The last time I saw you alive
I wish I would’ve talked ugly to you.
Said, “Put the straw down. No,
I don’t want to take another line,
I should be writing them. My friend,
you are a composer of music and magic,
instruct your limbs to serve a purpose greater
Don't be fooled into thinking your pain
has sharper teeth than anyone else’s.”
I had a chance, but said nothing
because I was high.
This is how I got started.
A bottle of Jack and a mirror. Memories and scissors.
Dreams drenched in ether, sliced by razors.
Potential rolled like twenty-dollar bills,
numbing the feeling on the tip of my tongue--
that I and this tongue should be serving a greater purpose.
In a last-ditch attempt at self-assessment,
I looked at my life through eyes of loved ones--
they can see everything, especially the ugly.
From years of drug use.
From lying with to lying to angels. Friends I’ve forsaken,
Taking so much more than I’ve given.
I had streamlined self-centeredness into a science.
But there was a righteousness there.
A willingness to craft these ills through poetry and alchemy
into a seer’s stone.
Honestly, how could I speak ugly to him
when I was yet to speak it to myself.
In these nightmares of hindsight
there is no poetry, no alliterations to soften the blow.
Some realities have no simile. Truth is like truth.
How could I form my lips to call
your suicide a tragedy?
I left you alone in that room
kept company by narcotics and a thousand ghost
draped in your disappointments.
I can only imagine the voices you heard--
all but mine.
Smear makeup onto disgust
if you must. Trust, the truth is seldom pretty,
but she is always beautiful.
In times like these I need you
to please talk ugly to me.
My pain needs it.
Too many times we caress sadness
when it needs to be shaken, torn
from its place of comfort,
forced to survive or die.
Don’t just tell me I can grow up to be
whatever I want.
Tell me that whatever I want
better be something I'm willing to achieve.
That dreams will dissipate under
the weight of addiction,
and that there's a distinct difference between
living like a rock star and being one.
Sometimes, no matter how many poems you’ve written,
you are just a coke-head and a poser,
Fear not. We are all divinely flawed individuals;
perfectly ugly. No point hiding behind pretty lies.
We are the sum of the hideous scars
that hold together the remainders of our pretty
That last time I saw you alive I wish
I would’ve talked ugly to you.
It would’ve been the most beautiful thing
I never said.
Added: Wednesday, August 8, 2018 / Video originally published by Humanity in Print on You Tube. Used with Permission.
Joseph Green is a spoken word artist, educator, and motivational speaker with over 15 years’ experience in youth development. He co-founded poetryN.O.W., a nonprofit providing creative writing programming and curriculum for DC-area youth and schools. While serving as Split This Rock’s Director of Youth Programs for 3 years, he transferred poetry N.O.W’s work into Split This Rock’s care. Joseph has performed, hosted, and featured throughout the United States, including at the White House, Kennedy Center, and American Society of Addiction Medicine’s annual conference. He has qualified to compete at Poetry Slam Inc.'s National Poetry Slam five times and ranked 16th at the 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam. In 2017, Joseph started LMSvoice to help people and socially conscious organizations discover and share the transformative power of story. Learn more at the organization’s website.