Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sky Full of Plastic Stars


We learn to measure loneliness
As more than the ticking hands of old clocks
Or the progressing digital display of time passing
On the screens of a phone
That we check at 3am
When we are just our thoughts,
On a bed that’s just a little too small
But better than the floors and cheap futons
We spent so much time sleeping on
Tired of staring through the dark
At glowing plastic stars that dot the ceiling
Drawing new constellations
Like "the lonely heart" and "this one sort of looks like a cat"

I miss the real stars
In darker skies
Without the noise and lights
Of cities well-remembered
Like the sounds of ambulances underneath my window
With the yellow glow of old streetlights
Reflecting off of the broken glass of rundown buildings
Or the years spent learning
In the concrete cage, so near the river
Which tried to remind me of the docks
On the river between two countries
Where I spent my nights with friends
Forgetting the worst parts of being there
Looking forward to a future
Where I could remember a friendship lasting

The hold of the screen is tenuous
As I check my alarm for the 5th time
So that I don't check for non-existent messages for the 9th
The fan oscillates,
So much like the one that used to sputter on the ceiling of my memory
And I find myself counting the stars again
Which is harder than you'd think
Without my glasses on
My mind races to distant worlds, old wounds, the memory of shivering nights
In a house with no heat
And plastic where a window used to be
Under a pile of secondhand, secondhand blankets
In 30-below-zero winter

I forget where I learned to be cynical
But I remember all the friends I never said goodbye to
And the friends whose names
Are carved in stones in places so many miles away
Which is only funny
Because it's been so long that I've forgotten their laughs
And the details of their faces
One thing I didn't forget, though
Is toiling in the sun
Learning the meaning of resentment young
Growing into the realization
That as much as I hated
Shoveling shit and digging ditches
I let my spiteful, determined silence
Teach me the value of shutting my mouth
And getting things done
It was probably the only thing I learned from my father
That wasn’t a lesson on what not to say,
Or how not to treat others
Teaching myself the value of walking away
From shit that isn’t worth the time or effort anymore

Loneliness is just a measure
Of how we respond to the long days
Of dark thoughts and banalities
And the difference between solitude and isolation
Are the choices we made to get there
I know the isolation
Of being purposefully forgotten
In the place you're trying to forget
While faces and names
Drift away like clouds
Time continues to stand still
In places that never felt like home
Waving goodbye to the old days
Without feeling the need to call them good
But still sometimes smiling when they come to mind

Days passing, moving forward
I continue to grow, I think
Chasing dreams and brighter days
Learning things like love
And way too much biochemistry
Looking back, the seeds were planted
When my mother always remembered to show me
That my happiness didn't come before her expectations;
It was the only one she had
And now, staring at plastic stars
In the middle of the morning
I can't say if I did it right
But I'm pretty sure
That all scars aside,
I'm doing better than last time