My Cat’s Poem

Greetings from quarantine! Wish I had more new to post since March, but COVID-19 hasn’t been the creative motivator I initially expected. All I can offer in the meantime is something my lovely she-cat Snowfall (whom I don’t believe I’ve mentioned outside of Twitter before) wrote the other month… or so one must assume. 😉

cat poem

 

New, Admittedly Bleak Poem: “This Selfish Ink”

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Requiem for a Bic?

A catch-up follow-up to “Advice to My Past Self on Dating” here! This time, the subject is a little more modern. As I’ve eased out of college ways of thinking and into a “real job” in the “real world,” I’ve discovered the obstacles to creative discipline and inspiration aren’t just social media FOMO and videogames–there’s also wondering whether you’re wasting time that could be better spent benefiting others.

Increasingly, as I try to downsize in life and strip away distractions, I’ve been forced to confront that my biggest writer’s block is a fear that the whole endeavor is a waste of time. Why am I trying to write this story, I’ve found myself fretting–consciously or not–when I could be at the office catching up on that one project I’m behind on, or doing research to get better at my job and help more customers? Eventually, that stress compounds with building frustration about social anxiety and professional shortcomings and… well, let’s just say my brain is not a pleasant place to be most weeknights. One evening in particular, I was so frustrated with that feeling that I decided to sic it on itself, and pounded out 90% of this stream-of-consciousness in an underused notebook with a fitting (if not apocryphal) quote from another “White” author on the cover.

This is not who I am all of the time, but it’s who I am enough of the time that I wrote this. So forgive me, but I just had to spent an hour or two jotting down…

 

This Selfish Ink

This selfish ink, these words I pen,
could help another live again;
could pass a bill or write a check;
could lend a loan—one would expect
that with the prose which I can blend,
that every letter which I spend
should go instead to someone’s cause

far better than to simply pause
before a notebook every day
and while all my youth away
in tales and logs and verses long,
a horror short or sorry song.
So many need this language more
than stories shelved behind my door:
a tenant on the streets for rent;
a fraudster who should now repent;
a client of an errant smith;
I can’t help but compare, and if

this passion and my line of work
could spar, then with a nervous jerk
the former fades into a buzz
and latter stands, and that’s because

if I have hours just to dream,
when nothing’s real or as it seems,
then those are hours that I need
to prove that I can still succeed
in what I do to earn the nights
when I can dim the city lights
and act like someone gives a damn
for what I do and who I am—
but I can’t breathe inside my head
if doubt just bloats it out instead,
and all I have between my ears
are deadlines, doubt, and flushing fears.

This selfish ink, these words I pen,
could be the marks that do me in.
Yet I would rather rot by scars
dug deep in blackened ballpoint mars
than sore of back and burnt of brain
on every nine-to-five the same.
I’d rather write nothing at all
than everything upon a wall
that then compiles, mortared brick
into a stiff yet soft and sick
imprisonment of soul and sense.
But I will never be so dense

as to presume that I’m alone
in begging life to throw a bone,
escort me to a state of grace
where I don’t ever have to face
that, as it is, I’m here on earth
just chasing sparks of quiet mirth,
while fire burns my silent nerves
and slowly chars my spring of verve.

This selfish ink will live in rhyme—
that’s all I seem to have the time
to calculate without a care:
a vowel here, a line break there,
relenting to the nursery’s pull
when otherwise my mind is full
of all the guilt that I accrue
when debt of every promise due
comes calling for its common cents,
and so my gross incompetence
is advertised for all to see.
The weight of it is crushing me—

the most that I can do to lift
is grab a page and slowly sift
through figments, puns, and rules of three.

My undertreated ADD
is running dry as an excuse.
I’m praying that I have some use
except to aim my tired eyes
at crisscross T’s and dotted i’s,
or selfish ink’s just all I’ll be
when you come take what’s left of me.

New Poem: “Advice to My Past Self on Dating”

advice

Of two minds… and sides of the couch.

