Dear John,

I’m afraid to admit I forget how your struggle alone should remind me that death itself is a catalyst for changing life on a whim.

I chose prose instead of careers, idle daydreams over real toil.

I do not regret fleeing labor, as your pain made passion my goal.

It’s embarrassing doubting these words, every time I seek motivation from an outside source reading excerpts of a gift so few would enjoy – or appreciate and acknowledge as fair, like the ways I’m forced to relinquish each moment we’d spend trading reasons for moving past how we eventually split.

The irony of trying your best is a man whose curse was his blessing, believing cash your vocation and passing young despite hope.

I’m not that good of a worker, and lazier still than you hated – calling me out on my bullshit even though your anger was fair.

You ended each phrase with a smile, your freckles bright when you giggled, always mentioning pain was a virtue as you wished my views quickly changed.

At your bedside, your mother had asked if I’d be there after you left us, to which you replied how we’re different though friendship will linger if true.

She said of course I’d be “weird”- after all, I was always writer, and you a skeptical genius who understood what hurt made us tough.

We survived a similar rearing, a trial by fire of loneliness – opposites in ways that were obvious, kindred through means we endured.

I recall that summer distinctly – the one just before you had vanished, when the weeks dragged on playing music and video games signified cause.

Your disease was never that cancer but the plague of a world begging jadedness, and its only cure was enjoying another night laughing loudly with friends.

We ate so much we got sick – burgers and fries before nachos. Then brownies and sundaes at parlors which closed not long after that.

We wandered the parking lots driving, doing circles and chasing new sunsets as the dusk set in over strip malls where again I might see your face – waiting for me by your car, electronics in hand as you tampered with a gadget you swore was important and anything else was just trash.

You strived for the promise of “soon” or tomorrow being mankind’s constant with potential mounting towards progress you’d agreed was faith worth belief.

Our last conversation between us had me mentioning God every minute, telling you none of this mattered except Him where your soul would soon go – high above me near angels in heaven, mocking every choice I would muddle with women, jobs, and then poems I suspect you read to this day.

See, John, that season persists – for me it never quite ended. I’m 20 and reading bad comics, afraid no girl may appear – not 33, married and scared, scouring lies for some meaning in the midst of an ongoing virus that’s ravaged what world we had known.

You insisted I’d find my true love, though she wouldn’t be quite what I’d pictured. That joke perhaps was your funniest – she’s here now, and better than dreamed.

I’m certain you sent her while watching, seeing me beg as I stumbled through relationship to wayward relationship where parts of my being stay lost.

How I wish I could tell you much more, but then what’s the point of expressing how your entire journey inspired me inadvertently while dealing with grief – praying silently under my wails, thinking back to times staying innocent, held inside me shielded from numbers or statistics claiming your fate.

The purpose of art is reflection, to perceive how mirrors are fluid and shift with age through experience to encapsulate stories long gone.

This letter’s need is just that – allowing me space to recall you, to honor and convey whose legacy brings tears with sparks which redeem.

Most people abandon their fire, or forget how embers are kindled.

I don’t worry about truth ever fading.

You’re burning with stars.

I’m beneath.

Your buddy behind you on Earth,

Jonathan

Across the parking lot came vagrants, people braving the wind and pollen to make their way towards an effigy of everything the weekend was – a place where materials dwell and money is spent religiously, a fixture of useless objects and marginally overpriced goods.

They all seemed to face the sun as each person carried baggage, whether pocketbooks or personal items on their journey come that Spring.

These pilgrims oddly marched as each footstep hit that pavement, though their vehicles broke its silence with migrations brought by car.

I was certain there were reasons for their haste and wayward smiles, though my wife appeared unsettled by how many had no mask. It wasn’t that I felt elated knowing crowds would never listen, but it somehow eased my tension seeing humans be themselves.

For a year, I dared not enter any dwelling outside my comforts, meaning shopping would never happen – especially on days like these.

Despite my apprehensions, I kept pushing her to enter.

Then I remembered all those reasons, sickly wandering empty halls – even prior to this virus, when my heart would beat so strangely, calling ambulance after ambulance just to realize help won’t come.

