National Poetry Month Continues : with Justin Chin

Back When I Knew Who I Was 

i was content to spend my afternoons
wondering what co-dependent meant
not realizing that those lazy
humid daylight hours was better  
spent figuring out the physics
of dependency and codeine dreams

back when i knew who i was
i was much better than i ever thought i was
i could conjugate fuck like nobody’s business
       fuck me, fuck you, fuck it, fuck him, fuck her
       fuck them, fuck yourself, holy fuck, goddamnfuckit

i could shovel dead pets off the driveway
     that my aunt ran over on her way to choir practice
     and not shed a single tear
i could choke down every family fight about money,
every caning that would come for no reason after those fights,
every time we were forced to go to my rich relatives for dinner and we’d
find ourselves in the kitchen cooking and doing the dishes.

i believed i knew the meaning of alcohol
i believed i knew how to get out of every scrap
i believed i wasn’t gonna make 25
i believed in 18 molecules of carbon
21 molecules of hydrogen
3 oxygen and one fab nitrogen
all in a sweet mixture enough to make me
feel like jennifer beals in flashdance
twirling my ass
in front of the snotty audition,
praying for a stinking place in 
the dance-a-thon of actuality

back when my balls were the size of brazil
and my ego was the size of the antarctica
and my courage was the size of phlegm
i learned to trust few people
learned to want little
and to need even less
i learned to say “FUCK IT”

with such ease and venom
the most cynical rattlesnake
would have its underbelly turn emerald
in two seconds flat.

you could wake to find yourself in some sweet danger,
in some piss-flavored version of addiction
designed to make up for lost time,
lost ideals, lost lovers, lost causes, lost saviours
but -shit- these days,
all i find is myself back when i was
back in the conga line of perpetual desire
the territory of an incessant need
i crave my one habit of a good man
and i want to secede from
the grip of addiction philosophy,
from the colony of “i should’ve known better”

fuck that 12-step thing, i say,
i like to keep my options open
and i like having the option
to get absolutely fucked up
when i feel like it,
and not feel like i fucked up, dammit.

do things change that much?
can some stupid sign from the almighty
whip you right around?
maybe i should be looking for visions of jesus
in billboards of spaghetti sauce,
visions of buddha in men’s semen,
maybe i’ll be a much better person
if i knew who i was when i knew who i was
but who the fuck do i think i am?
i can’t even piss straight into the bowl,
can’t even tell my lover that i want to cook him
breakfast for the rest of my life,
can’t even cross against the light,
     (ooh, walk to the light, walk to the light….)
can’t pay my bills on time nor balance my checkbook
can’t dance, can’t mosh,
can’t get fucked up like i used to, not that i want to anyway
can’t take it like a man, whatever that means.

all i can is kiss who i was
back when i knew who i was
goodbye, one great big tongue smooch
and wish him a good journey
as he walks to the light
and falls off the edge of the earth
and into a peaceful hell.

i’ll meet up with him later.

Justin Chin, from Bite Hard
     Manic D Press, 1997

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