So I fell off the wagon with regular updates again, but there’s a good reason this time, I swear: I moved in March, and, uh… I don’t have a desk at my new place. Typing at the dinner or coffee table is taxing! …Okay, still pretty weak. Well, in any case, I did get a few more poems out in the interim on my phone, on a notepad, or cobbled together from scraps thereupon–and here’s the first.

I’ve heard it said that being embarrassed by your past self is a net positive, because it means you know you’ve improved since then. If that’s the case, then I gotta admit I live a pretty positive life nowadays. Adulting can be stressful as all get-out, but while professional woes are one thing, I was in a pretty bad place personally during undergrad (as even the back archives of this site can attest). After seven-odd years, time has given me a healthier, more measured perspective on a lot of things, but dating in particular. I’ve not done much more these days than then, truth be told, but when I look back on how I approached it before, I shake my head at the desperate yet idealistic attitude which which I regarded romance, whether the subject was actual or imagined.

Hence, I thought it’d be an interesting wish-fulfillment to imagine directly discussing the matter with my past self. I even went so far as to pull lines from the all-purpose “poetry scraps” document I’ve kept on my computer for a decade, and use stray verses I’d previously drafted as topics of criticism instead of wholly earnest sentiments. It’s a trite exercise, perhaps, but a cathartic one as always. Hopefully I’ll be able to imagine an all-new exchange with the self that types these very words in, say, 2025! But, until then, all I’ve got is just some…

Advice to My Past Self on Dating

 

So, how does this work?

Well, first, don’t be a jerk,
but also don’t fall headfirst to please.
Too many white knights think they’re dark knights—
if you try to ‘win’ her, you’re already losing.
Unrequited love, isn’t.
Elliptical eye contact can’t count as conversation
you’re entitled to exchange for her
free time.

Okay, so, kinda contradictory.
But let’s just say I wait,
play it cool.
Who’s even gonna come by by graduation,
or whenever I figure it out?

Plenty.
Heather won’t last forever,
but God, you’ll learn so much.
Maggie’ll make a fool of you—
could take the one-night stand, but I advise against it.
Madi evaporated, so don’t worry about her.
Stevi isn’t even a student, but you’ll still lurk
by her office, clammy fist clenched.
You’ll think you heard her lurid timbre, but it was just
a door closing to your back.
And there’s a girl in black
with a snub nose and gamer tats
that’ll grab your heart like a rollercoaster shoulderbar
until you tell her so.
And that’s just undergrad.

Oh.
I was afraid
of that. At least I get a chance.
But in the meantime, I still just feel so
low.

Well, there you go.
Your first mistake
will be thinking a girlfriend will solve all your problems.
There’s no motherly lovers out there,
no manic pixie painkillers that’ll act
a Madame Advil and
distract you from every ill at their own sole expense.
Lovers are people, too.
Gotta give to get.

Shit. Well, fine. But it’s been a few months, and
I can’t seem to fit in
enough to make anyone notice me.
For a progressive paradise, this town
feels so damn diametric.
Who said you can’t wear a dress shirt
and also support free love and disestablishmentarianism?
Someone must’ve
whispered it into a tape recorder,
placed it as a secret track on one of those pop punk albums
I always miss because some stoner stock-boy
placed it between Jazz and New Wave
where it doesn’t belong.

Just as well. Those songs will be your downfall
if you don’t watch yourself—mere minutes
stretched into years of getting left on Read,
Fueled By Ramen’s finest amplifying your anxiety
like a mic to a speaker,
parting pleasantries ringing in your memories.
You’re better off a contradiction, kid, trust me—
That’ll attract in due time,
more than screeching along to your iPod in shotgun
while she already wonders when dinner’ll end.

What, then, I should hide
how I feel?
Maybe you’re right.
I’ve lost more friends to love than hate,
so sue me if I choose to wait
to lay it all out on the line
like linen sheets—I’ll say I’m fine.

