The Poet

Erik Rittenberry



neglected of youth, high-heeled
whores strut their asses through
the crowded maze of the
barroom haze. cobwebs
of agony hang in the air
as the jukebox serenades
the lonesome. a fistfight detonates
between two drunks at the end
of the bar. everybody is sitting
around waiting to die as
intoxicated laughter
throws a guise over the
end of the world.

and there he is, death dripping
from eyelids, he takes a last-call
pull from the bottle, throws his coat on,
lights a half-smoked cigar & stumbles
out into the doveless night. the warm glow
from a lamppost throws shadows of serpents
against battered cobblestones. vagrants sip
whiskey under boxed shelters as they hold out
calloused hands for the gamble. the
moonlight careens up the seedy path
as the poet ambles towards the
dark den of his solitude.

he’s been here before,
he’ll be here again. his aimless
ways guide him through the flames
of an unknown fate. he’s not a solid citizen.
for him, culture is something to escape from,
not reside in. allegiances are only pledged
to the soil of his deep suffering
and to the empty wine bottles
sitting out on the curb.

he rarely votes,
or contributes to the economy,
or fastens to the fashionable
ideology of the day.
he doesn’t bathe often, or shave,
or care too much about appearance.
small talk brings him to the brink
of suicide, as do crowds, and most of
the other benign shit the people find
amusement it. he’s not moved or driven
by the surface of things.

and conformity
are honorable qualities
demanded of good citizens.
but they’re hemlock to
the poet’s inner being.
when forced into this mode
of living, he usually
drinks himself
into oblivion,
or contemplates
the bullet.

this is nothing new
you’ve seen it before…

it’s Sylvia Plath on a cold
London night, worn down by
domestication and marital fights,
shoving her head in a gas oven,
asphyxiated, while her kids in the
upstairs loft sleep soundly,
and it’s the self-inflicted bullet ripping
through the brain of Hemingway soon after
his art and grit began to waste away,
it’s Edgar Allen Poe, drunken and
haggard-looking, lying in the gutters
of the cold streets of Baltimore,
nevermore. it’s Virginia Woolf –
unable to listen anymore
to the voices in her head –
the river of her doom
on a bleak, spring

morning comes with bright rays of pain.
bruised eyeballs strain as they gaze
at the roof of a one-room
flat. muddled, desert mouth,
dehydration takes its toll. the spirit
wanes, the sound of a garbage truck
rattles the ground, ants crawl up dusty
bookshelves as the poet slips tired feet
into slippers and shuffles toward
the smell of the black venom

After the coffee shakes
him from his slumber,
he strolls down the alley
to a park where he sits
on a bench under the shade
of an ancient oak. he closes
his eyes and listens as the
breeze whispers secrets from
the valley of ashes.

his days are spent with those
who the good citizens
sneeringly label “salt of
the earth.” he dwells with
the beggars,
the prostitutes,
and the back alley winos.
he sips beers with
the impure who’ve departed
the ranks of a banal,
mechanical sort of existence,
people who’ve refused to
sacrifice their lives
for the comforts of a
dying world.

unburdened by the weight
of things, labeled insane,
disentangled from the cord
of the mundane, livin’ against
the grain, the poet dances in the
of the unconscious, a place
where most are afraid to go,
bringing to light a deeper
dimension of our own


when it’s time to create,
when the eternal Apollo
and Dionysus coalesce
to spark that fierce flame
that drives the poet into
deep solitude,
that’s when the magic
blooms out of the serpent-infested
garden, giving new breath
to the old myths, interweaving
the ravens and the doves of the azure
sky, casting the shadow of man’s
existence to the forefront
of each man’s eye.

in a time of tyranny, war,
and despair, the poet forges ahead,
fully aware he’s needed more than ever.
he has accepted the chronic
hangovers from nights
of rage, and swallows the chaos
knowing that that’s the
only way to magnify
the eternal joy
of a terrifying age.

only the mad are able to do it,
only the demented nomads
that take on the burden
of that dreadful drive down
that dicey road of desolation,
a road that often leads right
to the front steps of the asylum
or, even worse-

but the poet endures,
never satisfied,
never content,
living in a haze of misery,
eyes blasted with ruin, soul forever
tormented by the dead but
ardently alive
through the art of making
the unknown known
to the very few
willing to
open their


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s