The folks who brought me aid only ended up making me anxious, judging hope with their authority which I apparently still lack.

But life’s joke is purely on them, since “new normal” forced us to realize most have never understood depression from experience found in a cage.

My existence before this trauma had its perks beyond obsessing over health and every heartbeat my pulse missed from sensing truth – how routines below God’s heaven weren’t meant for man’s successes but enjoyment always squandered by requests of cash and sin.

Churches ask for daily tithings. Governments demand our taxes.

But has divinity ever expected anything from us other than love?

I was pondering this myself while we exited that market, catching an answer almost unnoticed out of the corner of my eye.

The woman was dressed in rags, though their appearance proved mysterious – her tattered blanket wavered with each passing gale of dust.

Her mouth, unlike the rest, was shrouded beneath a covering, dirtied but held correctly above her nose which slightly curved.

Heavily, she exhaled, staring longingly at each customer, wishing guests would pay attention as she weakly shook her arm.

I realized begging for change wasn’t exactly considered saintly, yet in that moment, there were halos hovering gently above her head.

Perhaps Christ Himself had sent her into our midst as a staunch reminder how real hope was often needed by the ones whose chances pass.

I had never been in her shoes. I was guilty of being privileged.

For that, I took five dollars and folded it into her cup.

It was nothing, merely a gesture. If possible, I’d have given a hundred.

It just left me sad and empty since no one else had stopped.

She said “thank you,” and we walked -my spouse soon near close behind me, charging away from that busy building hearing her coins bounce to and fro.

Those bricks besides her echoed with the sound of rattling faithfulness – calling out to those who listened or believed good will endured.

I prayed tomorrow told her that graffiti spelled out gospel, and asphalt riddled with potholes offered seas of endless wealth, counting faces far more lost since her plight allowed her spirit to be found a true example of how suffering made her rich – in ways I thought I’d learned, locked at home without much purpose but agreeing pain was certain for such souls who can’t achieve.

Her glance, it taught me trust. Once more, that tomorrow lingered, inevitable though elusive – and worth what chaos loomed.

Pandemic or personal choice. Trauma or tragic endings.

I don’t count what blessings give me. I savor what they exclude.

  • J. Pigno

Has anyone actually heard our demise beyond the static?

Listened closely to such chatter which we translate by excuse?

The ending feels so close, but alas, I cannot seize it. I’m allowed to merely suffer while depression leaves me deaf.

I’m noticing indifference building lies amid confusion self-imposed by sheer denial or the fact some suffer less – which I doubt was God’s intention, though our laws and actions structure how society begs compliance based on answers hate has sown.

Across the board we’re greedy, even when it means existing alongside one whole damn planet slowly choking from these pills – what bad medicine nature swallow’s off the hands still claiming order held in place by business ethics shallow spirits think are fruit.

Their hunger means much more, without context they could fathom – such true needs are only serviced through creation left untouched.

But that wouldn’t count for excess or what joy this arrogance peddles as successful, though deliberate, while pursuing aimless thrills.

That radio keeps on blasting every song God warned was dangerous, rousing tunes which vie with envy for what chart their bias tops.

And the anchors keep on speaking as their hair waves in that picture, with long faces shown on TVs during hours spent at work – eating frozen foods accepted without family near but calling via cellphones placed on tables so they multitask at death.

We’re teeming with statistics to the point they’re actually screaming – eliciting cries now whirring in the background of our pride.

Forgetfulness murders reason by what language whines delightedly over discourse still acknowledging human shrieks that no one stops.

That’s the truth, as loud as it gets – a roaring cannon of ignorance drowning out those low-pitched demons while we raise our voices loud and pretend that silence lingers when tomorrow feels too heavy or our burdens grow existential beyond quotas fear upholds.

People die and pray for quiet. Not for change, but faint suggestions for improving easy bias on those terms their comforts yield.

I’m sick of white noise roaring before every powerful speaker. It’s time some colorful music yells it’s melodies long unknown – shouting anthems all can trust and enjoy without distinction drawn from stories shaped by limits across borders ballads break.