Nice couplets, but it’s
more than just bottling or blowing up.
Don’t go full incel just to say it
makes you feel better about getting turned down,
but then don’t be the starry-eyed puppy praying for table scraps.
You of all people should understand that balance, man.

But I can’t stand this, just sitting in the middle..
It’s not like I’m ever thinking of a wedding—
No mints printed with our initials, a Tumblr’s worth of TWs.
I just want to believe
bad girls can do good
by me. That ladies like a spray-painted mansion,
elegant exiles,
can succeed under the wing of a humble geek.
Rock and roll will never die,
even if I have to perform CPR on it myself
through the mouth of a girl with safety pins for buttons

Uh, whatever you say.
God only knows
where you got that kink,
but you gotta remember the statistics
of what most likely drives
your average lacquered tomboy.
You could chase the dream, but you don’t want that
exhaustion, that whimsically privileged irresponsibility
of a genderless mistress pissed at cishets,
fishnet-swaddled, rattling on about how
heartbreak perpetuates the patriarchy.
Hold out for a more sensible individual
in clean jeans and modest brunette locks.

And you’ve got the gall to call me misogynistic.
Maybe I’ll just believe whatever helps
me get through another day of interminable midterms
and intersections like demilitarized zones
mid-route to overpriced groceries.
That they’re too good for me.
That I’m better off on my own.
That sex is like carpentry: screw too much
and you’re bound to strip.
I don’t have the luxury of courteous confidence
like you apparently do.

Oh,
dude, if only.
I know it must feel
like your heart is haunted,
a cold spot everyone steps around or screams at.
That’ll get better with age and experience,
I promise.
But the burning butterflies when the right blue eyes meet yours?
The dry tongue tasting out how best to linger
by the punch bowl to break ice?
The invisible walls you erect when you expect to encounter her,
mime-like barriers of the brain and bravado?
Those never really go away—
you just have to temper it, internally
pour cogent water on lava-hot infatuation
until it cools and coalesces
into an obsidian binary: hold or fold.
Maybe not the answer you wanted to hear,
but I’m here
to be honest, not awesome.

Ah, that’s… fine.
I don’t mind. How could I,
after everything I admitted?
Because I realize now
I’ve never been in love with anyone.
Any thing? Sure.
There’s nothing
my heart and mind can covet
like a lenticular Blu-Ray box set
or a collector’s edition Nintendo game,
nothing that captivates my wolf’s mind
and warrior’s spirit like plastic capitalism
and the promise of a shiny new tomorrow.
When you put it all like that, perhaps
I don’t deserve true companionship.

No one does. And that’s what makes it
so wonderful: Because you gotta go
out of your way to make it work.
Romance isn’t wondering and wailing, and it’s not waiting.
It’s walking out the door with your chin up, shoes clean, and eyes open,
and looking like who you want to be
when you consider the mirror between brushstrokes.
And even then, there’s no guarantees.
All the pickup artistry in the world won’t paint over
a canvas of bad timing and mismatched goals.
But opportunity arises best
when you don’t thrive on recycled air.

Fair enough.
I hope I can roll with that.
Guess I’ll see you in a few years?

Fewer than either of us
might like.
Reflection is directing a bullet into the past,
letting brutal clarity ricochet, deafening, around a chamber
of stagnant emotions.
But, it’s the least I could do.
I know you won’t remember it all,
and that’s fine.
Time makes scholars of us all, because
the only way to really learn
is to wish you already had.
Just have some fun while you’re back there, will ya?
For one.

I’ll try.

Make that for two.

Boats – Now in Video Form!

Gonna start making some of my poems into videos too from here on out, for that sweet, theoretical YouTube cred! Inaugurating this trend is my latest piece, “Boats,” which I’ve decided to unofficially subtitle “A Weirdly Motivational Poem.” Enjoy!

New Poem: “Boats”

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It’ll make sense in a second, I promise.

