Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Open Arms of a Drowning Man

They won't let me sleep. All day long, I can work them into exhaustion, but they will not relent. They don't sleep, and when they're loud, I join them.

I shout, do you not hear me scream? No one can hear me scream when my mouth is held shut with twenty-six stitches of regret: one for every year. You doubt me, I can tell. I don't bear false witness to you, but you still doubt. I don't live with you, near you, or like you; how can I expect you to understand?

The open-armed kindness of my friendship and the drowning man of my love work at odds. If you approach, the drowning man will grab you and take us both down. If you sit back, mindful of your own safety, you'll watch me drown with my open arms empty. Nobody wants to hurt me, but that's all they can do, unless they choose to watch. To you all, the best answer for my struggle is just to turn your backs and walk away. It's unreasonable for me to ask you to approach, and it's too painful for you to watch. Slowly, surely, you will all depart. It starts by asking of me things beyond my control. Because I can't meet those conditions, you feel as if I don't try or don't care. I try to tell you that my life is all effort and sympathy, but all that ever seems to come through are my open arms, and my steady submersion into the Sea of Dreams. I'm too heavy, too helpful, and most certainly too kind. It would be easier for you if I just lashed out, and gave you reason to abrogate any attachment to me. However, even I know my love is my most deadly weapon, and my verses are its herald: a herald so loud that I cannot sleep in between the peals of torment that mark my passage down.

Read me, know me, and the pain of my solitude will just prove me right.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


mr. vaughan

stevie ray vaughan
guitar slinger
sold me on the blues
taught me how to cry
he showed me all the sadness
in loving the bottle
and told the whole truth
as best as he could
guitar vaughan

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Red Dawn

The Red Dawn came while I was asleep; I always wanted to be a painter, so I could show the Red in all things, but I lack the talent, skill, and motor skills of a visual artist. Instead, I have poetry. Most of my dawn poems were written to Christine. By then, however, she was just a fond memory. I have only my skill with words, and the guidance of the poets that came before me to show you the Red Dawn that I see. I endeavor to show, not tell. I endeavor to recreate my senses on the page, to show the imagination I once prized. Now, I feel disconnected from my audience. It was easier writing to a memory than writing to you. Readership is sparse and understanding only comes in traces of those sparse grains of knowledge. I don't even remember how to write her; every time I drag out the old verses, I can only see the words. My craft excels now in ways I couldn't even imagine but five years ago. However, I feel like my work doesn't exist. If no one reads, how am I to share? When I destroyed many of my love poems a little over a year ago, I felt like I was liberating my work from the weights that dragged it down. Now, I think I might have betrayed my poems. How can I expect readership and understanding if I clip the best ones out of rage or sadness? Sonnet From the Void remains the only poem that survived the purge of 1998. It also survived in June 2004's round of extinction along with most poems of my epic era. I don't remember how many lines I killed a year ago, but I think it could have been a lot; time will never tell. It seems I have trouble letting go the things that don't want me around, while simultaneously amputating anything that tries to comfort me. It seems easier for me to write the Red Dawn at night for eight unwanted years, easier for me to think only of my Angel of Pain, and easier for me to kill poems whose only crime was recording the limitations of my happiness, than chronicle the steps away from love as freely and truthfully as I chronicle the steps I hope will take me towards it.

Although I've posted this sonnet previously on my blog, it remains the best poem of my youth:


The breath of lions fills the silent air.
I see the plains, the Sun without the sky.
And feel the grass that hides the Lion's lie:
That art from nature canít be made so fair.
He hunts the prey that donít know he is there:
The weaker beasts who know they're soon to die
When spotted by his hungry amber eye.
A thousand yards away they feel his stare.
I'm sitting on the cold and barren floor
I'm kept away from view, and out of light
And as I wander through the open door
A flash across the plains appears in flight
The Lion runs with claws and bony core,
Throughout the day, and gone alone, the night

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Glittering Angel

My Glittering Angel of Pain haunts me tonight, but that's not why I can't sleep. The night calls for me to join the struggle against my waking dreams. I remember when I used to walk at night, singing the verses of the choir in my head. Barefoot, I'd walk until I bled with the same staccato rhythmn flowing through my head. All the words escape me now, but I knew them well in my past. It always started the same:

An advocate
Or an adversary
Tertiary predation
Keeps me alive
With masticated meat

Tonight, it pounds on in a different direction, rolling with the bootheels of my Legion.

