Open Wounds

The drive home is a long one, slow goin’ and frustrating stuck in heavy traffic barely edging along. His eyes began to wander to trees along the side of the highway, there was a squirrel running the branches from tree to tree, making better time than he was in his old truck. It began to seem as though every time he stepped on the gas the car in front of him hit their brakes and gal in the car next to him was applying lipstick as though she was tracing a Rembrandt. Since his move he made this trek every day, lately just to get to a Park n Ride so he could wait around to catch a shuttle to his work. It was a study in stress management and futility.

Today however he kept thinking of his sweet little girl and his son lying on the couch when he got home. He’d get there, fix a snack and take his girl to softball practice, and then they might go home and play cards or have a fire in the back yard. It wouldn’t exactly be like old times, before the divorce but it’d suit him just fine; in fact he looked forward to it. There’s something special about a man hugging his son, hugs are beautiful anyway but there’s certain fragility about a shared hug between father and son. Ever since the divorce he’s felt like he was lost, like he was driving in a thick fog, everything was different now and he’d have to figure out new ways to operate, to make things work between his kids and him. It wouldn’t be easy and he knew it. But he had the most wonderful gal he’d met and fell in love with since the end of his marriage; some say it might have been too soon, some outright stated as much but what can you do when your heart begins to keep time with someone else’s, between the two of them they were right. They both needed mending and they shared some of the same scars and injuries’ from previous lives, they understood each other and knew they didn’t want to be apart.

How much hurt can one heart take, how many times can it be stopped before it fails to start again?

As he pulled around the corner in the rain he saw his son’s car idling in the street, he was just pulling away. He pulled up next to his car and rolled down the window, his son rolled his down and sheepishly looked away. “Hey where are you going bud?” he asked him. His son looked up through the rain and said that his mom told him and his sister to go home since their dad had to work and no one would be home all day with them. His sister had been picked up earlier and his son said that he was supposed to call his mom; he said he was sorry and that he had to go. He rolled up the window and pulled away as the rain poured in over his door. He sat there in the street, the rain seemed heavier and the clouds appeared to grow darker. It felt as though his heart just stopped. This was supposed to be the beginning of a full week with his kids, sure he had to work during the day, the kids were out of school for the summer and he just couldn’t take the vacation. But he planned on eating dinners with them, maybe some ice cream before bed, play a little Ping Pong or Rummy Five Hundred. Then he’d see his daughter to bed and kiss her goodnight. Back in the day he used to have breakfast with her before he’d leave for work, it was a special time for him and one he used to cherish.

But today he sat in his truck, and watched the tail lights of his son’s car fade away in the falling rain. Today there would be no hugs, no kisses. No snuggles. He tried to breathe but it felt as though his heart just laid there in the bottom of his chest. And loneliness crept in closely and took his hands, they began to feel swollen and warm as he spread mortar on the bricks at his feet, the bricks seem to get heavier every time this wall gets built he thought. And he struggled to get it done quickly, his mind was awash in a heavy dose of pity and when he heard his ex-wife’s voice on the phone telling him the kids needed a parent, not an empty house, that they needed someone to care for them and love them he reached for a big swig of rage, he swallowed it and it built inside of him like a blustery fall wind and exploded from his mouth, he threw the phone down, and cleared the counter of something else before storming out the house. He’d walk I the rain, letting it soak his clothes, and his face, he’d walk it off, pushing it back down where it belongs.

How much hurt can one heart take, how many times can it be stopped before it fails to start again? Before it finally just lays there at the bottom of the cage, feeling sorry for itself, bleeding from its re-opened wounds.

 

Undefeated

“Go slow,” my friend warned.

“You don’t want to get wasted too quickly.”

I beg to differ.

Getting wasted quickly is the reason I’m here.

It’s like my mission statement.

Getting Wasted Quickly Since 1978

Wanna get fucked up?

I can help with that.

We don’t need to play drinking games.

Getting drunk is the game and

I’m undefeated.

Was that the first time you got pulled over?

That happens all the time.

Small town cops will drive you home.

Your parents’ wrath is nothing

compared to their disappointment.

You try to sleep it off,

but your dad comes in at 9 AM,

pulls the shade up violently.

“Get up,” he says. “Go cut the grass.”

You feel like shit.

The birds are singing.

The sun beats down.

You throw up on the lawn by the garage.

It kills the grass there.

