Poetry

Red-Eye

Illusions Break and Set Me Free

Medieval Steampunk

East of Nowhere


Red-Eye

By Palmer Pickering

The seventy-year-old woman looks hotter
Than the thirty-year-old in line behind her
She orders her mini bagel and red-eye triple espresso
And says, I’m off to walk my twelve miles
Four laps around the Rose Bowl, it’s such a glorious day

You make the best red-eye, it’s an art, she tells the barista
Good, he says, then I won’t kill myself today
Someone appreciates my art
She laughs, how did you get so good at making coffee
Comes from being poor, he says
The gold bangles around her wrist jangle
As she throws a bill in the tip jar and gives him a wink

He says,
I want to be an artist, I told my dad
I was a teenager with long hair, a disappointment to him
Do that and you’ll be poor, my dad says
You’re going to law school
I moved out and slept on my friend’s couch
And became a poet instead

Words fill notebooks
Notebooks fill shelves
Shelves collect dust
The smell of roasted coffee beans from Costa Rica
Shade-grown, certified organic
He watches the dark brown espresso stream into the shot glass
Three dollars an ounce
Five bills in the tip jar and a handful of change

I’ll never be who my father wants me to be
But he was right about one thing
Being poor is not fun
I used to think suffering made for better poetry
Now I think it just makes me hungry
A man cannot live on bagels and espresso alone
Or maybe he can

I guess I’ll try it for another day
Get out my pen and work
To put joy and suffering into words
And make you
Another red-eye


Illusions Break and Set Me Free

By Palmer Pickering

I don’t fully appreciate the power of my illusions until they break.
And then I realize I have been lost in a house of mirrors of my own making.
It is a moment of naked liberation.

Outside forces can break these illusions.
When time stops and everything is in sharp focus.
Lots of things can wake me up.
Stars at night.
Making love.
The mist of a waterfall.
A punch in the face.
A car crash.
A death.

Sometimes I can disperse the clouds of illusion on my own.
It first starts with awareness that I am making up my life.
Living in my head.
A fantasy starring me.

At first I hang on.
I see the power and allure of it all.
The juicy goodness of life as I wish it was.
I build bigger and bigger castles.
More intricate. More complex.
So big I forget the way out of my own maze.

But awareness has its cost.
The spell is broken.
I am no longer truly lost.
My footsteps echo in the empty stone hallways.
No one else lives in the castle.
I don’t even live there.
It doesn’t really exist.

The illusion comes crashing down around me.
Beams and bricks and satin brocade curtains.
I stand there as the dust billows up around me and clears.
In one broad sweep it is gone.
My life as it is stands bare and exposed.

There is something sobering and freeing.
When I get rid of all the garbage.
Here I am. Alone.
In the simple truth of my fragile, mortal life.


Medieval Steampunk

By Palmer Pickering

I’m medieval by day and steampunk by night
A friendly joust, a dagger fight
From dawn till dusk I‘m straight and true
In my flaxen garb and leather boots

A suit of armor, wooden shield
A hand-forged sword of folded steel
My face is stern, my feet are firm
On the rocky soil of this Earth

When daylight surrenders to the dark
The lens of my mind looks to the stars
The gears of time turn in my head
A steam train lures me to my death

You may think I’m a farmer, hunter, king, or queen
But trust me I am none of these things
A priestess, scholar, or a mage
Perhaps, but only by light of day

The shadow side, the other me
A Victorian space traveler on a grand journey
Satin and copper, lace and tweed
Pour me a sherry, won’t you, my sweet?


East of Nowhere

By Palmer Pickering

Nightmares wake me up the same time every morning
At first light when mockingbirds sing their hearts out
As if by singing loud they can pretend night does not exist

It's a sad thing what happened to those boys
Who thought that doing bad things would make them numb (kill the pain)
Perhaps digging ones own grave does kill off the last of what's inside
So there's nothing left to hurt when death finally comes

I think they'll have to dig themselves out no matter what
And now they've got a long ways to go
Because there's only one way out of hell and that's up

Train whistles blow all night long like guilt that hammers home
All that they did that they can't forget
They pray for death to make it end because death washes all sins away
Or so they say

Their biggest fear is that their deeds will follow them through the night
And haunt them until they make things right
But how do you undo what’s been done
Some things only happen once

I live in the land east of nowhere
The bad side of town good people fear
I was born here
No way to leave except in a coffin
I hope you never get lost and make your way across the tracks
You might never find your way back