"An advocate
Or an adversary
Tertiary predation
Keeps me alive
With masticated meat
I can't feel my feet
Once white, once tanned
Now red, I can strive
For feelings unfelt
My laughter is canned
like an onion in broth on a shelf
Take my pain
And spare me pity
The night again
Eludes the City"

Then comes a pause. It's a long pause that tries to make sense of the darkness, but fails like my eyes. In black and white, I see the night clearly, and this is clearly black. I can't fill this pause with any degree of logic, or run away from its emptiness. My Glittering Angel of Pain distracts me like always, but tonight is made for the pause. If I could see the night in color, the pause would probably be Red. Red is the most beautiful color when the light is better; but in the darkness I prefer the dark Greens and Browns of the forests near my home: they look Black at night, which is the color of uncertainty. Tonight, I wish I could turn away from all light so I can see only doubt. However, tonight on my island in the Sea of Dreams, I can't escape the dawn that chases away my pauses, but I can scream my thoughts through the calling of the night. You won't hear it, but my cry will be "For Wrack, for Ruin, and the Red Dawn!"

Friday, June 24, 2005

John Donne Agrees

by John Donne

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry ;
But where's that wise man, that would not be I,
If she would not deny ?
Then as th' earth's inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea water's fretful salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my pains
Through rhyme's vexation, I should them allay.
Grief brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.
But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth set and sing my pain ;
And, by delighting many, frees again
Grief, which verse did restrain.
To love and grief tribute of verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when 'tis read.
Both are increasèd by such songs,
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fools, do so grow three.
Who are a little wise, the best fools be.

A Soap-Box for Normalcy

Normalcy evades me. I was seventeen when the doctors told me I had paranoid schizophrenia, but I knew it from fourteen. I didn't even have my first high school crush before my brains were tossed, diced, and mangled: I went from child to crazy person in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, my body never went along with my will. I played football at 135 pounds, and the pain from my many injuries plagues me to this day. Recovering from football and track injuries, my disease set into its most vulgar form; March 25, 1994 is the day that I usually associate with my first psychotic symptoms, but their presence plagued me in less obvious ways for at least six months before that. Once the laughing in my head started, there was nowhere to go but further in, even if only by accident. In 1995, I started writing poetry to satisfy the psychotic urges that replaced the genuine experiences in my life. Quickly, the verses came to dominate my psyche for many years. I wrote line after line after line on love, life, and the psychotic experience. The particulars of these issues dominate me still.

Most people grow normally adjusted to life by my age, but I have not. I left so much of myself on the page and at the wrong end of a pill bottle that I fear I will never achieve the basic successes and comforts in life. When normal life avails itself to me, as it did a little over eighteen months ago when I faced the prospect of dating for the first time, I was so sure that my experience on the page and my blind devotion to my friends and loved ones would serve me well. How could I have been so stupid? I couldn't have been more wrong. When normalcy learns to love, I was learning to write. When normalcy learns to live for life, I was learning to live despite it. It wasn't until recently that I learned the truth of the matter: my youth crawled down my throat and died; I never had an adolescence. I'm built wrongly, I just don't see the world as others do. My senses are warped and shifted to deal with myself and no one else. Everything I see is wrongly interpreted, from the colors of the sunrise until the demons that live in my nightmares. I'm not constructed for a normal life, and I will probably never lead one, no matter how much I want to. Sometimes people like to disagree with me and contend that no one leads a normal life, but they have never seen the world as I see it. Normalcy is not appreciated until it's gone. Even if you listen, but still don't understand, don't let life get away from you like I did. Learn to love; learn to think; learn to live well in the company of others. No poem, talent, skill, ability, or in my case, disease, is worth more than love, life, and community. Solitude and a reason to write didn't save me from myself, or anyone else.

This page, and this site, are copyrighted 2005 by Thomas Jackson, so don't steal it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The True Air Speaks in its Own Voice for the First Time.

Back in February, I posted a poetic comparison of Nas to Shakespeare, explaining them both in terms of classical meter and rhyme. Some of you might know of a longer piece I wrote originally several years ago called "Stitches." Currently, it stands at approximately 1800 lines. That might sound like a lot, but it's actually quite a lightweight as epics go; Stitches was intended to tell a smaller epic story that keeps a good clip and can be read in one sitting, or read aloud as one piece. From the start, I planned absolutely no epic catalogue. It doesn't matter to me how many ships Thebes sent against the Trojans.

