can’t face it

and stays away for weeks.


The sky’s a black,

slippery tongue,

the children massacre

eels of thought

and grimace

with eyes like teeth,

and usually

I could bear it all,

let it roll off me,

like tarred rain,

like a dying dog.


But the better half of me

has up and gone

and I’m left with

the hunch-back,

half-drowned alley cat,

rejected by the

bakers at dawn.

And I’m expected

to hobble along

to the gleeful,


diabetic soundtrack

they’ve jammed on repeat,


with this crash-test body,

paralyzed at the heart,

hands clapping,

knees jangling,

backbone snapped and pinioned

in seven places,

smile hooked to the rafters

like all these marionettes.


Why don’t they see

my eyes rolling in their cage,

lunging against

the padded walls

of this sanatorium

for the terminally tame,

this wireless, solar-powered,

hyper-connected, hyperventilating

solution to modern living?


I’d like to request

another one,

packaged and sent by mail

with a brochure, a manual

and a ticket for an upgrade

with no strings attached.


Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014