June 4, 2015
The sun rises brilliantly over the hills, the moon battling it for dominance in the fiery sky. A dragon perches itself on my shoulder and recites a sonnet. The stars fall into my beard and I catch them one by one. All is broken; disintegrating; I barely hang on.
The noodles are burning on the stove. The whirlwind of dreams capturing itself in technicolor. CGI for tomorrow's ale. A thousand lies lined up next to each other.
I love you. I want you. I will marry you. You are my beloved. Ha. Ha. Ha. The women come and go; they dream into my existence and depart like ghosts, like specters, like an eclipse that is here and so real and then vanishes as if it never mattered.
I love you. I hump you. I rest my loins upon your lips and make you taste my death. The loneliness. The abandonment. My family all dead. My friends wisps encircling the dawn.
My daydreams lost inside a labyrinth that is lost inside a social media charade. Everything I want is a joke.
Infamy is like money…there is never enough. Everything I stand for….yet another falsity. My whole existence like looking in a fun house mirror. So many reflections. So many versions of the self. None of them, ultimately, real.
June 6, 2015
What is a date? What significance does time have when I am locked up in this ghastly cell? Murder they call it. MURDER. HA. It was liberation; it was the knife puncturing flesh, the bones cracking, the skull going back, the deep, eternal ache of a generation released.
It was the 1960's in a single moment; the abandonment of self; the hurling of identity into the morass; the decimating of all societal values.
MURDER. There is no justification for it; no way out; no way to not be hated. MURDER. Just the name alone is a sentence. And of my own child? My own teenage girl? The knife penetrating again and again into that little chest. Why? Why they say? Why would you be so ghastly? What could bring you to such depths of villainy? How could you forego all common sense?
After all, you graduated Magna Cum Laude from Princeton, did you not? You had a very distinguished, waspy upbringing in New Canaan, Connecticut. You were given a Bar Mitzvah. Taught the lessons of the Torah. Your parents and uncles were law-abiding citizens; lawyers and doctors; charming, urbane types who never so much as threw recyclables in the wrong bin. So how, with such a noble upbringing, with such refined genetics, could you bring yourself to commit this depraved act?
They wag a finger in your face and rub your guts in it. They want you chastened. They think the earth isn't tilted on its axis. They think the monkeys will come down from the trees and the bats stop swimming through an infinite series of caves. They think the sun will fall from the sky and the moon twist itself in a knot and puke up gold nuggets of fortitude.
What a charade! They are so far in the dark that it's no use enlightening them. THEY are the shadows. THEY are the individuals who need the violent shake, the realization that all is as it always has been. We are imprisoned in sameness. We are bought and sold by uniform measurements. The changes are all on the surface.
June 12, 2015
Jail? JAIL, they declare emphatically, as if it is something different, something unique. It is the human condition! We are imprisoned by our bodies, by our minds, by the limitations of our physical and emotional beings, by disease, by civility, by custom, marriage, legal wrangling and death; all of us, in various ways, eternal captives.
Yet they suggest my state is somehow uniquely tragic. Ha. You confederate, whiny jellyfish! Fortunetellers of doom! Cockroaches with slime in your diseased bowels! Don't you see that the band marches on?
Existence is like a stock ticker tape. It whisks by. Quickly it disappears. The numbers, the figures that seemed so important are soon just lost code. So how is imprisonment my condition ALONE?
Cowards! We are all there. Prisoner and Guard. Murderer and Saint. Devil and God. We all inhabit the same paradigm. We all hide within a labyrinth of lies and deception and hold on to the ethereal.
Watch me. Pity me. Tie me down. Torture me. It is all the same. We are all the same. We begin in dust. We end in dust. Everything in between is just a mirage.
June 14, 2015
I'm writing this before heading out to the yard for pickup basketball. This is what we live for. Minor avocations, diversions, exercising in a yard with hardened criminals who consider a ball going through a hoop an accomplishment. The small pleasures. The measured activities. The scheduled breaks from routine.
I sit here and write, my cell mate down in medical--thank god--the snoring bastard--I write and write some more--the cell mate getting his tubes tied or his intestines unclogged or becoming a woman or forgetting who he once was.
