19 | Self-Talk in End Times | A few years ago, I got a ticket for being exposed

Self-Talk in End Times

what’s your inner voice like? is it
angry with commands? quit

talkin’ about this wound as if it never
closed. stop talkin’ about war as if it never

was. do you kiss your favorite pet
or your mother with that mouth? oh, forget

it, you can’t, you’re an orphan since age three.
is that the story

you want to stick to? what do you feel
every time you sit behind the wheel,

what’s the word for a brain stuck
like a jeep’s turn signal you’re behind in fuck-

ing traffic, blinking, blinking, and you itch to turn left.
a parking lot is where you sat when he left

and you can’t say his name, not in this poem,
but it showed up on street signs, billboards, comm-

ercials, awnings above every general store
for years (how many? you don’t count anymore.)

and what about the so-called
world beyond the self? remember your bald

boss used to say “the problem with your generation
is, you never had a war or a recession.”

like magic, you suffered both, worse than his age ever
had it. what a coincidence that war’s the best cure

for depressions. economic ones. you’ve been water-boarded, but
you can’t confess, because your tongue’s been cut

out. you can’t name catastrophe,
ashy skies and iceberg oceans caused by the orgy

of war. some territory’s too big to explore
today. you only got two legs and worn out footwear.

so stay here, navel-gazing, eating like it’s a holiday, buying
like it’s going out of style. whining,

feed me, love me. if you say “the end”
and no one’s here to take pics, did it really happen?

A few years ago, I got a ticket for being exposed

on a beach in provincetown. No, really, there’s a file in some park ranger’s office with my name on it. I should’ve given a false name, maybe said I didn’t have my wallet, or even no hablo ingles. Nothing occurred to me at the time. I have gotten off outdoors before, sure, loads of times. In the yard late at night, and the woods behind the house, and in the side yard during a rainstorm. I used to masturbate in my grandparents’ basement. Every exhibitionist has a little voyeur in them too, so I have listened to my roommates going at it. I even peeped through the ductwork but couldn’t see much. I’ve said terrible things about my roommates and to them, when they’re not there to hear or defend themselves, like when I trip over a shoe or find mold in the fridge. So often I spoke to my grandmother with true condescension, a tone that said I was smarter than her. What a good heart she had. I have stolen only sugar. I have lied mostly to spare pain. I have fired good people. Single mothers. People poorer than me. Yes, I have cheated on someone I loved. I left a man in the middle of his rotten life when mine was rocketing. I left though he needed my help. He told me I ruined him. I didn’t know it would bury him too. I do not know where he’s buried. No, I have not apologized. I have, oh, many times substituted one man for another. I did not know their names every time.

anthony dipietro is a Rhode Island native who has worked in community-based organizations for 14 years. In 2016, he joined Stony Brook University, where he earned a creative writing MFA, taught college courses, and planned and diversified arts programming. He is now associate director of the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts. A graduate of Brown University with honors in creative writing, his poems and essays have appeared in The American Poetry Journal, Assaracus, Notre Dame Review, The Southampton Review, The Seventh Wave, and others. His website is AnthonyWriter.com.