Friday, November 11, 2022

“It’s A Lifestyle” (Ode to PTSD)

—Charles Tooker, 2018

San Quentin, CA


Taps knocks buzz-whirs,

Traps locks cuss-words,

Curse my reaction!

Regain neuro traction.

Control breathing and placate seething.

In through the nose, out through the mouth—

    that’s for the birds; send it south.

Step away, count to 10, then back to 1.

Oh, it’s a lifestyle, my friend; you’re never done.

Merely existing, yet hoping to live, and to beg that we forgive;

Or, at least, beg your pardon as I sow my garden.

Meanwhile, weedin’ and weedin’, cultivating

    my addled vision of Eden.


Alas, forever tortured by but a pindrop;

A quick start, sudden stop.

While you simply thwart pain by knowing

    reds on yellas kills fellas,

I limply shun sidewalks in the rain,

    terrified by umbrellas.

Ration and reason are so last season

The new black is passion and mental treason

Ripe to scratch out my eyes from phantom of sorrow;

But recall I just used them today, and’ll likely

    need them again tomorrow.


So, you think you can tell heaven from hell?

Blue skies from rain?

Can you tell a green field from a barren plain?

Do you think you can tell?

Taps from knocks, buzzes from whirs;

Traps from locks, cusses from words?

I can’t ... and I can.


*Spoken word-poetry inspired by incessant, relentless PTSD triggers in prison, eliciting knee-jerk mental, physical, and, all too often, vocal reactions.