Simultaneous conditions aren’t how these strains were written, yet our harmonies soon supported helps agreeing orchestras play.

Melodies then prevail.

Improvisation triumphs.

We’re sounding better together, though behind us cymbals crash.

Tackling everything, all at once. For some songs are hard to focus.

I say we’ll always have to if we long to dance again.

  • J. Pigno

I remember that lost New Year’s Eve of my youth, staring amazed out of those tinted hotel windows into a vast night littered with raging starbursts and glittery, gunpowder salvos.

They scattered their sparkling ashes out onto the sandy, Vegas floor like some kind of coveted salute – a ceremony held more often there than perhaps anywhere else in the world, but far more rare in its poignance than my childish mind could ever have comprehended.

Through the glass I could see the last remnants of what was once The Hacienda casino, or as I’d eventually understand it, a lingering monument to the days of yore when kids weren’t welcome on The Strip and maturity meant being old enough to bet your entire savings away in one bad hand of blackjack.

I didn’t know it then, but it was approximately 11:45 that late December evening when I was touched by what could merely be described as the specter of my generation’s future – a ghost all parts Hunter S. Thompson and Mortal Kombat, coupled with years of internet addiction and spiritual neglect.

It is only now I realize how the phantom of Raoul Duke himself came to me just before the blast, whispering in my ear the sad disillusionment from his own mythical Vegas journey and the fact how drugs aren’t always needed to see the true distorted mayhem being peddled as facts in front of our bewildered faces.

For it was on that day one of the last true pieces of old Vegas would be blown into oblivion, taking with it a generation of corrupted dreams and frivolous excess that paved the way for decades ahead, ushering in an era of fallen debris mistaken for useful parts called the post-9/11, Millenial wish.

It was what my generation would inherit, what I am forced to sift through daily and contemplate as I mock the shattered pieces of what they claimed would be a future, now no more indistinguishable than the broken smithereens of an aging hotel long past its prime.

They said there would be jobs at the end of our pointless schooling. They wanted us all to work. They guilted us when we failed. Our efforts never seemed enough.

They believed it would be easy, and if it was wasn’t, we were always lazy.

The children of perpetual debt – “snowflakes” far too precious or fragile for the world around them which they agreed was best kept mad.

Or unjust, as times have proven, with innocent blood still lining the streets – men killed from bias and arrogance, both two things our forebears loved.

None of us wanted to gamble with these lives so wracked from evils built on bricks bad fathers told us would sustain what house they left.

Slot machines stacked against us were our options chasing happiness, choosing chance and probable misery over dreams we’d barely earned.

Sadly, soon, our odds grew worse.

I’m not sure their hope was worthy of enduring months gone missing among plagues such guilt has wrought.

Before The Hacienda fell, there was 15 minutes of waiting – a quarter of an hour spent thinking somehow none of this seemed quite right.

Perhaps it was just the lull before bombs brought down that building, or the notion somewhere out there those loud echoes would continue to ring.

Like they have until this day, deep inside my mind so weary from awaiting God’s good fortune so my words might still be heard.

I’ve traded every verse for the hands my wife provided, what true solace fate has gifted while instilling fear towards death.

It’s that panic which insists I should keep these memories naked, write them down and claim significance where I fear there might be none.

I stand by what that winter trip has provided me in hindsight.

The smoke I watched spread thin from the suite my parents rented had dispersed and left me visions of our legacy burnt too soon.

We didn’t even stand chance.

On top came another hotel.

I’ve visited Vegas since, but nothing trumps that memory where today and tomorrow whimper while they clash with continuing sins – an ongoing penance mentioned through its scene of spectacular chaos, an image of collective demons being traded for ones much worse.

We went from champagne toasts and controlling demolitions to fake news with dangerous rumors fueling deaths by pulled-down masks.

I’m still wandering that dark desert with my eyes half-closed in horror, hearing cheers of countless people so oblivious to what comes next.

There I shall dwell confused, without closure but explosions – remaining sick and surely doubtful while my faith’s oasis dries.

