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b e mccomb Jul 2023
i may never have
spain or france
but i’ll always have

sun bleached
pavement of rt 89
that crawls its way
through tiny towns
over hills
and around
haze kissed
blue water

a tickle
of crisp


it all pools together
in my head
terms and types and

spontaneously fermented
ambient yeast

funky orange wine
geodesic concrete

ducks and geese
and state regulations

i want to take notes
pour drops on
the page
absorb every
milliliter of

hold it in my hand
and squeeze
until streams of
honey and pear
citrus and ginger
and every other
unattainable ideal
run through
my hands

until the cold weather climate
native pink catawba
fermenting inside me
turns into something more
than the sum of its
component parts

saying i want it
doesn’t even begin
to cover it
it’s not just want

it's an ache
and the
ache is lust
impure and sticky
trapping itself between
my fingers

the ache is greed
green and trailing
the ache is desire
blue and rolling
the ache is passion
blood red and dripping

the ache
sinks itself
into my skull
like a nail

the antidote
is the very
thing that
caused it

pain and comfort
are both the same
and they come
in an opaque bottle
with a label that says
"made in new york"

so was i
and when i die
i hope i come back
as a cat
on an old man’s
patio or the echo in
a cavernously empty
tasting room

the sediment in
the bottom of your glass
the urge to try
something new

i don’t know what
my future holds
but i know
i’ll always have

this moment
moss on rocks that
have never had a
chance to dry out
water pouring out
of a pipe
in the side of a hill
into my insulated cup
the coldest
most delicious
beverage my
this day
has to offer

i don’t know what
my future holds
but something tells me
i’ll be okay

and i may not have
spain or france
but i’ll always have
copyright 7/21/23 by b. e. mccomb
b e mccomb Jun 2023
the problem with
drinking to cope
is that after you’ve
it’s easy enough
to keep drinking

i’m teetering
on the edge of
but saying that to
anyone sounds
too ****

baristas and bartenders
daughters of artists
daughters of…
i can never come up
with the next line
right on the edge of my brain

so much for
never having had a
hangover before
five am in the morning
my heart racing
mouth dry

the signs don’t fit me
i keep a fully stocked bar
and i get up in the morning
and go to work

but it doesn’t sit right
the fact that the first drink
doesn’t hit the way it used to
the way that it’s the first
thing i pour when i
walk in the door

guess this is my
roaring twenties

(sometimes i wish
it was covid again
everyone was drinking
and everyone was happy about it)

i blinked
missed it
ended up
twenty five
and drunk
it’s time to
sober up

but it goes
deeper than that

i quit drinking
kind of
like dozens
of times before

only drank
two nights
this week
but instead of waking
up alert
bright eyed and
bushy tailed
i woke up the same

sluggish and tired
and the only difference
was that i hadn’t
drunk myself into
a peaceful stupor
the night before

tonight he asked
what i was
going to do
about it

besides drinking
harder and harder
and watching more
and more mash

he wasn’t asking
about the
wounds on my legs
but i could hear
what he meant

but i’m an adult now
so i hurt myself
and i don’t talk about it
because strong people
don’t put their
problems on others

(talking about why
i don’t talk about it
is going too far back
too old a scar to pick at)

so i don’t
talk about it
because i’m
an adult

baristas and bartenders
daughters of artists
a disappointment
that just keeps going

he told me my
state of mind
isn’t a personal failing
but it seems to me
like all i’ve ever done
is make myself worse

there’s a
in the back
of my throat

might be
trying to


i do

i can’t

my heartbeat
is a high hat
whose edges
don’t quite meet

it’s sharp
an arrhythmic
clap of
a tambourine
my palm

none if it
makes sense
never did
never will

pieces spliced
and pasted back together
i don’t know
who i am anymore
or why i’m here
only one thing rings true

life is just one
**** thing after
except far too
often the
**** things overlap
copyright 6/18/23 by b. e. mccomb
b e mccomb Jun 2023
the neighbors
peonies are
but not ours

the rhodies on main street
are starting to fade
but the in-laws’ row
is in full explosion of color
the one we planted
was taken out by a deer

the blackberry bushes
likely won’t give us
fruit this year
and the peach tree died