What am I saying? I don't have a cell mate. I'm in solitary. Or I was raped by my doctor. Wait. I am my doctor. No, actually, I need a lawyer. I'm gonna sue myself….for everything I'm not worth. The words are getting jumbled. Ideas like potpourri. Thoughts spin back into the self. I'm regurgitating. I'm breaking down.
I'm a poet of decay. A street walker in the wrong paradigm. I'm inhabiting the bowels of the Earth. I'm subsisting on soil and smut. I'm combing my hair backwards and singing songs that make zero sense.
To speak in tongues! To let the words fly towards the last canyon! To rimjob eternity!
I am the king of the perimeter! I am the lone walker in the solitary heartlessness! An animal. A caged beast. I pound my fist against the wall and feel no freedom. Oh blood! Oh magical red running of the spheres! Oh holiness inside my pants! Yes. Let us say amen.
The jellyfish are rising. The moon gathering strength. They fed me stale pudding today! STALE PUDDING YOU BASTARDS! You champions of crazy hopelessness. It may all be pointless, the abyss right around the corner, but have the decency not to feed me STALE PUDDING!
This explains it. This is the solution. This is how you murder your teenage girl again and again in your mind, and, on certain dim nights, consider strangling your cell mate. They feed you STALE PUDDING and you see him snoring on the bottom bunk, and figure 'what the hell?' You go to get your hands around his neck, your teeth clenched. Then stop. Cannot murder again. Still, you feel no better. No crime could possibly be worse than them endless torture via stale pudding. Nothing can! It's logistically impossible!
June 18, 2015
Again with the stale pudding. The culinary arts were clearly not stressed in this dim prison. Once, twice, three times in a week can be forgiven. But every goddamn day? Stale pudding on top of stale pudding on top of more STALE PUDDING. Where is the logic? At what point do you locate the humanity?
I lick it up, right off the spoon, drink it down like holy water. It's how I survive. If they feed me the STALE pudding tomorrow I will want to murder my daughter again. How's that for rehabilitation? Am I better now guards? Or you, Mama, are you listening?
What's the cause of the murder? The motive sir? Stale pudding. That has no legal validity. He was on the outside then. He could have eaten anything he wanted. But his wife--the wretch--brought him stale pudding every night for dinner. And now he's getting it again in prison. So, yes, of course he murdered his daughter. Can you blame him? Insanity Defense is one thing. But Stale Pudding Defense will not hold up in court. This pudding was really stale. I mean there is some pudding that is sort of stale. Other pudding is kind of stale. Still other pudding is almost completely stale. But this pudding…oh wow…you should have seen it! The yellow police tape should have been around the stale pudding. Did his wife provide him anything else to eat? Rubbery steak. Soapy string beans. Crusty mashed potatoes. Garbage, you understand. That and stale pudding. So you're saying the Stale Pudding drove him mad? Exactly. The STALE PUDDING put him over the edge. There was no freedom in his home. No humanity. It was a loveless marriage and his wife cheated on him. But why murder his daughter? How is that a justification? It was wrong, admittedly. Not the ideal tact. But he had simply gone bonkers from malnutrition and poisoning of his food supply. Is that really your defense? Yes. It's perfectly logical. And now here he is--every day--being fed more STALE PUDDING. You just feed it to him and feed it to him like it WILL REHABILITATE him when it is just destroying him again. And is that how you, the defendant, feels as well? Yes, of course you're honor. The stale pudding is the culprit. Had I only been fed banana cream pie every night my daughter would still be alive.
June 24, 2015
The truth is I never had STALE PUDDING…not even once. I am losing my mind. Making up excuses. Mixing metaphors. Trying to evade responsibility for the ghastliness of my crime.
What if I had to wake up every day and just say I lost my temper? What if I simply behaved unconscionably? What if there was no hope?
I feel bad for the fabrication, but it is a fact; I've never gotten near pudding in the twelve years I've been locked up in this joint. It's a dream; a fantasy; a crumbling idea; like many of these entries I make it up; I riff: I fancy something might be true and it feels as if it is true, but it is just a vision, an idea; I chase phantoms; I live in shadows; almost none of it is real except the fact that I AM in jail for the murder of my daughter.
I've become lost in my own delusions. A labyrinth that is my mind has taken over. I imagine my daughter, Angela, singing "Cumbayah My Lord." She gets it. Her father is forlorn. Her father is broken, is wounded right in the centrifugal heart.