Forever yesterday’s neighbor – noise eternal beyond those borders.

Nevada 96’. One hell of a place to be.

  • J. Pigno

“Nothing else matters but this.”

I’m watching television late at night with my wife laying close besides me, sharing pillows under our covers by the glow of that bedroom screen.

Creeping through these shutters flows a breeze within our windows, ushering traces of gentle echoes from a world now growing dark.

I’m thinking about what it’s like – being out there among the silence, the whispers of evening gusts dragging paper bags down my street.

Today, I’m lost in dreaming, wandering places where I’m not – believing there is freedom beyond memories called escape.

A show plays as we fall asleep. It’s a classic from when we were kids. A comedy featuring segments, displaying silly scenes on loop.

My eyes are almost closed.

It’s now 1995.

Mom takes me to see a movie every Friday after school.

She buys me a burger and fries. There is a toy inside each package – a doll from the films we attended.

I still have them to this day.

  1. I wake up dreading morning.

Sunlight finds me withering slowly – not outside, but where it counts.

I’m staring at another game, thinking someday I might learn answers at the other end of this small controller always drenched from nervous sweat.

In 1995, toys were reasons for adventure. I’d imagine I was a hero chasing quests wherever I went.

Perhaps it was just the yard. Somehow spaces felt much bigger.

Everything had potential current fears just seem to crush.

That’s how I know it’s gone – what was perfect and always special. I can’t leave my house from worry or the fact this world will end.

I’m repeating the same dawn twice.

No, three times.

Soon, forever.

My anger keeps me wishing that tomorrow things can change.

Will I ever see the sea shore where I spent my summers young?

Again, without exposure or concern my life should cease?

I want my wife to see one last time before this virus lays true waste to every virtue even God himself has lost.

Once more, she should enjoy what was oddly taken for granted – simple moments sharing dinner amid friends whose laughter warms.

Back in 1995, I am walking near the ocean. My father clasps my fingers making sure I will not fall.

I fear I may have broken as I cycle through these minutes, these empty sighs of waiting stealing breaths I’m sure are weak.

The TV flashes dimly. It’s another dusk together.

She’s smiling while she holds me. And it all makes so much sense.

I’d endure this pain again. Not for me, but gaining meaning.

Finding reasons she has given choosing me forever as hers.

We might never accept our present.

I don’t think it’s safe exploring.

2020 I’d gotten married. 1995 be damned.

“Nothing else matters but this.”

I miss comforts surely fleeting.

But childhood is found between us.

Stuck at home is fine by me.

  • J. Pigno

I don’t write anymore for love.

Love doesn’t promise answers.

It rarely even offers solace.

In fact, it gives nothing at all.

That’s the problem with selfless hearts.

Their faith is an empty addiction – devoted to dreams less fortunate than the ones which assume we can float.

Though adrift we have rightly sailed, upon comforts veiled by these hatreds, fate’s ocean widens its mysteries within struggles bluer than fear.

Askew is the charted path.

Our journey has veered more wayward, towards conclusions scarily noticed within actions claimed were a must.

Time navigates meaning eroded within days of dispassionate pleasures sold as the bargain of choices weighed down by freedoms we waste.

Our will is a clouded perspective muddled by lies called successes.

Relationships hinge on presumptions that humans are good to a point.

That’s not the approach we should take, but somehow God bemoans instinct.

His reward for imagined benevolence is a smack to the face when we pray.

There is no truth but distinction among forms of elaborate aggression disguised as smiles and handshakes, or hugs between lovers who cheat.

Each sin is a different shape. Every knife feels increasingly jagged.

Only fools could buy into penance since forgiveness is debt never paid.

Deep down, I’m afraid I’m wrong, knowing cynics are often most reckless with words that dismiss certain values once believed still alive in this world.

Ask the lost, does virtue exist, when people turn hope into weapons – placing masks upon frowns in an effort to conceal one’s disease never cured?

Stray as the boat which sails off the shoreline harboring safety, so does penance appear less likely to save souls left to drown far beneath.