Recently, I decided to vary from its usual technicalities: iambic trimeter in four-line stanzas. I wanted a particular part of Stitches written in a totally different voice for a character named "the aether" that sounds like a trite nursery rhyme with a sinister twist. I wanted an irregular meter across the stanza. The repetition of words that rhyme is intentional, to make it sound sing-songy like an annoying child who is always right, and insists to always rhyme. Perhaps success met me, and perhaps it didn't. Please share your thoughts.

i smell a foreign essence
i've never smelled before
pervading all in sight
replacing the horizon

the sky becomes a cloud
descending down on me
and speaking with a voice
that only i can hear

it says it is the aether:
a voice that's in my ear
spoke loudly in my veins
as marrow in my bones

“the aether lets you see her
and now is your deceiver
take it back
turn it black
the tower won'’t believe her

each moment saved to hear us
is wasted like this chorus
run away
through the day
your efforts often bore us"

the choir slowly chants it,
this song made from my dreams:
red hair, blue eyes, white skin
as music in my seams.

the voices bid me run
but i will dance instead
their chorus tells me stories
of all the lives i've lead

"you shouldn'’t fear the magic
it'’s what can make you tragic
four are dead
in your head
they make a dusty attic

the first death makes us willing
at speeds enough for killing
drive a truck
with no luck
the fate with shears was filling

water seeping medic's eyes
with effort to forget the cries
all crushed flat
bar whereat
the body meets the thighs"

and then the room is shifting
i’m in a different place
where all the lights are faded
and sweat is on my face

i'm looking at the floor
to see an empty jar
my eyes won’t read the label
the pills have gone too far

"with all the pills behind us
without a means to bind us
smiles, they swell
you can tell
their part will never find us

the room is left in shadow
the bathtub is too shallow
for the pain
and the reign
of what you chose to swallow

no burden helps return you
the life you had, still spurns you
pills in haste
have no taste
it weeps four days then burns you."

i slow to make a turn
the impact's from the back
i'm looking at a tow truck
then everything goes black

the EMTs revive me
and lose me just as fast
inside this ambulance
my time has gone and passed

“each wailing siren seems sad
as mourning mothers grow mad
in the night
might makes right
the truck is stronger than Dad

more senseless than the causes
are brief, grief-stricken pauses
this was chance
not a dance
no bandages or gauzes

can stop this random action
of tonnage and of traction
cry for now
you know how
this end is but a fraction"

and then i see a stranger
who mocks me from the mirror
he's sucking on a gun
he swears he's not a killer

each breath he pulls the trigger
but pauses after five
to ask a simple question:
"what odds keep me alive?"

"of all the ways to end this
you chose the quick and soulless
kiss the gun
you'’re the one
so be not death, but genesis"

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


I figured out a part of my problem today: I have love in my heart, but no one else wants a part in it. The absence of any love is better than the presence of mine, every time. I can write all I want. People will read; some will see my love. Some might even think fondly of me or my writing, but when verse meets flesh, everything falls apart. People see me for what I am: a love-starved monster worthy of pity or contempt. I can hold my past to the light. I can write about the strong things, the beautiful things, the thoughtful things, but in the end, I'm still a monster. Look at me; see how I've changed. There's nothing left here but pain and solitude. Make no mistake, I am alone. Patmos will read and perhaps respond in empathy. Some of the rest that read, and they are precious few, will protest, and deny my monstrosity. For those I have a simple question: when was the last time you tried to talk with me? Not me calling you. Not me instant messaging you. Not me writing you a poem. Not a letter, not an email, not even one of my kind hellos. When was the last time any of you talked to me first? I tell all my friends, and you know who you are, that my phone is always on for you. I can't remember the last time someone called me. Normally, I might be angry at this, but I'm not. I finally figured it out. I am a monster; it takes too much effort to know me. I should see your silence as a blessing: you're not telling me to shut up and go to hell where I belong.

When I was in high school, undiagnosed, I was happy alone. I need to find that place again, for my own sanity's sake. For eight years, I've fought to make you, any of you, understand. That understanding will never happen. I took three tranquilizers last night, and I slept for a long time. It was beautiful. I think I'll take more tonight. The challenge of my medicated solitude finally presented itself to me. It's very tempting to ease it along. If you're worried about me, don't. I don't make suicide threats. I make suicide promises. This is neither. I'm just coming to terms with eight years of wasted time, effort, and breath.