You’ll go out tonight.

It doesn’t matter where.

Your friends will say, “Go slow.”

You smile.

God likes you.

He looks out for you

as you weave down country roads

in someone else’s car,

as you jump into the river,

as you wobble down dark city streets.

God has plans for you.

He kept you alive for a reason:

to tell jokes,

to write music,

to fall in love,

to write this poem.

 

 

 

 

-Copyright Timothy Downs

David

What was David  thinking,

 

the night before,

 

walking there,

 

the second during,

 

the eternity after?

 

Did he have second thoughts

 

in mid-air?

 

Was there regret

 

or only relief?

 

The moment when you decide:

 

This is what I’m going to do.

 

This is how I fix it.

 

That exact moment

 

is an emotion that

 

doesn’t have a name.

 

You will never know it exists

 

until you feel it.

 

David turned

 

into a dark, blue cloud.

 

He’s gone and now

 

he’s everywhere.

 

 

-Copyright Timothy Downs

The Crackdown

Work, bus, drugs, arrests, drink, and
struggle
and no good music anywhere.

And the young male press
says the crackdown on us is coming.

I say we’ll crack ourselves
before they ever get here
if we are not too careful.
They step over us
to avoid their mother’s backs.

Don’t walk alone
they shake their heads
they say say say
all sorts of stupid things,
but they do not say
how to get cabs with money
that stays in the rich man’s pocket.

We each walk alone
Needs must for the lazy (they say say say)
mother
because the late shift pays more.

We rest at last in rooms
behind the hardware store
through the alley
where our children sleep
in streetlight light
that shines
through thin curtains.

Copyright Kay Winter

Lost

How could she say no, he loved her and that’s why he gave her the pills, like he told her, if he didn’t care he wouldn’t spend his own hard earned money to buy her what she needs to get through her day. Now all she has to do is cook him and his kids, their kids’ dinner. He works so hard ya know, he was dealt a bad hand so he didn’t get a job making what he’s worth, but he found other ways to make money, and he couldn’t go to school because he wouldn’t be able to work and buy her pills. So when he came home from the bar and she questioned him about where he’d been and he lost his temper again and hit her, well it was her fault for being unfair and making him mad. That’s what she told the police anyway when they questioned her, and that’s when she turned to go to her room and ran into the edge of the door cutting her cheek.

So each day she washed his clothes, the kids clothes, cleaned the house, tried to study but after a while she knew it was unfair for her to take so much time away from his kids to study for some class he said she’d never be able to pass anyway, she wasn’t smart enough but he would take care of her…and like he said, he loved her.

There were parts of her day when she started to crash that she questioned whether or not she doing the right thing, there was a part of her that was struggling, a part somewhere inside of her that opposed him but that scared her and she kept it tucked away. That was dangerous thinking. And after a few years her relationship became one more recognizable as a caretaker than as a mother, she couldn’t play with them because she had to make them dinner, what kind of mother would deny her man and his kids dinner?

When the kids were fed and she’d washed the dishes he gave her what she needed, she swallowed them with some warm Pepsi and went off to her bedroom and sat, she waited with her eyes closed as her body began to slump and feel warmer, then her mind drifted off and she lay back on her bed and floated away to some place better. Some place where the sun shone upon her face, where the wind was sweet and she was free. Some place she could wander off to as he came in and stripped her clothes from her, used her, took advantage of her and then left her by herself afterwards to curl up in the corner and hold herself against the torment that came like a slow burning fire day after day. Night after night, and so on, and so on.

Eventually she was lost touch with the outside world, her support structure had been severed, she was manipulated and abused and her soul was in dire straits. When she saw or interacted with others it was through a sort of mask or body suit she wore that no one could see through to feel sorry for her. They didn’t know what was happening inside the dark, dangerous walls of her home, they didn’t know the rot that had infiltrated her body, her mind. Soon no one saw her and she knew it, she became lonely, not lonely like most people feel when they everyone leaves after the party but lonely like there is no one that knows how you feel, like no one understands the pain you feel, like when you find yourself inside of a nightmare and you try to scream aloud but nothing comes out, you have regressed inside of your own mind and lost your way.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon an aunt and uncle leaving the family cabin happened to pass her as she rolled up the driveway, they saw her, she looked into their eyes and smiled and they smiled back and waved as they drove on, they had someplace to be and couldn’t really stop to visit just then. They thought how she didn’t have the kids with her and she was alone but they’d get hold of her later on and check in with her then. So they continued on their way.