Life’s undertow proves too strong – sinking seems inescapable destiny.

If there were ever a moment worth swimming, here and now is the tide we should catch.

I don’t write anymore for love.

Love doesn’t promise answers.

Yet rage could provide better chances for surviving the wave which comes next.

  • J. Pigno

Poets do not work. They sail the seas of boredom, and pursue their idle journeys towards such freedoms deemed too poor.

They never seek shore of success, but instead sink fast like shipwrecks – forgotten but drowned through silence, submerged as our relics lost.

They are victorious purely in mystery – plundered only by feeling, and revealed as dangerous expressions when discovered on ocean floors.

They exist for beauty to fade, and age to indulge their meaning, to preserve how God or muses dwell where ghosts swim chasing fame.

Do not fear this brine. For praise is much more lethal. Like dry land, mere shadows of wisdom, proving money an obvious threat.

  • J. Pigno

I’ve watched lives lose every semblance of real hope and fair redemption in pursuit of this fucking “hustle” that we’re told is worth our souls.

For the Bible warns its readers against serving dual masters, and yet still, we always fail one thinking somehow God won’t care –

Like that lord of making money and the Christ we pray ignores us, as each person writes their downfall citing reasons said secure.

But what’s safe is far from murder of our innocence being threatened, as we steal and stab towards greatness claiming tables beg more food – how our families might just starve, when in truth, they’re probably hungry not for feasts but faith more nourished than these sins could understand.

Who assigned such ugly terms turning all men into convicts – every child another player thinking games mean growing up?

Like adults, they learn to win cheating rules so rigged they’re broken, chasing prizes death can’t envy knowing life itself is hell.

Those eternal risks we wage aren’t questioned much by people, looking outwards upon failures knowing greed will trump their code – that high standard often blessed before turning into envy, never seen as devils birthing further evils we should fight.

I’ve heard mothers tell their sons that they hate them for not working, and fathers wish their children would employ what demons sell.

I’ve let lovers try to kill in pursuit of being normal.

I’ve found knives in pretty boxes wrapped in paper made of lies when her Christmas card had sworn season’s cheer is why she slayed me, skinned my flesh and mocked its weakness waving wisdom like her flag – feigning warmth by teasing hate, having kisses with disaster while she plotted leaving early because poets weren’t tough.

Now that face I can’t regain is a mask with painted symbols, trading mouths for false protection against judgments spread through air.

I’m voiceless insofar as these talents seem aggressive, falling deaf on ears ignoring every warning words can make.

Those who listen swear I’m nuts, and the rest believe I’m lazy, even if I’m earning penance pointing flaws out through my verse.

No, your “hustle” is a joke and I’m glad this phrase offends you – you’re the virus taking victims never asking if they cared or agreed with selfish whims called success by those without it, dragging kingdoms down besides you since that cash can’t buy you breath.

Heaven fails the ones who try, and rewards its idle heroes – crying champions of expression who create instead of earn.

Wealth is missing from that peace.

It is not a saintly virtue or your sacred quest which mandates choosing labor over love.

I’m sure this naive plea for revolt means almost nothing, even though my fear can’t save you from our natures flawed with need.

The contagious final gasp that we see on news each evening – its our equal end that’s coming whether wallets bulge or not – so I’d rather bleed in red, for what fate should wait beyond us, neither classy nor expensive where our roles do not exist.

Be kind and do what’s right.

That assumes your heart is beating before naming different bosses then ignoring dreams divine.

  • J. Pigno

Our struggle is not against words,

But the lies and misunderstandings of a world whose fear kills freedoms in the pulse of hearts who speak-

The ones which dare obsess and defy that erroneous cadence at the core of bodies tethered by what strings our art can snap.

Their continuous, maddening rhythms pulsing still with beats expressive are indicative of sheer
potential that will prove our masters wrong.

Amiss, much like our roles inside vacuums called existence,

Playing jobs unlike our forebears working hard by embracing life.

This joy seems out of touch, vaguely sick and strangely nauseous, as our poems grow redundant seeking paths towards shedding shame

How such pleasures could endure within spaces man inherits where our loss itself feels welcome as each term inspires death.

