By Dave Oprava
prone, alone, facing up,
errant wafts of aerosol lilies,
having used up every organ
and passing on the post-mortem,
wonder, who chose the music?
Goddammit, I said when I was dead
I wanted a feast in a field
with pissed people pissing around
swilling whiskey to the dulcet sounds
of Bobbie Gentry and the Grateful Dead,
instead, I have Mozart, Chopin, Brahms,
and some poor bastard I can’t even name:
I would’ve preferred Wagner, loud.
swathe of new cut grass
as it tickles bees’ bellies
atop the grave mound.
Not a bad turn out, most people I know
except for the misplaced relatives
thrown like spanners at toolbox of mementos,
but the kids, they look good, the grandkids too,
small faces pressed to the casket rim,
my son says, hope they remember him.
But, if I’d had my way,
people would be stripping chicken wings,
shotgunning tepid beer,
some dumb-ass would scream,
“remember when Dave did that, now that was funny,”
then the inevitable pause twixt the communal exhales,
bad timing, at least they’re crying,
varied things in their hearts,
swallowed by shadows
sloughed off by trees in darkness,
muffled crashes, cries.
seeing through foggy years, unpronounceable tears,
because the real rot always seems to fade
like scarred and scared skin now covered in the bland,
unearthed for one last stand beside the vagaries of being
then back to the rubbish bin of what has been,
the dead are given a second chance,
the smiling shit I was, or pretended to be,
gets to be whatever they wanted from me.
She is here, the one I couldn’t set free,
never stepped inside her soul,
always tip-toed in soft soled shoes,
what good is it now if even Viagra
and a bit of spit couldn’t make me rise?
Would have to be the second coming.
She cries, why?
We hadn’t spoken in twenty years and those tears,
baby, I would have done more than kiss them away,
yet I was too limp for that libido swing;
just a wallflower hugging missed opportunities.
a look askance hid
beneath a laugh of longing,
left empty handed,
I had the chance but drowned it,
never made her mine, trying to be a nice guy
by not saying what was on my mind,
but how I would, fuck, love to do it now.
She’s sagged, been bagged by lesser guys,
has proud grandkids back home,
but I know underneath those lines and time
is a girl with pert tits,
a stubby nose, and a dirty ear
that loved to hear the filthiest things,
yet we weren’t half-dead then,
there was still so much fear,
My wife gives her a kiss on the weeping cheek,
says thank you for coming,
although she knows what this means,
that love never died, unlike hers and mine
and it makes me stand up in my coffin, scream,
“Ok, listen up, no fucking platitudes, ok?”
I try to be still and listen to the reminisces
they conjure, like a fable
pulled from a fairytale book
creating the myth of a man who was smarter, funnier,
and more honest than me,
although dead, I still feel that damned
beast-like libido, the alcoholic bent,
and the serious problem with anything
that even smelt like authority,
yes, that was me.
I am looking forward to when this is done,
when the casket cover flung shut,
and the music’s over, turn out the lights
at night so I’m able to chat with my worms,
what do they say, mmm, this bit is tasty,
oh, bit dry for my likes, well try over there,
Bill seems to be having a good time with the eyes,
hey, you, back off, this bit is mine,
and I would say, so hey guys,
how do I taste today?
They look up from breakfast and say,
honestly Dave, you were a bit fresher yesterday.
crumbling dirt rivulets
run down the hole like children
coming out to play.
Early retirement at fifty, because I can,
for the first time in twenty years
I don’t have to stand in line for the toilet,
kids gone away, quiet house all day
looking at my wife, seeing myself in her eyes,
thinking, what the hell, who put that fat fart in my bed,
she says, what do you want to do today?
I roll over, what to do when one
will be dead in twenty years, a lot of time to kill,
buy a caravan, move to the south coast,
go on bus trips to eastern Europe and find
they caught up with us, surprised to see that Blackpool
is more third-world than Belarus.
Out the window is the garden in its fine estate,
nothing to do there, but sit and wait for a seagull to crap
on the chairs, the grass, the bumpy old pear tree,
sipping a drink in the late morning sun,
coming up with nothing fun
and being bored, perhaps ring,
what time is it there?