It occurred to me at one point that people seem to use old-fashioned boats and ships as life metaphors a lot when trying to be hyper-motivational or melodramatic. Whereas I once might’ve been onboard (heh) with that thinking, both extremes of self-expression have become tiresome as I’ve matured into my own personal sense of measured world perspective.

The first line sprung into my head, and because of how both aggressive and goofy it sounded, I decided to flesh out the rest with a similarly blended tone of earnestness and absurdity. It was a hard line to walk without sounding like the very thing I was trying to riff on, so I hope you can still take my advice when I say…

Boats

Fuck boats.
They’re unsubtle, overdone
as a metaphor.
Always held up for their
nobility, all while Caucasian sails
flap in the salty swirls of some zephyr
masquerading as inspiration,
aimless winds as navigation, feigning at a reliable route past
oblivious contemporaries. Such starry-eyed idealism
drawn from a mode of transportation more likely
to make you (sea)sick and stranded than
marked for greatness.
Barnacle-slick, ships just sit
in port, bobbing on a prayer and desperation,
waiting for the right crew to give its aching hull meaning.
No,

be a spaceship.
cloak yourself in steel and ignite
with the apocalyptic fire of determination and pure logic.
Incineration as motivation, every move calculated
and yet cosmically ambitious, a routine
you could set your solar system to as you glow
through an orrery of accomplishments.
Every planet passed is a milestone reached, every nebula blessed
with your glide, something you can look back on and say
“been there, charted that.”
The continents are well and spoken for,
but your own universe
awaits to be seen anew.

Be a submarine—
Flip the script and dive
beneath those waves you’d so shallowly just skim, otherwise.
Pile on the pressure and laugh, compacted,
glad to stare darkness in the face
instead of be blinded by naïve light.
Reach out with methodical claws and feel
between the cold, the crushed, the mistakes
God sweeps under a rug of blood and dust.
There is ambition in descension, the confidence of being able
to face the worst of the world and arise, however hesitantly,
to a sun all others take for granted.

Be a fleet
of fighter jets, greater than the sum of your parts
as you dart, multimillion-dollar throwing stars, off
the glint of midmorning fog and into the obstacle
which keeps you from freedom. Could be a dictator,
could be a deadline or one more Dorito.
Discipline is too much to prop up alone,
because the mind and soul hold court at every instant
and a coup is always one what-if and maybe-later away.
Have your own back. Be your own wingman.
Attack distraction and ask it to thank you.

Christ, be a unicycle.
Deceptively static, idiosyncratic
in you how appear calm and collected
yet ever eager to impress. Entertainment
by mere existence, in all the right ways
and means. Lean forward, move
by impulse alone, and store your momentum
with ease upon arrival.
Success can be humble yet colorful, and there’s nothing more important
than balance.

Just don’t be a boat.
Slow, laden with cargo long since loaded, sagging
ashen casks stacked for reasons forgotten and customers unknown.
Creaking, weakened with the memories of those who rode before
as you slog through the surf, scurvy tickling your teeth
and compass needle spinning like a blender’s blades.
Whatever vehicle you please—you just need
to be strong, not soluble.
Precise, not placid.
Opportunity comes to those who make it sweat
at the sight of engines, angles, angry gears
hyperventilating into an industrial blur, not leisurely dreams
of a vessel lit by candlelight and complaints.
It’s always a new day’s dawn somewhere,
and you don’t want to be caught
floating in the middle of everywhere.

New Poem: “She Could (The Second Thing)”

I had a bad knack for unrequited love in college. Who didn’t, right? Still, in times of uncertainty or prolonged anxiety, it’s easy for one’s mind to recline into such memories. Hindsight is 20/20, and so yesterday’s stress can feel enticing simply because reflecting on it gets us closer to a time when things seemed simpler and—for all we know—different decisions could’ve been made.

