Mental Health · Poetry


I go around and around with this one.
Nicotine patches, toothpicks, gum.
“May I please get a pack of Newports?”

Tell myself it’s better than
the alternatives.
As if I absolutely must be
smoking, drinking, or dead.

Smells revolting. Tastes disgusting.
But it grounds me.
I’m solid. I’m standing.
I’m safe. I’m free.

Logically I know it’s a rationalization for
doing something I want to do that’s
bad for me.

But standing in the rain,
cigarette between my fingertips,
I catch myself thinking at
least I found something to
make my mind peaceful.
Even momentarily.

Photo courtesy of Cameron Kirby.

Autobiography · Relationships


Burger” © T-L-P, 2010. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

“What’s a band you hate?” he asks across the table between bites of burger and sips of Oreo shake. I freeze up. Palms sweaty. I’d never felt the need to impress him before, but now I am straight terrified of upsetting him.

I bring the onion ring I’m working on away from my mouth and rest the heels of my palms against the cool tabletop. Debating lying. What’s a band everyone hates? What answer is safe? Take a deep breath. Decide to tell the truth, look him dead in the eye and say, “The Ramones.” Drop my gaze to the napkin holder, the ketchup, anything to avoid seeing his reaction.

He inhales sharp and my eyes dart back up to his face. Oh shit, I think, oh shit. I remember Jake standing on a table at a bar when I was nineteen, screaming down at me, “They are fucking brilliant! They changed everything!”

Staring straight ahead, trying to dissolve into a pitcher of beer. “They’re nothing but power chords and repetition,” I said to his knees.


Now here I am, almost ten years later, waiting for a repeat. He swallows hard and stares at me. “I can’t believe you said that.”

And my heart sinks. The first chink in my armor. His first glimpse of what is going to drive him crazy about me. My mind reeling. Not so perfect after all, apparently… I meet his eyes again and murmur a weak, “What?”

“I hate the fucking Ramones,” he says to me, smiling. And it’s not a break. It’s just another link.