Three days later they called her husband because she wasn’t answering her cellphone. He told them how he was upset with her for just up and leaving her kids at home alone with no dinner, how he’d not heard from her either. They didn’t say anything then, not to him but they wondered about the cabin, maybe she finally ran away, no one in the family liked him, they all suspected that he wasn’t a good man. That was all, they were adults and could handle their own affairs.

So they drove to the cabin, there in the driveway was her car. It was cold and the keys were still in the ignition. They checked the cabin but it was empty, in fact the door was still locked from when they’d left, nothing had been disturbed, it appeared as though no one had even stepped inside. He stepped outside and called out to her, she stayed inside and made a few sandwiches, she probably went for a walk, and she’d be hungry when she came back. He began wandering around the cabin, there were a few trails off from the driveway and he thought he’d just wander a bit and see if he found any trace of her.

In a small clearing underneath a tall Poplar, he saw her from behind, she sat in the leaves, and he called to her. He stated that they’d been looking for her, that people were worried. He paused a few yards behind her because he felt sick in his stomach, he didn’t know why but he knew something was wrong. Then he saw her left hand, it lay palm up on the ground next to her hip, he didn’t need to go any further, next to her hand, in the grass, on top of some leaves was a gun. He saw the other side of her head and her hair was matted and darkened with blood.

What happens to a person when they get so lost, so lonely that there is no way out, that their lifeline cannot reach beyond the place within themselves, that dark place that becomes their only safe place? In what world does God allow a mother to go so adrift so as to go missing within themselves, to drown in such sadness that there is absolutely no other way out. And how do those around them not see her?

To my cousin, may she rest free.

The Procedure

“We’ll call you in two weeks to tell you what we found from the biopsies” the GI doctor told me, I could see his face moving, his lips seemed to be moving slower than the rest, his eyes even blinked slowly, I didn’t feel quite right either, I know I had a procedure, but I couldn’t quite remember what it was and why. Suddenly I was standing in a bathroom alone, in a set of hospital slippers and a robe on. Someone’s voice echoed in my head but there was no one in the bathroom with me. I looked in the mirror and saw myself, I looked hollow, lost. It took me a moment but then I realized I was holding a bag, I opened it and there were my clothes, I knew they were mine because I recognized them, so I put them on.

When I stepped out of the bathroom I was starting to land, I could feel my feet against the floor and then someone grabbed my arm at the elbow and when I turned I saw my daughter and she smiled at me and lead me out of the hospital and to the car. My head was still foggy but I remembered why I was there and then I remembered I was hungry. “To Cecil’s” I exclaimed the best damned deli in the state, it has been around for three generations and the fourth is now washing dishes. I refuse to eat a Rueben anywhere else, ever. And don’t get me started on the blueberry malt. I’m buyin’ I said and off we drove to Highland Park for an early dinner. After all I hadn’t eaten solid food in three darn days, and I felt like an old rug that’d sat outside in the rain; no matter how hard you try or how many times you wring that sucker out you still get cloudy, old water running from it as soon as you hang it back up.

Earlier the month prior I had my annual checkup with my doctor at the VA and he didn’t’ like the blood I gave him, so he asked for more and I obliged but he still didn’t like it and said I was anemic. He asked me a barrage of questions and didn’t like my answers so as punishment he said he’ll have to perform an endoscopy and a colonoscopy so he gave me a bottle of barium sulfate to drink with a jug ‘o salt water for a chaser. Now there’s a party folks.

One of my sweet daughters was the lucky one to take me to the VA for the procedure, she waited in the lobby while I was rotor rooted and aside from the dozen ulcers they saw at the top of my stomach they apparently found lots of goodies to remove and test. They talked to me about cancers, and Crohn’s disease and a host of other fun things that might explain my anemic state and other issues I might be having. Then they told me they’d get back to me in two weeks. Hmph.

A man tends to take his evaluation and consider what he’s doing in those two weeks afterwards and I did just that. And when my doctor finally called I was conflicted but nonetheless still relieved I suppose when he told me that they found no trace of cancer. However, he stated emphatically, you do have Celiac Sprue Disease. Now my take away at this point was quite as a matter of fact; stay away from hospitals, it’s just like taking your car in to the shop for a recalled part, damned if they don’t find something else wrong with it.