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JM Romig Aug 23
Lee was posted up in in usual spot
back by the stacks,
with his phone on life support.
Its umbilical cord was knotted up like a nest,
and held together by electrical tape.

It sat next to his vape
box and a stack of books
about the GED, twenty-fist century
side hustles and back issues of Ebony.

People come in and out of the library
and everyone says hi to Lee,
He is the man to see,
He asks about their lives and gives sage advice –
How you been, my man?
How’s the kids doin’, girl?
How’s married life treatin’ you, my dude?

My man, you gotta do this.
Babygirl, look into that.
Don’t wear your hat like that,
Boy, ya look silly.

Lee lives in a van
that he parks nearby
so he can job-hunt on the free wifi
even when the place is closed.

If you feel sorry for me, don’t
says Lee
I’m the freest now I’ll ever be,
so, don’t you dare take pity on me
I’m doing all I can do,
being all I can be.

Everything’s  temporary.
Tomorrow I could be you,
you could be me
we’re just one bad day,
one scratch-off lottery ticket away
from swapping places, my man.

Yeah, I live in that van
parked outside the library
but if you think I’m sad,
you’re thinking wrong,

Won’t see me moping, or doping
floating along
you won’t see me frowning,
or drowning,
singing a sad song.

I’m happy with all that I got
who wouldn’t wanna be in my spot,
I’m The King
of the Library Parking Lot.
*Disclaimer: Lee is a fictional character. Any resemblance he may have to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
JM Romig Apr 27
Scraping off
The smiling Santa Claus faces
Dim hope fading
With each metallic fleck
Flicked onto the kitchen floor

Yet, she will buy more
Always more
And always the same numbers
On the gas station tickets
She buys with a bag of chips

And gas-station humus
With gas-station pop,
In a gas-station cup -
Too large to hold in one hand -
That she fills to the brim

With hope
She never lets herself
Get to empty
She fills her soul with
Perpetual certainty
That one day, she’s gotta win
She’s just gotta

So she plays the game
Plays the odds
Fills her cup
Fills up her tank

Drives to two, three, four
Thankless jobs
And never lets her soul
Get to empty

She’s just gotta win
Fate has gotta give in
To her sheer ambition,

She knows it in her bones
Maybe not this time,
or next time
…or the time after

But soon
…definitely soon
Dedicated to my Mother In Law
JM Romig Jun 2018
Mid-April in northeast Ohio.
She’s bitter at the cold,
for overstaying its welcome.

The snow obscures the line
between the sidewalk
and the Devil’s Strip.

There’s a long line
of determined footprints
punched into the snow behind her.

Halfway through a song and a cigarette,
the CD skips -
figures.

These library disks never play for ****.
She ***** her fist
and whacks her Walkman.

Across the street,
in a wifebeater and sweatpants,
he people-watches from his front porch.

Sipping ***** and orange juice
from a chipped mug -
World’s Greatest Dad.

In his driveway sits a ‘97 Cavalier
with a plastic wrap passenger window
he’s hoping holds up to the wind.

Will this ever stop?
he says to himself, toward the falling snow.
A passerby might think he meant the weather.

Next door, she’s been up all night
with her newborn tornado siren
fruitlessly singing lullabies off key.

Six cups of coffee
keep her from collapsing
into a pile of ***** laundry.

She thinks about herself as a kid.
Thinks about how she used to like to
walk with her eyes closed.

How she used to like the thrill of it
the uncertainty and doubt of it.
This is like that. She tells herself.

She almost believes it.
from Everything Defenestrated
JM Romig Mar 2018
If you were online, way back when
sometime around two-thousand ten
on message boards for every scene
you may recall this silly meme

I jpeg of a young white man
with spiked blond hair and a spray tan
bejeweled teeth, and a smug-*** smile
dressed like an extra cut from 8 Mile

There is disgust in the eyes
of the woman by his side
who’s shoulder
he’s got his arm draped over

“Dirtbag Dan” the internet dubbed him
with text imposed below and above him
jeers about his scummy features -
collective criticism of creepy creatures

But here’s a tale you may not believe
Dirtbag Dan’s real name was Steve
and that picture was from New Years Eve
in two thousand three

See, Steve didn’t usually dress like that
but he was trying to impress Cat -
this girl he’d crushed on since grade school
and he thought this made him look cool

Cat came with him to that party
but she left soon after,
      with this guy named Marty
and so Steve got blackout drunk, as one does
when they’ve lost the game of love

Hung over a toilet, the next day
Steve vowed to change his ways
and ten years passed in the blink of an eye
Steve was now an employed, married, stand-up guy

While killing time, at his desk at work
he stumbled on this pic of a ****
at a party, in two thousand and three
and thinks “oh ****…that’s me!”

