On my favorite hiking trail
a man hung himself
from a coast live oak.
I walk past
deep leaf litter
he trampled off path.
The muddy tracks we left
cutting him down. I consider
the sturdy branch; say to the tree
it is not your fault
the man with his infinite knots
roped you as laden witness.
I wait for a response:
furtive rustle of serpent in scrub
or passing shadow of hawk--
any kind of presence.
In the prevalence of nothingness
I mutter this mantra to myself.
You crisscross slit your wrists
to match the bent oak tree out back;
arthritic branches scraping panes.
Silhouettes of hunched figures
sylph past your shuttering eyelids.
Window blinds broken and stained.
You lost your job at the halfway house
for relating to your patients too much:
pill bottles safeguarded in medical cabinetry.
You swallowed the aluminum wishing to
zipper a linear connection: throat-heart-gut.
Internal bleeding doesn’t hurt a lot.
You’re not trying to kill yourself.
The silver shards of an old Nirvana CD
are phonographs scraping open your wounds.
The salty ER nurse jokes you can’t eat iTunes…
A trunkful of tranquilizers taproots your mind
as they put you to sleep to scope the reason why
you only sing on the inside.
She flings a dart against the wall
to see where it will pin.
And after many cartographies
she tacks a map of scant islands.
She tours the earth, sticks to no plan,
her hands submerged in ocean.
Paddling there makes her proud--
it’s not the destination.
She moves wherever sharp ends land:
if lost, at risk, still brave in failure.
Life is meander, thirst and whim--
through the holes
she stabs in the paper.
Joe Amaral's first poetry collection “The Street Medic” won the 2018 Palooka Press Chapbook Contest and his poem "Epochal" was a finalist for the 2019 River Heron Review Poetry Prize. His writing has also appeared in 3Elements Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Panoply, Poets Reading the News, Rise Up Review and Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora. Joe works 24-hour shifts as a paramedic on the California central coast, spending days off adventuring outdoors with his young family. You can find him at jadetree.org
Author photo by @bogdogphoto
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