No idea, lost count, besides,
she’s the kind of woman too cautious
to answer the phone from a number
more than a few miles from home,
but maybe seeing her one last time
would be something good,
a smile, a kind of reinvention of what has past,
she might even hold my hand and say,
remember what happened the last time?
we and the willow
by the pond in weeping bloom,
rolling nude in the ripples,
no matter what it was, anything,
I would nod, smile, grin, laugh and say,
yes, yes, yes, it was just that way!
Perhaps that is what defines a crisis,
when looking at toilet paper
you see, that was me, this is me,
this is what could have been,
you jump off the pot and run into oblivion,
because there’s no time to waste,
make haste and get on that plane,
back into her life, arrive at the door
in sweat and lather, panting,
those words saved up and written on airline napkins,
she comes to the door, and gasps,
oh my, how long has it been?
Well now, come inside, the kids
are here with their newborn, Frank,
and you know my second husband, the one after Hank,
yes, well this is Jim, you pretend it’s nice to meet him
and for three hours you sit, smile, drink tea and nod,
the entire time thinking, I am too goddamned late!
thirst quenched by the dew
clinging to the threads, a blanched
fly in the same web.
Never mind, would have done it by now
if it seemed plausible somehow,
that was always the bind,
making a bed to sleep in only to find
that the sheets are too tight
and it’s a long dying of night,
each time I turn, the sheets get tighter ’til
one morning, awaken to find that life is frozen still,
a straight jacket built by me for me,
knowing inside, this is all there will ever be.
too stubborn to break,
the neck squeaks out creaking
groans on the wet rope.
Whew, can’t be that bad,
second gin and tonic is going down grand,
it’s almost noon, perhaps some lunch
and a nap listening to high summer birds
going twittery-twat as my hairy nostrils suck
in the smell of that gorgeous jasmine.
Yes, life’s not so bad now that I’m retired,
my chance to do something I truly wanted
has finally, after all this time, expired.
In some ways, it’s a relief, giving up the belief
that there was ever supposed to be
something called happy.
drunk in the flowers,
bed of jasmine and lilies,
the smell of God coming.
Middle-aged at thirty-five,
a sod coming to terms with the notion
that this is what it means to be alive:
expectation, watching wife-mother dispense children,
lactation, working hard at something to take up time,
trying to grip the idea that actions, thoughts, and being
are solely mine, ownership, a lousy state of affairs
as, for the first time, I lose my breath climbing the stairs
’cause the kid is screaming, what does it really want,
food, piss, shit, a hug, a smile, and a reason for being alive?
Yes, perhaps the existential anger
at his mom and dad,
hey, you brought me into the world,
now what the hell do you expect me to do?
Nothing, I suppose, be cute and cuddly
like they are on TV,
goo-goo ga-ga and smile at me?
Yeah, too much to ask, you just keep on screaming
for no real reason, because I am off to the pub,
where I can sit, drink, and not feel anything
but the hiccupping of my liver choking on shit,
that and the guy next to me who never had kids,
beer mat soaked regret
bubbling up from drunken depths
more needed to forget.
he’s getting old, crusty, and bitter,
because there was no point to it all,
he turns and says, got kids?
I tell him, yeah, he says, ahhh, the best thing in life,
I think, how the fuck do you know, oh wait,
you must have watched the same TV show.
Back at home the wife is irate,
who the hell do I think I am coming in so late,
waking the kid, stumbling, can’t even speak straight,
she is right, I am ashamed, sleep on the sofa until five
when I need a shit and some water,
birds chirping too loud,
sheets don’t smell bad enough yet,
one more day in bed.
Being unsatisfied is like banging your dick into a wall, he says,
he should know, his liver is more shredded than mine
and I am feeling just fine as he waxes rhapsodic
about the meaning of it all, so I turn to him and say,
what do you mean, about being unhappy and dicks
and what is all this shit,
he looks over, chokes a smokers limping laugh,
and says, don’t you get it, it’s like this…
I’m nodding, I get it, I leave to take a piss,
standing in the toilet stall I look at my dick
and I look at the wall,
and wonder, how bad could it be?