but the wild
are creeping
through the lilies
of the valley and
towards the mint patch

and every day i look
out my living room
window and am

admiring the perfect
division of crab grass
down the property line
at least i’ll never
have pedestal planters
full of ornamental grass
or pesticide notices
sent to my neighbors

it can be
admiring someone
else’s garden
when yours
doesn’t look the same

but you have to
work with what you’ve got
and trying to fight nature
is a losing battle

they say to bloom
where you’re planted
but they leave out
a crucial part

some people
don’t bloom

some people
some people
some people
some people

not everyone can
bloom on their own
some people have to
have help to get
dug up in the fall
or fertilized in the spring

some people
do better
in container gardens
some people
are invasive
and need pulling back

and i wish
someone had told me
that it’s less
important to
bloom where you’re planted
and far better
to stop
comparing your
to someone else’s
copyright 6/12/23 by b. e. mccomb
b e mccomb Jun 2023
i check the obits
every monday

and i see them pass
in the slow progression
of time and life
and death

gina used to get
four pounds of ***** dark
every two weeks
and we made
sure it was
pre-ground for her

i never met
her husband
but their names were only
a couple entries apart

a man named kevin
passed and it
bothers me that
i can’t tell you
his order but i could
recognize his face

clarence used to
lean on the
counter and try to
hit on me
stinking up the store
unwashed and drunk
until he got too incoherent
to understand and
i caught him slip
a pint in his back pocket

but his obit
gave me perspective
of what addiction
can take away

mary passed
i don't know the details
all i know is that
i miss waving
to her early
in the morning
dew still on
her flowers
and i worry about
john and hattie
but i haven't
seen them around

and estelle's dad died
i thought it must be
tragic and
unexpected but
al said that cynthia came
into the store the day
after it happened and
behaved really strangely
(not saying that something
was up but she sure
didn't act like a fresh widow
normally acts)

amy died
last november
but anyone who
sold her liquor
saw it coming
for years
on the horizon

i’d be lying if
i said there weren't
names i was
looking for
names i know
i'll see someday

but yesterday
was someone
i didn't know

she was exactly
one day younger
than me
married nine months
after i got married
just graduated
nursing school
she and her husband
had a house and
two dogs and a cat
and a life
looking foward

and she
lost her battle
with depression

it was like
my own

and i cried
for a stranger

johnny mandel
was a **** liar
suicide isn't painless
it's a pan of hot oil
that splatters
and spits
and burns everyone
who gets near it

my browser history
reminds me how
often i look at
my cousin's obituary

the obituary says
but word in the family was
she met a guy online
and it was a weird
double suicide
where they found both bodies
in a parked car
somewhere in

she was a year
older than me
lived to be nineteen
a year longer than her
older sister who
died "unexpectedly"

burning hot oil
through a family tree
until you put
a match to it

why is it unexpected
couldn't somebody
have seen it coming?
but maybe there were no signs

the grief i experience from
reading the obits
is disproportionate
out of control
makes me hopeless
and scared
add it to my tick list
of things i cry on the bus about

but i have to do it
i have to know

i know that life
is fragile and
time is unjust and
death is the meanest
neighbor of all
and i'm just clutching
desperately to
stay in control

by checking the obits
every monday morning
copyright 6/6/23 by b. e. mccomb
b e mccomb May 2023
my dreams are
almond paste and
powdered sugar
egg whites beaten
wrapped in
cling film and frozen
i took them out
to thaw last month

my dreams are
i’ve counted
done the math and put
all of my eggs
into a single
provincial french basket

my dreams are
in the air
or castles
in spain
depending on how
far back you want
to take the saying

either way
their spires are
dark toned
bordeaux bottles
narrow and
full of deep
nero d'avola
and beaujolais nouveau
those fit into the
hamper with
my eggs

cab franc
take me around
the world
and back again

swooping past
the buttresses
i built of

deep and
treacherous moats
filled with every
kind of filler
red that pads out
your favorite blend

