Black Kettle

[From BLACK]

Black Kettle OR Not Mine You’d Say / Filled With Junk

i remember the first night we kissed. it’s blurry in my memory yet i can slip there quite easily

if i just close / my / eyes

we were sitting on the floor with our backs to the wall

in the front living room of the place you called home

on Markoe St in West Philadelphia in the Spring of 2009.

i’m sure others were there, i know Others were there

but they were, and are, unimportant.

i don’t know why it felt so unexpected. it’s not like it didn’t feel natural–it did. i guess i was just so caught up

in my own whirlwind

of being young and lost and recently heartbroken and uncomfortably

vulnerable to really even consider


perhaps you felt the same?

i’m sure there was music playing, drugs being done,

drugs already in our bodies, keeping us awake, putting us to

sleep again, long after the stars were asleep, long after the sun

came up.

i’m sure it was dirty.


in that place

cigarette butts and empty little drug bags everywhere,

not quite empty but all of them torn open by some desperate souls

the grime of how-many-fucking-people’s saliva-licked fingers the last remaining remnants

i’d watched the same people pick up the same bags for months, then cast them down in bitter disappointment

random bits and fragments of could-be identities and might-someday-be talents

hanging on the walls.

Jackson, our then friend Stacy’s then pitbull puppy (then cuz Stacy’s dead now…cuz heroin’s a bitch)

Jackson was probably pissing or shitting in the corner next to us, probably on the blankets crumpled in a pile,

the same blankets one of our friends would curl up with the next time

they actually decided to get some shuteye

everything there felt dirty and criminal and unsafe.

covered in old sweat, devoid of dignity

but it was the place i kept coming back to day after day, because i had

nowhere better to go

i snorted ketamine to keep the terror at bay

keep me from myself

everything got hazy, felt good, reeeeeaaaaaal good, felt melty, flowing, elastic,

real, real nice

and suddenly our hands were touching–we were holding hands.

it was this feeling of utter surprise

like that time as a small child when the neighbor’s big dog knocked

me to the ground. it’s one of my earliest memories from the duplex on Walnut

Avenue in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in the early 90’s.

the early 90’s, when life still felt real.

i forcefully hit the ground on my back. i looked up, tried to sit up, tried to breathe,

couldn’t breathe, the impact was shocking. i panicked.

i gasped and within milliseconds (but it felt like forever) my lungs began to work again.

i took a big desperate inhale. 


i lost my breath. it stopped me in my tracks

it jostled me out of whatever drug induced stupor I was in, because

we were holding hands

and your hands were so clean. clean and soft. baby hands. bigger than mine,

not small or anything but still, baby hands.

perfect and clean and soft and safe.

Nothing like the rest of that god-forsaken house. Nothing. Nothing.

Or not.

maybe that’s just how i want to remember it, how i want to remember you, cuz i don’t want to remember me

maybe i’m fantasizing and romanticizing this like i do everything else in life,

maybe my therapist would classify this as “magical thinking”

but i want ti think of us as two perfect wholesome crusaders, two glorious beams of light

hiding out in our fortress, our love castle, our safe haven, ours

away from the madness, way away from all that.

we weren’t one of them.

not us.

not you anyway.

but it couldn’t be less true

we weren’t crusaders of anything

we were just as slobbering and stuttering and depraved as the rest of them

i was just a pot calling you a

black kettle

our fortress was not a fortress but a room, a lonely little room

whose door had no doorknob, but instead a gaping hole

where hornier and even more desperate friends would peep in while we were

grinding our bony malnourished disembodied selves all over each other on that “bed”.

was it a bed?

it was a mattress of sorts on the floor. i think it was a mattress pad i don’t fuckin know

it was designed for a child and always looked so desolate and bent out of shape in the corner

like no one would ever want to make love on it

or even fuck

but i guess we still tried, with varying degrees of success

the room was not so much a love castle as it was

filled with junk

clothes everywhere. not your clothes. or at least not clothes i’d ever seen you wear. someone else’s. Stacy’s clothes you’d say. That other homie’s artwork you’d say. His stuff. Her crap. Junk.

someone else’s

“Not mine” you’d say

one time I found used needles in that room  

“Not mine” you’d say

5 years later you came to San Francisco 

and we made quasi-plans to

maybe get coffee

maybe have a chat

maybe have a laugh about that one time i accidentally got that sawed-off shotgun

pulled on you at Rothbury Music Festival, that time i almost got you killed.

instead you stayed at my house for 3 days in a row.

i called in sick to work. i skipped all my classes. i disappeared again in some

new but familiar space, with someone new but familiar.

and your hands were just as soft five years later

But how?

…with all you’d seen… all you’d touched… all you’d forgotten to love about yourself…

and you tell me you’ve been back to jail (twice)

that you’ve racked up 7 felonies

that you’ve been homeless, beat up

that you’ve stuck needles filled with junk in your arms, your neck, i don’t know where else, i don’t want to know where else.

i still somehow can’t even picture you like that.

Surely It Must Have All Happened.

but it eludes me.

and your hands feel like all you’ve ever done your whole life is bounce around in clouds

and lay your angelic face on pillows made of marshmallows and silk.

five years later and the mystery is still there

the shock. the milliseconds of i can’t breathe…

“Not mine” you’d say.

written May 2014

Tell Me How U RLY Feel Tho

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