Her father had nothing to live for; was going through the motions in that tax accountant's office; a helpless little functionary; his marriage devoid of every last remnant of passion; nothing to compel the slightest meaningful activity. Her father was just another hologram. In reality but never of reality.
There is no justification for what I did. I will burn and suffer in hell for certain--but--in spite of all that--my daughter forgives me. She understands. She realizes that finally I was, for once, actor, and not just acted upon. I had agency. Impact, see; even if the result was devastation.
I guess I complain about STALE PUDDING ceaselessly just to keep me going. It's a distraction; like reality TV for simpletons; like balloon rides for children; the guards look at me, always, as if I arrived here on a U.F.O. made of purple slime.
But what do I care? WE MAKE OUR REALITY. WE CREATE IT BY VALIDATING IT. WE BUILD IT UP AND SAVE IT OR WE DESTROY IT WITH OUR MINDS.
I wish I didn't hurt my poor girl. I really do. I'll never forgive myself. I will suffer for all eternity. But STALE PUDDING is the problem--and I do not say that simply because it's far easier to deal with than my own haunting criminality.
June 26, 2015
Every night I beat off to the lunch lady with that silly blue uniform and plastic hat. The lunch lady who serves me crummy food through a slot in my door. She delivers it promptly and not once--NOT ONCE--did she ever drop off any stale pudding, but, never mind, lately I've been beating off to that too, the idea of it, the cup, beckoning to me, a savior, a sexy form of salvation; STALE PUDDING as a SUPERMODEL; STALE PUDDING THAT MAKES YOU FEEL LOVED; STALE PUDDING IN YOUR DOOR, ALL RAVISHING, DOING A LOVELY TANGO AS TIME DISAPPEARS AND YOU REALIZE YOU ARE HOLDING A MIRAGE.
Oh god! I'm alone. A wolf in the wrong underwear. A king lost in the brambles. I'm walking backwards in the swamps. I'm a zombie cut to pieces. I'm BIGFOOT but no one cares, no one tracks me, and I'm crumbling from the inside.
The women I mentioned coming and going in my first entry don't even exist. There are no women. As for the lunch lady she is a lunch man; large breasts, a rotund ass--I suppose I'm so desperate for female companionship I contrive what I need.
STALE PUDDING and more STALE PUDDING and MORE. Lined up in front of me. Burying me. Taking over my room. My thoughts. My daydreams.
I want to shut up about it already--have to shut up--when, one morning, there it is in my tray--as if my mind created it--a little cup of STALE PUDDING. I taste it.
How wondrous! A cup of brownish delight that must have been put here by a saint. Spiritual manna. Sex in your mouth. What a blessed gift. A kind of magic. Given all the woes I'm responsible for I scarcely deserve such an opulent treasure!
July 28, 2015
I sit here and rot. The wrinkles aggregate on my forehead. The teeth decay. The heart pounds a bit slower and the hand trembles as I lift a finger. Years, decades, zip by, the pages turning, the seasons burning like kindling in a bonfire; the meaning, the value, all of it dispersing into the grey void.
I suffer in silence; I suffer in solitude; I live like a beast, like a jumbled animal; like a fool; like a louse; like someone for whom all reality has stopped.
Sometimes I think back to my crime with bitterness. How stupid! How unbelievably selfish! The whole of my existence I was an upstanding citizen. Never so much as jaywalked. A whole life of obedient servitude towards the natural order. And then--in one two minute period--my life becomes shit.
Some say there is no excuse for it….and I agree. I do not see any reason in trying to validate myself. It was wrong…clearly…no matter how much of a disobedient hussy my teenager was; no matter how many times she smoked meth; no matter the sleazebucket guys she brought home; or the fact that she burned down two of our houses while blasting some horrible trip hop on her portable bluetooth speaker.
Some will say I am preposterously sick to even mention any of this. Like it is her fault? Like she somehow is in any way responsible for being murdered?
Yes, yes, they are correct. But the way she paced back and forth in her room with a venomous scowl, or the way she played that idiot game Pokémonon on her iPhone at her own grandmother's funeral, and the time she sucked down my stash of vodka like a seagull inhaling a giant flounder--it was all so maddening. We couldn't get her to settle down. We couldn't get her to begin to listen.