His workmates saw the pic as well
and gave Steve a lot of hell
this snapshot he thought was in his past
had really come back to bite him

Steve tried to fight the spread
but the damage was done
       his character, shred
thus began Steve’s downward spiral
when Dirtbag Dan went viral

He won a court case for defamation
but that didn’t do much for his reputation
he started drinking, his wife left, and he lost his job
there were rumors spread about him owing
         money to the mob?

The last time Steve was spotted in the wild
was at a Con, autographing the portrait for a child
a truly cringe-worthy scene
a man whose life was ruined by a meme
part of my # series - poems about the social internet and us
JM Romig Jun 2017
Sort through it all
a box for the good
a bin for the bad.

Set the boxes in order
in a safe space
on a high shelf
in the back room,
in a spot you will remember
for when you need to remember.

Make your space shine
sweep the dirt away
replace what is broken
scrub the years off of what isn’t

Standardize this practice:
Every day find a way
to sort, set, and shine.
Sustain yourself.
There's a practice in factories called "Five S" which is this whole thing for keeping your workstation tidy. I always felt like it sounded like some guided meditation health guru mantra.
JM Romig Feb 2017
She's sitting in a nearby booth
telling her friends a story.
She says

"It was mid-day.
Like, noon.
Like, the sun was, like,
directly above us"

I was on my way out,
so I did not catch the rest
but I secretly imagine it sounded like this:

"We were, like. almost exactly half way through,
like this twenty-four-hour period.
It was the opposite of, like, midnight -
like, the opposite of crickets, gazing at stars
and contemplating the utter insignificance of,
like, all life on this planet."

"It was all, like, birds chirping, and like,
one single star in a blue sky,
so close and so bright that gazing at it would, like,
blind you or something."

"It was like this pure moment,
like, a rush of endorphins, or adrenaline.
like there was nothing
that mattered more
than the two of us,
there,
then,
like, around twelve P-M, to be specific"

"It was, like, you know, lunch time.
So I asked if they, like,
wanted to hang out,
grab something to eat, maybe,
or maybe, like,
you know, do something else
or whatever..."
JM Romig Apr 2016
Afterward,
I asked “Where to?”
“The beach?” She replied
“Too cold.” I said.
“Fine, whatever. Take me home, I guess.”
She’s too much like you.

Even now, ten years later,
she still swims in my old hoodie.
The pink and blue butterflies on her fingernails
barely escape the sleeves.

We’re sitting in the sand
she is looking at the water
as if searching for something far out in the distance.

Remember when we babysat
all those years ago?
She stole my hoodie
called it her “Cloak of Invincibility”.
She meant Invisibility,
we were watching Harry Potter.
Today, I wish it were the former.

“Are you going to tell my mom?” She asked.
“No.” I said “But you should.”
I wanted to tell her about what happened in ‘92
about her mother’s battle with depression
after a similar thing happened with her
but that’s your sister’s story to tell
so I did what you always say I should
and let the quiet between us be.

I watched the waves roll in
and crash against the shore.
I noticed heavy grey clouds heading toward us
“It’s going to rain” I said
“Let it.” she replied, with a calm acceptance.
She’s too much like you.

She’s grown up so much
since the cancer took you from us.
You wouldn’t even recognize her.

She looks nothing like her mother
Or her father, for that matter
She looks
…well, she looks like you.
The spitting image.

“Why the beach?” I asked
after a long while of listening to the waves.
“This is where it happened.”
I felt an anger rise up through me
and I was already clenching my fists
before I realized there was no direction
for that aggression to go.

I took a deep belly breath,
and refocused.

“Why come back here?”
“to see if it felt different.”
“Does it?”
“…a little.”
More silence.

I watched her writing things in the sand
with a broken stick she found
and then pushing her palm across the words,
wiping the letters into each other,
cleaning the slate,
and again, writing in the sand.

“You know…” She said, finally,
“I was thinking for a while,
about keeping it.
if I had,
if it were a girl,
I would have named it after her."
she didn't have to say your name out loud
for me to know
“I miss her,” she added

"Me too".
The waves kept hitting the shore
and eventually, the rain came.

I drove her home,
she offered to give back my hoodie
“Keep it.” I said, smiling
she shrugged and took it with her.

On the way home,
I drove passed our old house
the new owners are letting the grass grow
too long for my taste.
It seems everything has been growing in your absence.
Except me.
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