‘Agony’: a word with three syllables. The same number as ‘contentment.’
‘Derailleur’ has three syllables as well, as in the device on a bicycle,
And not someone or something that derails.
Agony, though, that’ll derail you. Agony is the great derailer.
However well you detail your agony,
Whether you analyze it precisely with scientific language
Or you adorn it poetically with lyrical verse,
The agony itself does not go away. Agony is patient, and agony is not kind,
And once it lodges in the space between heart and gut,
The agony will remain there, whether you are aware of it or not.
You do not need to be agonizing over something in particular
In order to feel it.
The love of your life does not need to leave you
In order to feel it.
You do not need to become an alcoholic, lose your job,
Have your wife cheat on you, and be convicted of a felony
In order to feel it, though all that certainly helps.
But you can know agony without any of these things occurring.
Agony can drill into your skull when you have a secure job and a loving wife,
And you step outside the oppressing house to cry out to the 3 a.m. silence,
‘Is a job and a wife all I am good for?
Is there not something else, more exceptional, that I was made to do?’
Agony can suffocate you when you are recognized
For your exceptional contributions to society,
And you mutter in the misery of your celebrity,
‘To be seen and recognized: No imaginable suffering is more worthy of dread.
Fleet-footed dancers of fate: Hand back to me my anonymity.’
Agony can pierce you when you are alone, an anonymous man in the wilderness
Overwhelmed by the beauty of a desert sunrise, and even in your awe the agony
Does not leave you but speaks to you with a voice cruel in its soundless torment,
‘Would you not be still more filled with awe, that much closer
To being entirely at peace with yourself and the world,
If you were seeing this beauty with a lover, with one who sees you?’
To feel agony is to feel utterly incomplete, fractured in some way
Or in more ways than it is possible to comprehend all at once,
And to be unable to accept this state.
Agony is the unrelenting want, need, for things to be different,
The need to change what you cannot bear to feel,
And what you feel you have no power to change.
Striving to write the truth means all too often hearing the sobs
And feeling the throbs of an agonized heart,
And writing with the feeling.
In just this way I wrote this poem.

“These Are The Nights”

There are nights when you can’t sleep until you’ve made efforts to awaken,
nights you feel fully the futility of all your efforts,
your eternal failure to wake up in time.

These are the nights when the knowledge that you are spirit is simply that,
for these nights you feel spiritless,
and the feeling in you masters the knowledge.

These are the nights you pick up book after book, putting each one down
after a few sentences. You turn off the light to go stand on the porch,
and you hunger for the moon to give you one true word.

These are the nights when you know the dawn
will not revitalize or exorcise, will only terrorize you as only it can,
nights you wish would last longer so you could remain hidden in darkness.

These are the nights you spend weighing your options,
oscillating between extremes, unable to balance unstable dreams
of who you might have been with the unmovable weight of who you are.


I no longer need you, but
I do still need
to feel the hunger
I used to feel for you,


I no longer need to be alone, but
I do still need
to feel the hunger
I can’t help but feel


I no longer need to drink, but
I do still need
to feel the thirst I couldn’t help
but feel when I couldn’t drink.
I need to create
out of that endless hunger.

Don’t think

I needed
to love you.
I did anyways; I couldn’t help it.
I loved you then
the way you need him now;

I’ve heard

the way you talk to him;
it’s the same way my poems never sounded
when you read them back to me.

Well, here goes:

I hungered for you to hunger for me;
when you hungered for me,
I was glutted with you
and hungered for her,


I’m afraid my hunger will devour me,
that it cannot be satisfied,

and also

I’m afraid I hunger only
for what keeps me hungry.

There’s this:

If we are afraid together,
will we be half as afraid?

And this:

if we are alone together,
will we be twice as alone?

And, of course, this:

if we are hungry together,
will you take care of the bill?

Tell me:

When the storm rages
will you let me sit,
surrounded by it,
to meet with stillness?


why some days can I sit for hours,
patient like the mountain laurel,
while other days I am a child who waits
for a roller coaster, a child who hates
roller coasters, yet in strange ways
hungers for what he hates.

Answer me:

If I say
I cannot receive love
I cannot receive enough love
I hunger for what keeps me hungry,

will you understand?