– for Paul J.

The thing is, to keep busy, or
so they tell you the
first morning of the
first day after
they’ve checked you in, as
you slump slack in
a brown metal folding chair in
an off-white room with
gray linoleum flooded with
fluorescent light in
a loose circle of
other chairs filled with
other people slumping or
hunched or hugging themselves or
rocking back and forward, humming with
the words they’re scribbling in
the margins of paper scraps while
one man has hands wrapped around
a cup of coffee gone cold and
another mutters unheard words—

most already know that
keeping busy is not even close to
the thing and so you wait for
someone to arrive who
might tell you whom you should pretend
to be today, what should occupy
your nights, what might pull
your mind forward through
one day and one day and one day and
move you out of the pulse of
your panic into
a less fractured light and
pluck you, blinking, out of
the slumbering black river
you’ve worked so hard to
let your life become.




(first appeared in the April 2014 edition of The Waterhouse Review)