Poetry: Selections from James Roach

My Own Hands Put the Monsters in My Mouth

I cannot blame the beasts
at the bottom of the bottles
if my own hands put the monsters in my mouth.
Among the whispers of bartenders,
I was a warning label,
more comfortable on a barstool
than at home.
At Nathan’s party,
under disco lights and 90’s R&B,
I repeatedly tried to put my lips on someone
who didn’t want them,
not noticing then
her eyes turning from kindness
to fearful.
A friend drove me home,
had to pull over so I could throw up
all the bad decisions  I don’t remember.
At Heather’s wedding, I took to the rhythm
of a hurricane,
a thundering chaos of loneliness.
I drowned the other guests
in my upcoming divorce,
I hit on people
I wasn’t attracted to,
and while better behaved guests
used paddleboards on the still water,
I got sick in Puget Sound.
I was graced
with a safe way home,
a gift I didn’t deserve.
I was always given
a ghost of Christmas past tour
of everything I lost sight of,
the theme of my life:
I needed other people to tell me
how I was living it. 

Shame in Seven Stanzas

1. The day I got my new Honda Fit, 
I drove it everywhere but home,
where my eventual divorce 
was waiting to be let in
after locking himself out.  

2. I wanted to show everyone 
the shine of its fresh coat
of blackberry pearl paint,
the way it didn’t scream 
like my old car,
a piece of cheap metal that I’m shocked 
scraped through from the midwest 
to Washington
without digging its own grave. 

3. I threw my new rule
of no eating in the car
out the window. 
Dog hair collected 
on the seats
and food messes 
fell through the cracks, 
and no matter how often 
I detailed the inside, 
it still smelled of dog vomit
and resentment.

4. Liquor-soaked and behind the wheel, 
first DUI in my pocket. 
The next day, 
I retraced my steps in the rain 
to the towing place,
my anxiety engine heavy in my body. 
I learned my lesson 
for a few months,
went back to the comfort of a barstool,
never intending to stop forever. 
Just until the fear left. 

5. My parents visited 
just days after I put my dog to sleep.
At dinner in Port Townsend, 
my mom told me I should
get rid of my gut.
My aunt and uncle 
were witnesses
to her accidental cruelty
that burrowed into me,
attached itself to my insides. 
After goodbyes, 
I drove the hour back to Olympia, 
back to the bar,
to fill the same gut
with too much beer
to drive home safely. 

6. I woke up the next morning
barely remembering the sound
of metal and plastic crunching 
against the miles between 
the bar and the driveway. 
My front bumper hanging, 
a noose of regret.
New grooves in the rubber 
of my tires told me
I wouldn’t be going anywhere that day. 

7. I have a picture.
It is a reminder 
of the part of the story
I’m not allowed to tell. 
It is a thousand words of 
what have I done?

James Roach (he/him) is most creative between the hours of up-too-late and is it even worth going to bed? He dug up his midwest roots to live in Olympia, Wa., not too far from some sleepy volcanoes and beaches to write home about.