“Billy Collins Stole My Memories” By Nathan Graziano

 

Billy Collins Stole My Memories

You can have them. I won’t press charges. 
I won’t miss most of them—the church pews
polished with Pine-Sol, the blandness 
of the Eucharist, the briny taste of guilt;
the dope then Suboxone then withdrawals;
the suicide attempt followed by a week
in the psych ward staring out the window 
as the cops approached a trap house, guns
drawn; the warm flesh of my infidelities. 
This morning I made breakfast without memories
or eggs or butter or a block of sharp cheddar. 
My kids didn’t notice that I was barefoot 
and Billy Collins was wearing my moccasins. 
But this strictly a no-return policy interaction. 
Everything is yours now, Billy. Don’t fuck it up.

 

About the Author: Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, with his wife and kids. His books include Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press), After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press) Hangover Breakfasts (Bottle of Smoke Press in 2012), Sort Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing in 2013), and My Next Bad Decision (Artistically Declined Press, 2014), Almost Christmas, a collection of short prose pieces, was recently published by Redneck Press. Graziano writes a baseball column for Dirty Water Media in Boston. For more information, visit his website: www.nathangraziano.com.

 

More By Nathan Graziano:

Homework on Uranus

Explaining Depression To My Cousin

Punchline

 

Image Credit: Bainbridge Colby, silhouette from The Library of Congress. Public Domain.

“Homework on Uranus” By Nathan Graziano

 

Homework on Uranus

I am washing the dinner dishes while my son,
shoulders slumped at the kitchen table, groans

about his science homework while my wife
waits with the patience of a beach stone

beside him, tapping a pen and pointing 
at his assignment. “Concentrate,” she says.

My son moans like a beaten dog then starts 
reading his assignment and begins laughing.

“Dad, this article says that Uranus is a ‘gas giant.’”
He buckles over, grabbing his gut, hysterical. 

My wife glares at me, a laser beam of derision,
hoping against hope that I’d be the father-figure,

explaining to my twelve-year old son that Uranus jokes
are sophomoric, that he needs to concentrate

on his school work and not succumb bathroom humor
or fatuous planet puns and concentrate, son. 

Concentrate. Instead, I drop the pot I’m drying 
and haw, a hearty guffaw. “Uranus is a gas giant!” I say.

My son blows a raspberry on his forearm, tears
streaming down his cheeks, and my wife stands up.

“I’m done. You help him with this,” she says to me
and leaves the kitchen, leaving my son and me, both

in middle school, giving wedgies in the locker room,
pulling fingers in class, laughing in the face of maturity.  

 

About the Author: Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, with his wife and kids. His books include Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press), After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press) Hangover Breakfasts (Bottle of Smoke Press in 2012), Sort Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing in 2013), and My Next Bad Decision (Artistically Declined Press, 2014), Almost Christmas, a collection of short prose pieces, was recently published by Redneck Press. Graziano writes a baseball column for Dirty Water Media in Boston. For more information, visit his website: www.nathangraziano.com.

 

More By Nathan Graziano:

Explaining Depression To My Cousin

Punchline

 

Image Credit: Photo of Uranus from NASA. Public Domain

“Punchline” By Nathan Graziano

 

 

Punchline

Here’s a joke in a loose poetic form.
Let’s be honest, people like reading
jokes more than they like reading poems.
In my older age, I’m becoming a realist,
like my father warned, only he used
the word “conservative.” Which I’m not.
At one time, I sat at this same desk
and believed that a poem could touch
the world and make the smallest dent
in whatever armor protects us from us.

So a poet walks into a bar with a parrot
on his shoulder, and the bartender says,
“Hey, where did you get that thing, bub?’
And the parrot says, “Starbucks. There’s
a ton of them.” Funny how that turned.   

 

About the Author: Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, with his wife and kids. His books include Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press), After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press) Hangover Breakfasts (Bottle of Smoke Press in 2012), Sort Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing in 2013), and My Next Bad Decision (Artistically Declined Press, 2014), Almost Christmas, a collection of short prose pieces, was recently published by Redneck Press. Graziano writes a baseball column for Dirty Water Media in Boston. For more information, visit his website: www.nathangraziano.com.

 

More By Nathan Graziano:

Explaining Depression To My Cousin

 

Image Credit: “Wallace & parrot, 2/29/24” (1924) Library of Congress

“Explaining Depression to My Cousin” by Nathan Graziano

 

 

Explaining Depression to My Cousin

 

It’s melodrama shot execution-style on a sidewalk.

It’s a pit in your stomach stuffed with fluff.