(some day i hope
to go to spain
to see my ambitions
in person)

my dreams are
highly breakable
when dropped
on concrete
and notoriously difficult
to clean up

my dreams are
clouds of
small batch
irish cream
swirling around
in espresso ***

my dreams are
right in front of me
and yet i can’t quite
reach them unless i
lean forward
knock over some
neatly arranged plans
spill out school
let it pool and
run off the edge
of the table
and onto the floor

my dreams
are spite
shards of
broken glass
a fallen shelf
eighty dollar whiskey
wafting through the air

my dreams
are for the future
but are somehow
inseparable from
the past

(i always tell myself
if i could live through
a pandemic i can
do anything
including making this
phone call)

my dreams are
hobby lobby signs
strung up with
fairy lights in my head
“the difference between
a dream and a goal
is a plan”
“just busy building
my empire”
“hustle and heart
will set you apart”
but the signs don’t mention
the heavy feeling of
dread in my gut

don’t tell me
what it’s like to carry
a dream
tell me what it’s like
to carry
aspirations of
better for myself
while schlepping
along an intense
fear of failure and
the itching dread
that i’m making the
wrong decision

my dreams are
olive drab and
dried out californa
soundstage brown
a younger me
who could never
foresee who i
am today

my dreams are
the skeleton
hanging in the corner
of henry blake’s office

my dreams are
99 cent
shots of blue liqueur
on my 21st birthday
the back of my throat

my dreams are
lit candles
on the cluttered
coffee table
greenery and
light florals
into the night

my dreams are
the thing my parents
warned me about
a genetic predisposition
to addiction

my dream is not
to be rich
my dream is to
afford therapy
copyright 5/25/23 by b. e. mccomb
b e mccomb May 2023
there’s a thin layer of
dirt on the top of my thoughts
gray rivulets of memory
drips of things that
haven’t happened yet
bleeding into my actions

i need a pressure washer
for my mind
to blast off the grunge
and road dust

there’s an incredible
crick in my neck
but worse than that
the panic is back

my bones ache
carpel tunnel is settling
in my pinkie finger
every callus i’ve collected
has fallen off my palms
the urge to create
making my
skull pound

i wish i could just
pressure wash it off
clean out the corners
force it all away
copyright 5/9/23 by b. e. mccomb
b e mccomb May 2023
lately i’ve been missing
being nineteen
who i was before
i was anybody

(there’s a lot about it
i don’t miss
the anxiety
the conflict)

but i miss the
pink shimmer
around my eyes
the flowers
on my jacket
and in my hair
and the uncertain
hope i was hanging onto

that in five years
i would know
who i was and
what i was doing

but that’s not
how it works
it works more like
the tattoo on my ankle

(it's a bike
because my mother
always used to say
god will steer the
bicycle but not
until you peddle first

and that’s what i did
i kept peddling
but i’m not 100%
convinced any
divine guidance
led me to here)

if this is the
future for
the girl i was
at nineteen
then i'm not sure
about the future
of current me
at thirty

("sometimes i want
to quit it all
and become an
accountant now"
was a song
i played a lot then

because when i was
an artistic teenager
i thought numbers
might hold more
permanence than words
and it was funny
because me?
an accountant?

and then
guess what happened
i went and became
a ******* accountant)

i miss
who i was
before i realized
i'm never going
to have this
figured out

because i’m never
going to have this
figured out
and i get the feeling
that trying to figure
things out is about
to get a whole lot
more complicated

i miss being twenty one
and having no
******* clue
that i was about to be
tethered to a
liquor store

i walked in there
the other day
and the new guy
carded me
it hit me in a flood
what it felt like
to be a stranger
in my own town

what it meant that
the footprint i accidentally
left in the corner of the
municipal lot
on that hot sunny
summer day they were
laying blacktop
just got paved over

but i spent enough time
in his position not to be
the person that says
“you don’t know who
i am do you?”
he’ll find out soon enough

you know what
we always say
“i’d burn this
whole town down
if it weren’t
for my liquor store”

i’m not unhappy
as it stands
i’m worried
about what comes next

i’ve been doing less
soul searching and
more heart clenching
gut wrenching

and i’ll make a
pros and cons list
but it will just look
like this

win win
lose lose
win lose
lose win

the universe is playing
a giant prank on me
and i’m in limbo
trying to plan ahead
copyright 4/30/23 by b. e. mccomb
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