1. broken hoses

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    big rig exhaust hangs like grey ghosts in the slant light of morning. the roadside shrubs are all thirsty, reaching upward for rain that never quite makes it to the tough earth: dirt and thistle are the only contenders in these drought days. the stink of just laid, hot asphalt reminds me of fathers and husbands; of good men, and not so good men; of men and women working for a few dollars that meant something more a couple decades ago:

    for some, it becomes easier, and somehow more rational, to buy whiskey or beer than to pay bills, and sometimes the bottle just isn’t big enough. they find that drowning the patterned, day-to-day tragedies starts to contain simple meanings that are easier to swallow than working for very little, for very long, for something that feels unholy and unnecessary.

    knowing more, in some fashion, is a hindrance, as it’s never enough to solve the problems that are too close to us; that we helped create.

    yet, those who have the big enough bottles want to crucify these individuals while they themselves piss and moan of tiny troubles. of dilemmas that aren’t at all: of dust and heat; sweat and spoil; broken AC’s and garden hoses; loose doorknobs; crooked trashcans; rust on the concrete; thin coyotes scavenging their old hunting grounds that are now half-vacant business parks, or housing developments with almost identical names for every street, court, and nondescript circle, lined by tan, brown, and beige houses. the complacent ones sit in armchairs, flapping gold wings with great fervor, while their asses never rise except to tyrannize those citizens who are not equipped to deal with a realization that doing what’s right to get ahead is much harder of a sacrifice in a society that not only elevates, but champions, bad men, doing bad things, for unfounded dumb glories and petty war devices: war not only on a global scale, but a local scale; a human scale, where we cheat the cheated to give more to those who already have too much.

    the unluckiest at life, those who fail at participating in an existence they cannot, and will not understand, will end up in programs, institutions, and hospitals that are underfunded; run by the underpaid. they will be treated for all manner of harmful chemical addictions, with more harmful chemicals (which eventually, they will also become dependent on) that are pimped by more complacent people who are more interested in far away vacations than sound health and honest solidarity with the human spirit. it would be wise to bet all the unfulfilling college degrees of all the unfulfilled professionals that the bigger lot of substance abusers became so because they were first addicted to love and decency; the idea of all things fine in life; the idea of possessing the same amenities that most people desire.  but when these seemingly uncomplicated wants wane further from the common grace of human dignity, drugs, alcohol, and other vices work well for small periods to fill the dark gaps in heart and head, until finally the nights turn blue, glued to even darker days. it’s a hell that can only be understood from the inside. it’s a hell with unseen flames; without rules, or reason. it is the worst kind of war.

    perhaps the long and the short of it is this: hope is an illusion. mankind’s biggest curse is that we are men. to avoid the gutters, jails, and hospitals, we must learn to become capable of anything we need to be capable of. we need to draw a good laugh whenever, and wherever, we can. we must tune in to the fact that life can bare its fangs at any unforeseen moment, at any one of us. we simply are not very kind to one another. our bravery is weak. we would rather knock our neighbors down just to elate our own pitiful egos, when it would be much easier just to be good.

    the evil is not in our illness. the evil is the illness.

    words and photos by Jay Halsey

     
  2. ON BORROW

    i believed that freezing in a hollow apartment at 20, wrapped in an electric blanket on borrow, was about as low as low could get; drifting from sorrow to bitterness, and briefly, very briefly, to god.

    the voices from next door were okay company over 39 cent noodles on most nights, and still most everything was crippled.

    nothing worked. and nothing was gained or lost for several months. it was nothing fading into more nothing. the days and hours didn’t move at all.

    i searched for romance in the cruelty, but just came up with more cruelty. i bloodied my knuckles on walls and doors, but never faces: there weren’t any. 

    i quit drugs

    and alcohol

    and some days smoking.

    then i would start again. with thunder and greed.

    then i would stop again. probably due to cold or flu.

    it was useless and dumb. i gave up on giving up finally,

    and regarded the blue sky stretching all over the place outside instead.

    the meaning behind it all was that there was none: just mouse turds, stale Marlboro air, and the thawing ice.

    that was enough to grow on. 

    and things began to get better.

    words and photos by Jay Halsey

     
  3. it’s a bone rank world, and all the bootstraps have snapped. a violent lethargy strangles the air, and the coffee is late. here, no hope grows and no hope will: only addiction and half-spent storms pointed wrongly at faces with stories more like epics, and less like fairy tales. everything stinks of damp defeat, and too much time.

    the wood swells.

    the heart shrinks.

    a heavy anvil sun crushes everything it touches. and the spider webs spun in dark are now most apparent in the first fires of dawn. it’s a bone rank world; even the in-between lines hold no answers.


    words and photos by Jay Halsey

     
  4. There was a woman, and she was wise; woefully wise was she;

    She was old, so old, yet her years all told were but a score and three;
    And she knew by heart, from finish to start, the Book of Iniquity.

    There is no room for such as I on earth, nor yet in Heaven;
    Unloved I live, unloved I die, unpitied, unforgiven;
    A loathed jade, I ply my trade, unhallowed and unshriven.

    I paint my cheeks, for they’re white, and cheeks of chalk men hate;
    Mine eyes with wine I make them shine, that man may seek and sate;
    With overhead a lamp of red I sit me down and wait

    'Till on they come, the nightly scum, with drunken eyes aflame;
    Your sweethearts, sons, ye scornful ones — ‘tis I who know their shame.
    The gods, ye see, are brutes to me — and so I play my game.

    For life is not the thing we thought, and not the thing we plan;
    And Woman in a bitter world must do the best she can —
    Must yield the stroke, must bear the yoke, must serve the will of man;

    Must serve his need and ever feed the flame of his desire,
    Though be she loved for love alone, or be she loved for hire;
    For every man since life began is tainted with the mire.

    Was I not born to walk in scorn where others walk in pride?
    The Maker marred, and, evil-starred, I drift upon His tide;
    And He alone shall judge His own, so I His judgment bide.

    Fate has written a tragedy; its name is “The Human Heart”.
    The Theatre is the House of Life, Woman the mummer’s part;
    The Devil enters the prompter’s box and the play is ready to start.

     
     

  5. this ain’t poetry

    Some days  Almost all nights  After some days 

    I would wall myself  From everything  Living and otherwise

    On that night  I sat and ate peanuts  Watering my mostly-dead house fern

    Listening to cars splash through puddles  Of a retreating thunderstorm

    And I sometimes questioned  Like that night and others before it

    How could I face another round  Of the everyday  Tomorrow?

    The hope was all but lost  When shackled by a work week  That no longer worked

    I pondered those thoughts  As I had 500 times before  Wondering why I hadn’t any beer  To wash away the apathy  Or the nuts

    Better off without I thought  As I watched  My poor plant die right before me

    words and photos by jay halsey

     
  6. we reach for original things, original thoughts, yearning to strangle the tired, listless currents of those who defecated on paths before us, demanding more than a firm squeeze in the shadows of banality and a gas station rose. 

    words and photos by jay halsey

     
  7. the affairs of our creation have become the instruments of our destruction. like a cancerous flower bounding forth from a desire and need more omnipotent than god. it is the sanctified. it is the damned. it is the taproot of our humanity.

    words and photos by jay halsey