Monday, June 13, 2005

So close so sad so selfish

I'm close to it. I feel like I could step forward and grab the release. It almost feels like falling away. My arms are in a different place than usual. I tried it your way; that didn't work. I live on pills. I eat on pills. I sleep on pills. That's what I want more than anything. A long sleep that never really ends. How am I supposed to be enthusiastic about this lot? I've tried telling you what and how I feel, but understanding eludes me, no matter how many verses I pen to it. Nobody reads, and nobody cares. Patmos is the only one of you who even tries. The rest won't even observe my movements. If you've listened, and I'm sure you haven't, you should have seen this coming like I do. Don't tell me to relax, or be distracted. I'm here and I am not mute damnit. Each step I take leads closer to the rest. Take this; I don't want it anymore. I'm counting my evening pills, looking at the bottle of tranqs wishing, praying for something else, but we all know that won't happen.


My hope is alive in discompliance. I always take my pills, but I don't want to. They take so much, and leave me with little. I remember the old days, when I was thin, I was strong, I was even beautiful. Sleek and graceful, I stalked through the plains of my unstable existence. Sometimes I think back to the brilliance of those days with a smile. The dawn was red; it knew me like I know myself. Life was a lie, but what a lie! I yearned for understanding, like now. I was alone, like now. However, I wrote ferociously; the limits of my existence were hours between the ecstasies of pain and imagination. My life at least made sense: lonely genius in the corner looking for redemption in the shadows of his pen. Now, what is it? I'm uncovered as the madman in the corner looking for redemption in the bright lights of a keyboard's victims. Examine your screen. How much of it is mine, and how much do you want back? The limits of my existence are the hours between doses, and the ugliness I cover under a belt ten inches longer than it used to be. I'm forced to choose between the brilliance and uncertainty of my past, and the pragmatism and slow decay of my present for my future. What do you want me to do? My hope is only alive in discompliance.

Friday, June 10, 2005


"And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many."
Mark 5:9

I am less of a legion and more of a choir. Instead of singing, we laugh and scream. Between the grand expanses of our songs, we give little bits of dissonance. My favorite is the smallest bit of truth: "you will die alone." When he insists that his solitude is temporary, we rescind and offer other words: "perhaps you're right; we'll be there for you." Like most ideas, there is a little truth in both statements. He will die alone, in the sense that we all die alone. However, I intend to follow him wherever he decides to leave. That's the best part: it will be a decision. Most cling to life for the hope of tomorrow or the fear of the end. He fears nothing and knows no hope: he will let go at the first available opportunity. I'll be there, too, whispering our favorite song "Hello our old friend. I see you've set us free. The forces are in motion."

Until then, we're content to laugh and scream.

sons of midnight

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Like it means something

I write my pain because it's the only thing that keeps coming back to me. I have a set of ankle and knee braces from when I played high school football; they're the last physical traces of those days. The rest of it stays in my legs. That's when she comes to remind me we're all alone together; my glittering angel of pain stays with me while the rest of you distance yourselves. If I tell the doctors about my angel, all they do is send me to more therapy and expand the horizons of my medicated life.

No matter how I try to find a way to escape her embrace, she returns in Red, Blue, Brown, and Green: the colors of my solitude. When I won my game of russian roulette, she was there. She stayed with me through car crashes and another attempt on my own life: I could tell I wasn't dead because her smile greeted me on the other side of a long sleep. I don't understand her motives. Whenever I try to explain her, or share her to make her weight lighter on me, she smiles and grows, crushing me like the mass of my older brother sitting on my chest.

She is with me in my slumber; she shares my bed out of pity because no one else will. Be they lightning pains from ankle to knee, or a slow, warm, aching smile arching through my contorted body, the ways to find her are never far away. She tries to help my madness, my knuckles bear their witness, but she only ends up ferrying me from moment to moment like the rest of you, but she never leaves. I hold on to her because she's loyal; she's not your pain, now is she?