I know that’s not healthy or wise, though, and so as a kind of warning to myself—both six years past and now—I slowly wrote this over the course of several months. I had a particular individual in mind, but this advice has been generally applicable more times than I’d like to admit. Harsh though it may be, I hope people who’ve been in similar ruts can relate and find some motivation from the sentiments herein. Moving on can be as harsh as you want, so long as you keep the worst of it from hurting anyone.

painting flowers

She Could (The Second Thing)

Okay, so you know
the first thing about her.
Her looks. Her likes.
Her tics and timbre and flair
for the poetic.

But you don’t know
the second thing about her.

She could’ve gone gay, struck
upside the petite head with whatever
metaphorical brick or pixie dust bestows a change
of persuasion in this era of commodified queerness.

She could smoke, weed or Winstons.
Maybe she picked it up from the boyfriend
in the last five years,
or maybe she always did and you never smelled it,
too nasally blinded by the scent of desperate
campus coffeeshop lattes and your own futile hubris.
You don’t want the taste of cremains and skunk cabbage
when you go in for a kiss,
that leafpile crackle of a voice
and papyrus skin by middle age.

She might’ve married already,
carried a hyphenated name and kept it
low key on FB.
Or for that matter, moved out of town.
Not everybody updates ASAP,
and it’s not like you’d get invited
to the ceremony or a housewarming.

She could’ve gone far-left, political
compass frozen at Northwest,
all pink-knit pussy hats and misandrist Cosmo quizzes,
checking privileges like a metermaid at lunch hour.
Another Seattleite brought low
by good intentions and bad optics.

Maybe she gained weight—
social inaction, that Reubenesque rebellion
of modern misfits.
Or grew her hair out.
Got a scar or lost a digit.
See how far shared hobbies get you
when the infatuation isn’t
physical anymore.

Break your porcelain dolls
and walls of echoing expectations:
The songs you stopped listening to;
the porn you stopped hoarding;
the lookalike baristas by whom you stopped awkwardly loitering,
psyching up for eye contact like a flip
off the top turnbuckle.
You abandoned those antique feelings
for a reason.

Just keep her where you left her,
or vice-versa: confession crystallized
in a 2010 flipphone while you watch
a Liam Neeson movie and tell yourself that’s why
your heartbeat’s above 120 BPM.

She’s a person, not a pillow—
some sentient, nonconsensual security blanket.
Make new promises, not break old ones.
Get a grip. Take a hint. Read a headline.
Grab a big glass of water and swallow your pride,
bitter taste be damned.

Return the favor and
leave her alone.

Placeholder Poetry: “The Odds” (2013)

This is Why We Don't Visit You Guys

Well, not in so many words, but…

So I could have sworn I shared this one before, but I can’t find it anywhere on the site.  What may’ve happened is that I nixed the original post in advance of submitting it to a journal a few years ago (to no avail).  Or maybe aliens deleted it!

Beyond Belief

In any event, this is another piece I wrote while studying creative writing at the UW — Advanced Poetry, to be precise.  This time, exploring two opposing perspectives was the focus.  So, consummate geek that I am, I thought:  what if when extraterrestrials do visit the Earth, they’re just as impressed by finding other life?  At least… at first.

The Odds

What are they,
these green-gilled, ten-limbed creatures?
In what world could such features flourish?
How do they go about their days
and yet find time to sculpt such ships,
raptors’ curves ‘round ventricles of light?

What’ve we found, touching down­
in this land of two-armed, soft-skinned hue-men?
Their shades do vary, but their clout astounds.
How can such simple, slender beasts survive
training ranks for spears, not gears,
as the flag on their pallid moon droops, collecting stardust?

Now, how’re we to speak
to them? To which words would they respond
or language listen? Their eyes compacted,
ears concealed, our promises of peace may crash
like satellite static—or worse, they’ll misinterpret it
as calls to war we couldn’t win.

Their gestures hint they think us dim,
but, at once, we sense their intents
like a shallow grave under brilliant blooms.
Round faces surround us, imploring “meet our leader,”
but the grins within have torn
meat from marrow and pride from the poor.