Torn, from limb to phrase –

But ignored, as every sentence misses marks of punctuation hanging corpses margins pose.

Though I’m privy to such ends, its perhaps the other doorway swinging open out of blankness which appeals to fading breath –

Empty slates that just appear during memories least expected since unlocking shuttered portals hinged on moments gone too soon.

Feelings almost find me warm beneath prose I’ve sewn like blankets, fighting frigid air exclusive to an atmosphere so cold –

My page, a fallen tent,

Among lines of ruins scattered

Where the snow of dreams writes wishes between trees of forests thick.

Some men build camps for fire.

I destroy them without question

After spending nights enduring every thought that shows me home,

Far away, beyond these fears made of saddest whites encountered any winter’s touch should sully raining soot upon those drifts.

For Bohemia, my sun, melts this path which morning beckons and tomorrow’s gift of promise slowly guides through trusting faith –

Believing God has plans better loved than daily torment of our middle roads we travel from complacent hopes they mark.

What war we wage with beauty is that battle for transcendence, fought by idle prophets begging and impoverished saints who sleep –

Who fuck, who eat, who dance,
who in laziness bear wisdoms,

And by victory usher daylight

Bringing dawn upon their gifts.

  • J. Pigno

Somewhere just off the boulevard, there is a mural of a homeless man shivering during winter while the rain makes tears appear – pouring gently down his face, unintended but too perfect, by God’s nature proving worthy of that symbol lost through sun.

He sits among these relics starting soon to look abandoned – shopping malls and shuttered storefronts, crowded centers fallen dark.

Amid empty parking lots emerge signs of faintest protests, along streets with fading echoes with the sound of passing cars – whose sirens would keep him fleeing if not for his stoic image, immortalized on buildings like a vision of crumbling brick.

For art is his only place now, a reason to still endure between the once-bustling mainstays of my youth grown eerily silent – despite cops and shattered glass, the rage which marches forward from an ongoing encounter with what finally proved us wrong.

To him, this plague doesn’t come as a surprise or tragic bombshell.

It was the curse that always was, the hurt which festered slowly, a proof of genuine malice in his bleak and damaged hole – a pit where victims begging get the things they never want:

Hunger, fear, and apathy raining judgment like they’re right.

He just needed a warmer coat. He didn’t ask for a job or role, with cash that wouldn’t comfort as it never could save the rich.

Yet we plead each day for a cure, thinking mankind need not suffer for millennia of petty evils building slowly to this point.

You see, the gig is up. Your professions, banks, and politics.

Your unjust laws and answers wielding authority like some knife.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why our time has passed.

About sin, about our choices, about sickness running rampant.

About fated repercussions making so much sense they hurt.

Like that image forever gazing upon
those who mock his freezing, I too am bleeding anger near the curbside of this world.

Paying us no mind, they still laugh at broken poets, cutting wrists for final traces of what soul we may have left.

Finding goodness wasn’t easy way before these doors were closed.

It appears almost impossible after seeing their locked response.

Pretending things are better, blaming everyone but our hate – anticipating order when that normal killed us all.

Don’t put rainbows in your windows, hang a cross for dead men walking.

That’s us, despite our efforts facing failures streamed online.

How do I even write waking daily with no meaning – learning more and more these verses are just words so few will read?

And if they do, how will it change them, or stir their soul entirely?

Truth is, it probably wouldn’t, as it hasn’t since I’ve tried.

I’m tired of chasing muses thinking angels shed their wings for the sake of manic dreamers painting freedom as their grave.

Tomorrow is losing heaven at these gates of hell’s expression – this canvas so damn empty of those colors hope might bring.

That image, he is me, as I am that unseen figure watching passersby ignore me sporting paper masks and bags.

My scene is open trauma, my graffiti tragic willingness to disclose whatever insight waning faith has blessed through doubt.

Somewhere just off the boulevard,
lies a book that has my name.

You’ll never get to read it.

Like that man, I’ve grown too cold.

– J. Pigno