I crawl, struggle, thirst, and bruise for a better way to live, but she seems to be, if not the light at the end of a tunnel, my only lantern in the recesses of my memories. Concealing my angel, I hold out a cold, weary hand, and beckon for help or love like it means something.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Title Fight

I'm tired of fighting. I lost track of the rounds five knockdowns ago. Are we in the twelfth yet? Most in my situation thirty years ago had to fight fifteen, but The Public decided that was three rounds too many. I want to quit on the stool, but you're my corner, and I'll do what you say. You've never steered me wrong before. My problem seems to come from somewhere deeper: I'm desperate to be understood, appreciated, even loved. Nobody wants to know my name. Nobody wants to hear my story. To The Public, I'm just a nameless guy wearing a pair of eight ouncers. The same Public that made it fifteen rounds, made it twelve in the interests of fighters everywhere. I can't worry about their mercy now. I have to decide what to do in one minute. If you send me out, I'll fight. I can't determine success, but there's a point in every fighter's life where one more round is too much. Tell me what the round is, and how many more I have to fight. Which has more dignity, a planned surrender saving blood, or letting the referee count to ten? More importantly, will that matter to anyone?

You're my corner. I trust you.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

If I could do it over again . . .

If I could bury it all, I would
take every morsel of care
every last chance
every first chance
every sideways glance
of hatred or attraction, ‘cause I never know the difference
and every lonely dance
with the songstress on my radio

Crosseyed, I clinch the hand of a phantom
she takes me around corners
in my head, and on the streets
I walk with abandon
and no shoes

"I know" is not "I love you"
no matter how it's said,
or how much I want it to be.
Crosseyed, I clinch the hand of a phantom
she takes me around corners

she hates it when I repeat myself
I know
Crosseyed, I clinch the hand of a phantom

but I want no part of it
the voices in my verses don’t sing!
they preach!
every honey-tongued syllable
clinches the hand of a phantom

Sharing Petrarch

Petrarch is my favorite poet; let me share.

Solo et pensoso i piu deserti campi
vo mesurando a passi tardi et lenti,
et gli occhi porto per fuggire intenti
ove vestigio uman la rena stampi.
Altro schermo non trovo che mi scampi
dal manifesto accorger de le genti,
perche negli atti d’allegrezza spenti
di fuor si legge com’io dentro avampi
Si ch’io mi credo omai che monti et piagge
et fiumi et selve sappian di che tempre
sia la mia vita, ch’e celata altrui;
ma pur si aspre vie ne si selvagge
cercar non so ch’Amor non venga sempre
ragionando con meco, et io con lui.

Alone and brooding in deserted fields
I walk with slow and measured steps
With open eyes so I may flee
From human traces in the sand.
I’ve not found other shields to protect me
From the open knowlege of the public
For anyone can instantly notice my happiness gone
By reading from without what burns me from within.
So now I believe that the mountains, shores,
The rivers and deep forests know the temper
Of my life that I hide from others.
But I cannot seek out harsh or savage enough trails
Where I know Love will not find me
Reasoning with me, and I with him

Friday, June 03, 2005

Long Departed

I wasn't always a monster. I still have a few fond memories of my youth locked away where no one can hurt them. I looked different when I was a little kid; I'm the little trooper in a cub scout uniform below. Somewhere on the way, I got lost. Things aren't as I imagined them to be, and my future looks less like my past every day.


The rest of my old friends
Sit talking at a campfire
As always, I’m detached
And doing something else

They sit for hours chatting,
To swap some crazy stories,
And tell some dirty jokes
That mention me sometimes

While I look at a photo
Of long-departed me.
His soft, small, shiny eyes
Still gleam with inner fire.

My smile unlike others’
Was crooked then, not now.
The boy no longer here
Left little bits and pieces

Behind so I remember
The good times more than bad.
The new became the old,
And each day, life seemed worse.

When happiness meant choices,
I settled for next-best.
I squandered youth away
In waiting for tomorrow:

A day that never came.
Experience has changed me
So much I don’t remember
The photo’s circumstance.

I see a little boy
Whose hair was shorter then.
A cub-scout uniform
Obscures bony limbs

Too weak to bear the weight
Of later years’ abuse
When smiles turned to scowls,
Egos bruised, knuckles broke.

I sit and stare for hours;
I try, but can’t remember
The moment that I changed
And why I didn’t notice.

My past is in this picture.
I stare at two bright eyes
Now foreign to my world;
I toss the picture forward.

The fire’s almost spent,
Its hungry embers lick
The picture off the paper
Which quickly burns and crinkles

We all say our goodbyes
To start the trip back home.
I stay a little longer
And watch the fire burn.


I look quite different now, time and experience changed me. My stare is not my own: I have to share it. My features gargoyled: efforts to change them are pointless.