What’re the odds?
Centuries, we search—
scanning sky, loosing computers
in paternal spurts of fuel and tax dollars
to capture languid nebulae and sullen suns,
‘cross spans new units were coined to comprehend—
and another life finds us first.
We might need to steal some machines,
dissect a couple of “natural” deaths,
but who knows what we’ll learn!

What’re the chances? We’re even
in this infinity. One thousand solar-cycles journeyed,
working ‘til our tails numbed cataloging charts and channels,
all fifty fingers pinching a dwindling budget.
Hoping the last galaxies held knowledge to spare:
cleaner engines, illness’s end, peace after death.
Yet our complement is a wet and mottled mirror
in the grip of these fraught and frightened creatures.
Our work paid off,
but the currency? Worthless.

Placeholder Poetry: “Beautiful Battlefield” (2012)

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A light at the beginning of the tunnel.

Holed up inside during the “ice storm” blowing across Lake Erie tonight, I find myself reflecting on warmer, more floral environs back in Washington State…

Until mid-2013, my childhood home was surrounded by a huge forest of evergreens.  So when an assignment arose in my first Poetry course at the University of Washington to write a poem based on a class journal entry, I ran with one I’d jotted at some point about this lush upbringing!  I was taken with exploring how a forest can be both a place of solace and, in its own way, chaos.  I revised it a few times, including for the internal application which eventually got me accepted to the creative writing specialization program at the UW, so I’m surprised I never shared it on here!  A few new edits for readability aside, it is as it was then.

This is also a rare time where I chose to wrote in the persona of someone else. Descriptions of natural splendor aside, none of this correlates to my own life (thankfully).

Beautiful Battlefield

The forest marks the borderline
sprawled ’round me, west to south,
fencing in with evergreens the yellowed yard
and box of shingled bricks I’m told is home.
From here, my parents’ arguments are almost mute.

The sun surveys all, layers heat upon my back.
As I march through lashing grass,
rubber boots squeak and stick
with golden seeds, like a flag’s stars.
On the horizon, shouts and slaps fade like gunfire.

I enter, where spiders guard their dewy webs
‘cross saggy limbs and sloughing moss.
Boughs block light seeking rest
on a dark carpet, where logs rot in solitude.
No sign of broken dishes or discarded cigarettes.

Over here, a corps of scotchbroom huddle,
swapping pods, as tansies talk in plots;
over there, ferns protest paths of missions past
from which their leaves once prospered.

I head forth, through the birch;
seven shoots arc up and earthbound
— a bunker’s tunnel, taken root.
I pass the anthill army’s bustle
on a mound of silent static,
and a black ant scrambles up an oak
at eye level, AWOL.

The snail shell by the roadside,
a broken house vacated, sprayed with mud;
the devil’s clubs’ clusters
of spikes, conspiring to poison;
and the narcissus, victorious
over pinecones —
I take it all in stride, for

this war is mine
                           to run, holding aloft a stick
                           wrenched from elm.
                           I strip its bark, expose within
                           my ivory-shaded sword, and order
                           birds to fly and plants to part the way.

            And after all, if Something finds me —
            The neighbor dogs, with shambling coats and eyes;
            Dad, stumbling under branches,
            bourbon on the breath, in his self-inflicted aftermath
            a family’s traitor —
            one must always be prepared.

            I know I’ll have to go
back. But for however long it takes
to trek past a beehive and risk the stings,
to kick away a molehill
and tread on something weaker saying “I was here,”
and know I’m moving over rocks and rivulets while
Mom goes nowhere in her TV chair
— I’ll stay and fight.
Back there, I’m underfoot and out of rations,
but here I walk above. I strike
fear, from the vine-throttled pines
to graves of frogs and pond scum.

There are no shoves and screams.
No slamming doors and stomping feet.
            Just a chirp and scuttles, shuffles and a breeze
            racing through the trees.
            It’s earth’s own beautiful battlefield
            and I command it all,
            as much as
I surrender.

