Conversation 17 (equal parts unhappy and sad)

I didn’t think, I didn’t think of you

“Half a World Away,” R.E.M.

But I will not spill my guts out

“Slipped,” The National

How do you feel?

My back hurts.

You know what I mean.

I know. But I hate that question. It’s exhausting. Children in Texas were shot in church.

So you feel exhausted?

I feel equal parts unhappy and sad.

Those aren’t the same thing?

Sadness is being completely aware you exist. Unhappiness is feeling as if you don’t exist.

What do you mean?

I am sad about all the ways I am not enough, the inadequacies that make me who I am, that make me expendable, forgettable. Unhappiness comes with things not given, never even considered, things taken away.

Taken away. By whom?

People, the universe. Unhappiness is the gradual contracting of daylight minute by minute each day and then having time change. Yesterday’s 6 o’clock is today’s 5 o’clock. Darkness comes without any regard for you. Sadness is knowing it will happen, knowing it’s inevitable.

So there is no happiness?

There is the possibility of the absence of unhappiness. To know you exist, to feel fully that you matter.

You don’t matter? That’s how you feel.

Consequential. To be consequential. Like holding a warm round stone in the palm of your hand, closing your eyes, and not being able to ignore the weight of the stone in your hand. You walk into another room or run a thousand miles away, but the sensation of that stone stays in your palm and it matters. You couldn’t forget that stone if you tried.

And you don’t want to try.

So you want to be the stone.

I will always be sad but I want to stop being unhappy.

—P.L. Thomas



i’m sorry & i love you

i’m sorry. i love you

i’m sorry i love you

morning traffic is claustrophobic
& i miss your skin

you text me lyrics
so i play that song on the car stereo

but i cannot ignore
i am driving away from you

in your warm bed alone
with weird memories of me

us separated in the space
consumed by the claustrophobia of love

i’m sorry & i love you

i’m sorry. i love you

i’m sorry i love you

—P.L. Thomas

mirrors (we are monsters)

what do we do with ourselves
with all these mirrors
like the faces of starving children
watching us eat ourselves full

what a relief to be a vampire
never having to face yourself
to see the monster looking back
eye to eye with your immortal self

what do we do with ourselves
with all these mirrors
like spent cartridges smoldering
on the hotel room carpet

—P.L. Thomas

exit wound

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e.e. cummings

awake at two
with nothing to do
blue without you

i’ve been drinking
while you’ve been thinking
about how to leave without leaving scars

we feel nothing properly inebriated
staring dispassionately at the exit wound
where a heart used to beat

risking a heart
is only the start
the hardest part

like waking after surgery

—P.L. Thomas

functioning (falling)

I’ve been tapping the table
I’ve been hoping to drink
“Empire Line,” The National

Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight
Serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon
“The Geese of Beverly Road,” The National

i drank enough to be okay but not so much
that you would notice i drank enough to be okay

“Brick” rhymes with “click”
but “Tennessee” doesn’t rhyme with “Williams”

“sometimes you have to step off the ledge
before you realize you have always been falling”

i say to you when you tell me
you cannot do this any longer

this sitting for hours and hours
at bars taphouses and breweries

this kindness of waitstaff on autopilot
bringing seemingly endless pints of beer

“Brick” rhymes with “click”
but “Tennessee” doesn’t rhyme with “Williams”

“falling in love is like being in love
like catching your breath is breathing”

but i have never been swayed by the testaments
of sober people teetotalers and the converted

do you hear it do you hear it do you hear it
i think but never say aloud with you near

“Brick” rhymes with “click”
but “Tennessee” doesn’t rhyme with “Williams”

i am falling i have fallen and i will hit the ground
relaxed as a drunk man on his favorite barstool

as long as i am somewhere i am not just there
everything is about this sanctuary you

but habits die hard even when drowning
like sitting here forever or slipping quietly out the door

“Brick” rhymes with “click”
but “Tennessee” doesn’t rhyme with “Williams”

you knew some things when you pulled up a chair to my table
but you didn’t know everything you couldn’t know everything

don’t play Rummy Scrabble ® or Monopoly ® with a drinker
because your eyes remain focused on the game

and before you know it you have been sitting there for hours
lubricated by the kindness of waitstaff on autopilot

and the background music softly lulling you
into singing the refrain to yourself with a smile

“Brick” rhymes with “click”
but “Tennessee” doesn’t rhyme with “Williams”

—P.L. Thomas

crow dream (time)

I’m no holiday
“Guilty Party,” The National


he dreamed of

an aging crow not quite yet old
with two much younger sparrows
one younger still than the other

in this crow dream for the first time
the two much younger sparrows met
sharing life with the crow in different times

the aging crow not quite yet old
felt his earlier and later lives draw him
to spill his guts and bare his soul:

“i used time badly once
and by ‘once’ i mean
all the time, all the time

“i have no fucking idea
how i got here now
in the meaty part of middle age

“and mostly unbelievably fortunate
despite all the weight of obligation
and the unpredictable expected

“i hope you are well [to the older sparrow]
and i am glad you have met each other
so that i can say to you together

“i wish i had been better always
because i realize the emptiness of good intentions
that cannot warm a body sleeping alone”

the aging crow not quite yet old
said nothing further as he felt time
[even in a crow dream] left him regretting


he woke from the dream

disoriented as dreaming often left him
unable to distinguish birds chirping outside
from a human voice saying “love, love, love”

haunted throughout the day by the crow dream
he believed in his clenched fist across his palm
he had a tattoo like her handwriting that read

i would tell you
in all the languages
how much i ache for you

setting aside his lingering sense of impending doom
the fear that soon a hurricane would make landfall
and strip him of everything he had ever loved

if he could take the time he would learn to fly
and until he could no longer flap his wings
he would fly with her forever if she desired

—P.L. Thomas

accidental monuments to their shame

when they finally grew tired of it

really exhausted to the bone & marrow

the police handed over their weapons

& the military dismantled their arsenals

intricate explosives tanks fighter jets & bombers

lying there before them in great piles of truth

they stared in horror at a legacy of wasted metal

accidental monuments to their shame

& this is what they began to teach their children

—P.L. Thomas