Poetry: Selections from Alex Carrigan
Maureen Asks Me to Write for Seven Minutes,
but I don’t think I can begin with “Alleluia” like she did. Not to say I’m against saying “Alleluia,” although I tend to stress the “H” at the start of the word. I wonder if that’s one of the takeaways from the 17 years I allowed myself to be regularly religious. I consider myself agnostic because I can’t separate the meaning whenever I exclaim “God” or “Jesus Christ,” even if that docks the number of points I need to get into The Good Place. If you dangled me in front of a volcano, I’m sure I would suddenly become the good Catholic boy my hometown’s church wanted me to be. I haven’t been back to that church since my Mom moved up north. I once ran into my former youth leader about two years after I stopped going, and the first thing he asked me was if I joined a church group at college. I lied and said I was too busy to join one. I could have just admitted I spent most of my free time watching foreign movies and anime alone in my dorm. Was that less sinful than partying and drinking like the rest of my college-aged peers? I don’t know, but I still tried to talk to him like I was going to church every Sunday, even though I didn’t even know where the closest Catholic church in Richmond was.
But I don’t think anyone would want to read about Catholic guilt if they only had seven minutes to write. I could try to pull some colorful lines and flowery dialogue out of my ears with a finely polished pair of tweezers, but I find that hard to do right now (even if I just did do it). If I only had seven minutes to write, I’d write about what I am content about. I’d write about what doesn’t make me feel shameful and doesn’t make me feel like a sack of shit for lying to youth ministers. But the timer on my phone just went off, so I’ll just sit here awash with the guilt that I couldn’t do any of that in seven minutes, and that I’m breaking the rules to write a conclusion to this piece. I’m not one for flagellation, but I’ll leave it to the readers to decide whether or not I should make a knot with my belt.
After Maureen Seaton
Alcoholism Runs in My Family
I didn’t lose
my pride in a bottle,
but I tried to.
I tried to keep the rest inside,
but I rolled out the door
in my worst t-shirt
to meet bitter men in a bar.
I know Heaven is
drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon
in the local dive while
watching games of darts.
I remember when I first
slipped away into a bottle,
lost in the love I sipped.
My regrets followed the pouring,
feeling wasted like a rusting car.
I swear my fuckery stands
between me and my worth.
It’s dangerous to be ashamed
when everybody’s drinking alone.
We disguise the pain as Moët
and get drunk quick and silly.
I couldn’t toast glasses of wine
for old friends, but I will
smash a bottle for the old soldiers.
I’m trying not to be thirsty,
but I only feel the rain in a drought.
The reasons I run from
your home all got to do
with your guns and the stress
they collect in each clip.
A single gun poisoned your home
once its lead got into your water.
It told you bullets make life
just like how rappers say it is.
I was swimming in your pool
with two hundred shots in me.
Another one will kill me.
I need to challenge the lord
in feeling pain with love.
Let me exchange the bullets
for the thunder strikes.
You’re like a motorbike
filled up with tequila shots.
You’ll grind on the motorway,
hooked up to gasoline barrels,
claiming there’s something in the hustle.
It's a long run to the bus station,
to make it out of the chaos,
but it’s costly to move on
when I can now only bleed gray.
Our Last Talk at the Bottom of Our Pool
I’ve drained the swimming pool,
so walk down the ramp with me.
Stand here, eight feet deep,
and look at the pool lights.
Imagine they are security cameras
capturing everything that
we originally kept hidden under a plastic tarp.
We could easily fill
this pool back up,
but I would rather we stand here
and look at the gray stains
we made by draining our savings account
along with the pool water.
We meant for this to be
something for our children,
for them to say they had coolest backyard
that all of their friends
would come to every summer.
You would grill hot dogs and buttered corn
while I mixed lemonade on plastic tablecloths.
You’d entertain your coworkers,
and I’d budget for a fire pit to
be installed next summer.
Instead, we’re here, below street view,
in a moment of privacy
that even a row of mature ficuses
couldn’t provide for us.
We can say or do anything down here,
and no one would notice
because they’d be turned away
from their windows watching
the evening news.
Let’s settle everything,
once and for all,
tear up all the permits and contracts
and let them get caught in the filter,
so that this merely becomes a pit
and not a part of either of our futures.
Once we’re done,
I’ll lay on my back and wait for
a storm to come along and bring
the water level back to the proper height.
I’ll become another fixture of our pool
that can only be found by those who can hold
their breath for several minutes.
You can leave any time you want,
but if you’re going to lounge
on the Adirondack and watch me disappear
under the incoming act of God,
then at the very least put on
some sunglasses so I don’t
have to see you looking down at me.
A common strobe light can flash up
to twelve flashes in each second.
In one second of the strobe,
you could make a new Stations of the Cross
for the last moment you ever saw me.
Across those twelve images
you will hang in the long hallway
from your kitchen to your front door,
you will see how I saw the moment
our relationship died.
How you moved closer and closer
to them, let them grab your hips,
let them press their lips to yours.
You would see the moment I
broke across each ray of light
coming from the strobe in the corner.
You would try to use those seconds to reach
out to me, to pull me back,
to find a place where you could tell me
it wasn’t what it looked like.
That it was an illusion caused by the
lights, or an image caused by the ecstasy
or the alcohol in my blood.
What you didn’t realize,
once I disappeared into the crowd,
once I blocked your number,
once I dumped your stuff on your stoop,
is that now there’s a gallery of
twelve images hanging in my home
for the moment all my love for you
disappeared between each burst of the strobe.
Alex Carrigan (he/him) is a Pushcart-nominated editor, poet, and critic from Virginia. He is the author of May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry (Alien Buddha Press, 2022), and Now Let's Get Brunch: A Collection of RuPaul's Drag Race Twitter Poetry (Querencia Press, 2023). He has had fiction, poetry, and literary reviews published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lambda Literary Review, Barrelhouse, Sage Cigarettes (Best of the Net Nominee, 2023), Stories About Penises (Guts Publishing, 2019), and more.