Placeholder Poetry: “Lunacy” (2017)

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Technically the moon plus company, but it’s somehow the best photo of a celestial object that my phone has ever taken.

And now, a twofer! Mondays, am I right?

In any event, this here’s a poem I wrote in March 2017 for a small journal’s competition themed around the satellite in question. It didn’t make the cut, but I usually don’t play around with format-based poetry and I like how that turned out, so — stargaze away! (now in meme-able format) :

 

Lunacy - Memeable.png

Placeholder Poetry: “Parties Are Fun” (2016)

A good April, one and all! I mean, you wouldn’t know it here in Buffalo, where snow is still a regular occurrence. But a major recent development should remedy that soon: I’m moving back to Washington State!

The last few months were not great for my authorial drive. Being constantly stressed about finding a new job and prepping for the big move seriously cut into my free time and creative morale. But now that I’ve figured out both, I’m back on the horse with consistent writing. I also started trying to do more videos for my YouTube channel, but Adobe Premiere keeps freezing up whenever I try playing media, so that’s on the back-burner for now.

In any case, everybody still needs a day of rest, or at least a creative contingency plan for when things get busy. And if you can’t get productivity, get publicity! (relatively speaking) So I figured that, for tonight, I’d flip through my ol’ poetry folder and post an older piece that I’ve never shared before.

This is a poem I wrote after a night of ostensible partying near the end of graduate school. At the time, I was uncomfortable with how bitter and pathetic it sounded, so I kept it private. Now, however — as with my previous “delayed” poem, “Buffalone — I believe it’s gained new value as a window into my mindset circa 2016… midlife crises and all.

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Parties Are Fun

You can talk to people you know.
You can listen to pop songs.
You can eat scores of Oreos and s’mores-flavored beer,
pizza and Tostitos topped with salsa.
You can relax on the couch

when your shins and soles start to hurt.
Maybe the host who joins you and asks how it’s going
actually cares.
You can go to the bathroom to wash your face
and contemplate borrowing some lotion.
No one would know.
You can look in the shower real quick
and feel better about cleaning your own.

You can see who’s bullshitting about their relationship status.
You can see a lesbian french a gay guy
and still get nervous about hugging people
you don’t know well.
You can eat sliced starfruit for the first time.
You can drink a plastic cup of water.
You can hurl it at a pile of expensive coats past the snacks table.
Someone whose job it is will pick it up.

You can admire the decorations,
bouquets of pastel balloons and tight dresses.
You can complain about something
and the girl next to you will say “Right?”
But with a cadence confirming she didn’t really hear,
as if it’s a stage play and everyone else knows
which script to stick to.

You can say “I would be so good to you” to your crush’s back
as she entertains a loud crowd.
It’s hard to mishear eye-to-eye.

You can stare at the floor
and see nothing but slick and tacky darkness.
You can see a penny and not pick it up.
You can take people’s pictures and be thanked for it.
You can be in a picture
that won’t go up on Facebook.
You can watch people you meet weekly be happy to see you.
They’ve had a few.

You can actually boogie like nobody’s watching, and feel satisfied for a moment.

You can brush aside the spindly glimmer of hanging streamers.
You can talk about sleep paralysis with a guy for five minutes and try not to worry about why he didn’t come back from the kitchen.

You can practice smiling.
See if it sticks.

You can be complimented on your tie.
You can choose not to check your coat.
You can imagine throwing something small off the balcony
and if anyone would catch you,
but decide it’s not worth the risk.

You can stand in the middle of the dance floor snapping photos
and then go upstairs and scrutinize the throngs like a prince
or primatologist.

You can stay sober
and leave early.
You can realize you gained ten pounds since last Christmas
but at least you’re not as fat as some of these people.
You can smirk at the sight of drunks
with a shoulder to lean on.
You can feed your view of moral superiority.

You can close your eyes.
You can whistle better music.
You can talk to people you know.