But before the urge possess me,
I start to understand,
you can slap your beef-sticks against the bricks,
but why, you need to take care of your prick,
like your mind, you can wallow as long as you like,
but at the end of the day, it’s your own fucking fault.
If we make poor choices,
we have to lie in the wake of life passing by,
so I run back out to tell this guy, I get it,
but he’s gone, found someone else to harangue,
and in the morning, I will have forgotten the thought,
tomorrow will start, same as yesterday,
just with a different name.
overripe smell from
richness gone off, seeping out
of the toilet door.
University done, damn, sad to leave,
but how glad that life has finally begun,
the wide world to explore in a 1985 Volvo estate
with nothing better to do than listen to tunes and groove
until some good work comes up, maybe see some friends,
crash on their couch as we smoke dope and pretend
that there isn’t a job to go to tomorrow.
In my case, there isn’t, I’m a free kid
with nothing but breezes at my back,
looking around, seeing how the chips stack
and I think I’ll wander abroad, see what there is to see,
write poems, smoke, drink tea in little pubs,
spend the night in Euro-trash clubs,
wake up dishevelled, confused, out of fags
but with a few sticky Deutsch Marks in hand,
wander to the corner automat, crank out a pack,
smoke on the street, listening to the morning traffic
and play with the cobbles under my feet.
Hell, what was her name, the one
that pleased my pickle,
doesn’t matter, get my shit and catch
the next train going somewhere, anywhere,
as long as it’s not the same place as yesterday.
sweet spring air breathes in
my smell, stops, and smiles at
a deflowered man.
On the road for long enough and missing home,
wondering what friends are doing, tired of the roaming,
catch a flight back and see mom and the farm,
can’t sit still, find others who have gotten on with their lives,
Nick, wow, that’s great, med school,
yeah, I am thinking about something like that too,
Rob, looking good, in a band and writing for a music mag,
very cool, yeah, I am thinking of doing something like that too,
Ben, just wrote a book, amazing man,
yeah, I’ll get around to that soon.
dead end sign hung loose
on a rusted nail, arrow points,
narrow road ahead.
Go back to school, nothing else to do,
get a degree that I’ll never use,
now a master of an arcane art, shit, have to teach,
so I get a job at a second-rate college
and profess to know something when nothing is coming,
in or out, just doing the thing, still drinking hard
and playing the guitar, writing at night, but it’s all the same,
bland bullshit coming from dead-end middle-class dreams.
Before I know it, will be ten years gone,
and I will never have meant to stay
anyplace, anywhere, anytime for that long.
I met her at the bar, she had a boyfriend
but I was so far gone I kissed her anyway
and we were engaged six weeks to the day,
married a year later and wasn’t long
before the kid was coming, happened so fast,
a repast consumed with youthful vigour,
lust, and foolish romantic notions
that this must be the way it is,
love at first sight, grab it, hold tight,
fuck it, marry it, make a life,
have to believe that it’s right,
yet, another fight and still another,
can’t back down, out,
or even dream of something else;
this was my choice,
live with it, make it work,
it can’t be that hard, can it?
razor wire tickling
tender baby palms, grab on
tightly for dear life.
god this hurts,
I was just here I’m sure,
the vortex sucking sound
pulling back out of the ground
of slumber in a womb full of noise,
a voice, I know that one,
must be my mom,
the smell of blood and mucus flushes me,
too bright, can’t see
but can feel the slimy nature
of this human newborn,
crown of nature,
I am the discombobulation of the molecules passed
on to me by that life that used to be,
born again with similar features,
but just that little bit different,
a combination mix-mash animation
and I cry, scream my fucking lungs out,
use my animal voice, because I know,
ahead of me somewhere out there,
there is a life replete with the truth,
the only freedom I’ll ever have
is to have a choice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dave Oprava writes because he has to. He is too scared not to. He lives in Wales and shoots his shit into the void and sometimes it comes back in someone else’s guise.