FIREHOUSE BABY
By Austen Roye

1. hang in there

my springboard is a type of
social solitude
publicly isolated with head down
in plain sight.
managed two maybe three
hours of sleep and here now
far from home
foaming over ideas of
empty typewriter rooms
a desk by an open window that
makes me think of cigarettes.
I am trying to quit smoking
I am trying to tell you something
I am trying to remind myself
what it is to be
idealistic. 

I am right there on the cusp
of not knowing what the hell
the kids are talking about
not out of touch maybe
out of steam out of drive
just out of it.

people who have cosmic visions
have too much time on their hands
life is too short to party
with palm readers.

my angel of death
only reads books if they’re
first editions and says
he has my all figured out
because I’m a Gemini.
he hands me an ironic pamphlet
with Gandhi on the cover
doing a pull-up captioned,
“Hang in There.”

he asks me
what seems to be the problem
your disposition is negative
your vibes are anxious
your aura is shit-brown.

one day he’ll take me
as yours will take you
the game is rigged
which should be enough
to unify us all but somehow
doesn’t.

I can’t have visions of grandeur
doctor’s orders
something about a low blood
cell count I don’t know
I wasn’t listening.

at any rate
out of any conflict I’ll
take the one I know
I can win
which is the human heart
at war with itself.

besides I’m too
emotionally invested
but then again
that’s probably just
the Gemini
in me.

2. curtains

I’ll pay one day
for everything. 

one day I’ll pay for
looking so cool
smoking all these
cigarettes.

whether steaming in my
skin in Texas or a hotel
balcony in Budapest
tomorrow next fall or
craned over shoving a
broom over lifeless floor
tiles bleach and piss a
wheelchair by a window
a balloon on a string
in my hand wondering
if administrative assistants
ever win Nobel prizes.

here I am
a fish in a bowl
exploring a plastic
shipwreck.

3. firehouse baby

I said to myself,
I’ll write a comprehensive study
of average everyday activities
stricken with the weight of
crippling anxiety and paranoia
a life overcome by fear
which makes that life
anything but average.

regard fear as a living breathing thing
but never give it a name
because if you give it a name
it becomes all too real.

the way they don’t name pigs
destined to be slaughtered.

a name makes it all too relative
much too real
and therefore makes it all the more
difficult to abandon
to bury to cast out.
with a name your fear becomes
a beloved house pet you can
no longer afford to feed.

your fear becomes a
firehouse baby.

these are the notes I scribbled down
after eight or nine beers in sweatpants
pine needles pile of smoldering ash.
notes on a novel
and less than a page written of said novel
after a solid year of
someday
someday
someday.

I was spinning on wine one night
in bed beside her in the dark and
she said

tell me a scary story.

so I coughed one up as best I could
in such a state as I was in
did my best to raise and lower my voice
pause for dramatic effect
whisper when necessary.
something about ghosts
I don’t remember.

the next morning I woke heavy-headed
and she told me she’d had nightmares.
it was the story she said
it had left her a bit shook
to which I was both apologetic and
selfish as it is
somehow proud
believing nightmares to be a sign
of half-decent storytelling.
she suggested I try writing horror
and maybe I will who knows.

I used to think genre fiction
was dog shit on my shoe
for which I sincerely
apologize.

but writing about not writing
is hardly writing at all isn’t it?
how many publishers’ desks have
cracked and caved under a million or so
half-ass drab faux farces of ghost stories
1700’s period clothing
bonnets beards top hats carriages
ancient burial ground bones in basements
and don’t you ever go in the basement
footsteps in attics doors bursting open
and slamming shut anonymously
ominous faces in windows
always the creak of disheveled houses
and always the woods always the woods
running into it running out of it
the young couple the car breaks down
and in they go
you know the story.

how could the woods be anything
other than a catalyst for
death darkness evil
and not just a shit-load
of trees?

writing about not writing
a comprehensive study
average everyday activities
stricken by the weight of
crippling anxiety and paranoia.

notes on the novel
I read them back to myself out loud
then sat down and wrote
this poem instead
if that’s what this is.

that being said
consider this a horror story
and if it gives you nightmares
please know that I am both
apologetic and selfish as it is
somehow

proud.

About the Author:

Austen Roye

Austen Roye has contributed to numerous independent presses and literary magazines. Most recently, he published his first poetry collection, God Save Your Mad Parade, through Crisis Chronicle Press. He resides in Denton, TX.

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