It’s two a.m. with morning’s foot pressed to its throat.

It’s me grabbing your hand and crying on your shoulder.

It’s words desperate to find a sentence that loves them.

It’s an airless dream then waking, suddenly, suffocated.

It’s not losing a job, a loveless marriage or the desertion

of a childhood dream that once made you smile.

It’s the pill you have to take twice a day, knowing

it’s not resolved with exercise or diet or thinking

the positive thoughts that positive people think.

It’s mustering the courage to wake up tomorrow and dress,

one stupid leg after the next laborious leg, and press on.

 

About the Author: Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, with his wife and kids. His books include Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press), After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press) Hangover Breakfasts (Bottle of Smoke Press in 2012), Sort Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing in 2013), and My Next Bad Decision (Artistically Declined Press, 2014), Almost Christmas, a collection of short prose pieces, was recently published by Redneck Press. Graziano writes a baseball column for Dirty Water Media in Boston. For more information, visit his website: www.nathangraziano.com.

 

More By Nathan Graziano:

“My Bipolar Ex-Love”

“The Misery of Fun”

 

Image Credit: “Nos” by Ismael Nery Public Domain

“The Misery of Fun” By Nathan Graziano

 

The Misery of Fun

 

I was holed up, purposefully, in my basement—the place where I hermit when I’m not obligated by work or another adult responsibility to leave and confront the outside world—when my wife came down the stairs, her heels clacking against the hardwood. She was holding her phone, staring at the screen. “So,” she said.

I knew that “so” and something was coming that I wasn’t going to enjoy hearing. “What is it?”

So my dad texted me, and they’re planning a trip for next April and inviting us and the kids,” she said.

“Tell me it’s not Disney World.”

“Disney World isn’t that bad,” she said with a lilt in her voice. “It’ll be fun.”

My head dropped into my hands. My wife was going to use the kids, who are now teenagers, to try to convince me into willfully entering the lost circle of Dante’s Hell.

And all of this would be done in the name of “prescribed fun.”    

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon—-which I probably am—-the idea of Disney World…hell, state of Florida alone, is enough to induce an anxiety attack. I’d rather be strung up by my toes and beaten with a broomstick than to stand in a 45 minute line next to a family of sunburned and overstuffed Midwesterners. There will be thousands of people with the same expectation: to have “fun” on the boat trip through It’s a Small World. Hop on, everybody, it will be a blast, everything you’ve waited to experience, so much fucking fun that you’ll pop like a fun-sucking tick.

“I’m not going,” I told my wife. “I don’t have enough Ativan to make it through a week there.” Continue reading

My Bipolar Ex-Love

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My Bipolar Ex-Love

By Nathan Graziano

 

I was at work, eating my lunch alone in my classroom—I generally try to avoid the teacher’s lounge and the ubiquity of its gossip hens. With my turkey sandwich in hand, I sat in front of the computer, entering grades, when my gnat-like attention span turned to Jessica, a woman I dated in my 20s and with whom I had my most tumultuous relationship.

I have difficulty believing intimacy between two people simply vanishes, ceases to exist in our thoughts and memories once we’ve moved on, so I have a tendency to tabs on my exes, either through social media or, in some cases, correspondence. Of course, some would rather not have anything to do with me, and that is also fine. As long I know they are well.

With Jess, she disappeared entirely from my life, never showed up again. I found this somewhat unsettling so I ran an Internet search on her name.

I nearly choked on a piece of half-masticated turkey when the results popped up seconds later and knew immediately that I wouldn’t be finishing my lunch.

The first search result was a link to Jess’ obituary.

###

After finishing college, with few prospects for teaching positions on the East Coast, I moved to Las Vegas where I taught high school for a year. The experience unfolded as one might expect the experience to unfold for a 23 year-old man living in a place that celebrates its tireless debauchery. I met Jess, a transplant for California, toward the end of my stay in Sin City.

One night, after taking a tough and ill-advised hit at a blackjack table—a gambler, I am not—I retreated to a bar around the corner from my apartment in North Las Vegas to soak my wounds with my friend, Brad. While lamenting the fiscal fuck-up that would leave me eating straight grilled cheese for a week, I spotted a striking brunette sitting alone across the bar.

“Look at her,” I said to Brad. “She is stunning.”

A gay man, Brad gave her a cursory glance to appease me. “Pretty,” he said. “You should buy her a drink.”

“Why would a girl like that be interested in me?”

“Stop it, Mr. Self-Deprecating,” Brad said. “Besides, how much more can you possibly lose tonight?”

Continue reading