She was constantly taking selfies. We'd ground her and she'd sit in her room for hours taking more selfies--and getting likes online--in an endless, moronic validation loop.
This was my daughter? This was what I had raised? There was never any respect. Never any getting through to her. And how did it feel when I learned she went to bed with our toothless, 65 year old gardener? She might as well have had a sign on her back that read "easy." The jokes at the office I endured with a smile. Fathers of friends would make passes at her when I was out of earshot based entirely on her reputation. It was all so sickening. So impossible to get a handle on.
Look at that skimpy dress, I'd tell her. Jesus! You look like you got attacked by a wolverine!
But did she listen? Did she ever, for one second, consider my opinion? No. And then the critical day came. She slept with my best friend, her godfather. I warned her to stay away from Davis. Insisted I'd never forgive her. He'd married the first women I'd loved; stolen my soul mate; I couldn't bare to have him steal anything else.
Out of spite, perhaps, she threw herself at him on multiple occasions, and, eventually, he'd succumbed. Word got around. I came home to find her playing XBOX and I just…lost it. She fought back and, next thing you know, as my white hot rage subsided, she was lying on the futon dead. I hadn't meant it. The fury of the moment had gotten the best of me.
I wept at her feet. And wept. And wept. But she wouldn't come back. Impossible to resuscitate. I called the ambulance. Her mother came home and freaked. Soon the cops arrived and took me away in handcuffs.
August 1, 2015
Today my cell mate returned, and tried to rape me. This is normal behavior here. I fought him off, so he finished in my sheets. We get along swimmingly outside of these incidents.
As I rested in a stripped bed--those sheets were dead to me until laundered--I thought about Angela again--and what I mentioned in my last entry.
Some say…you are mad. Really mad. To, in any way, try to justify your behavior. It was a heinous sin. They are right. Her poor behavior is irrelevant. I am the scoundrel.
But at the same time you have to get that I had to protect her, had to squelch her before she squelched me, before she made the evening news, before some pimp had her under his thumb. Besides, our reputation was put so down in the mud that there would never be any way to repair it.
I had to suppress what was rising up inside her--to kill her--to bash her to pieces--to keep her from being crushed by the world, to keep us all from being crushed by it. And to keep some sense of integrity alive!
Oh why? Why? I'm sorry. I should never justify what I did. There is no excuse. Oh god. I loathe myself. I'm a perennial sinner. A failure in every way.
Why would I hurt my own kin? My own daughter? The DNA of my soul? Why would I kill what is mine?
Was I scared of what she'd become? Scared to see my own reflection? My own treacherous ways in her every deed?
Was I scared that I too had cheapened myself? Had sold out my dreams? Had become a stupid functionary in a tax office so I could--in my spare time--try to make it as a hellish actor, the dumbest, most narcissistic of all professions?
Truth was I secretly longed to be a poet, to make my mark upon the lexicon, to let visions of a dystopian future go pumping out of me, to transcend all psycho-spiritual limits with metaphors that made the heavens crumble.
But I failed. Never contributed anything of merit to the literary world. Was in some B-plays instead that were so off-off-off-Broadway that they might as well have been in the Andromeda Galaxy. And so, when I saw her screwing up like me, when I saw her making every mistake in the book, and, most of all, when I saw her violating all sense of respect for me as a human being, I tried to crush her. The violent impulse I had for myself, the suicidal impulse, was transferred to her. MURDER.
What a filthy dog I am! What a piece of meat! Oh lord! Have mercy on me! Believe me--I wish I could take it back! Every day I wish and I wish. I wake up and imagine her in my arms. I wake up and try to resuscitate her. But it is too late. There is no eradicating the past.
August 24, 2015
The question is: does the punishment fit the crime? I know it seems sick for me to even consider it, that in the eyes of the law and the public I am an unforgiveable monster. I know that I transgressed a sacred boundary, took the life of a teenager without fully considering the consequences; I know I committed a heinous act for which I may be given the death penalty.
But my daughter only had to suffer for a matter of minutes. I am here for life. FOR AN ETERNITY. A four-hundred-thirty-five year sentence. I'll never get out. Not even if I'm lucky.
But is it really right for me to go on suffering? Does that make it better? Does that erase the horrors of what came before? I was wrong, granted, this is acknowledged. But why must I harp on this for the rest of my life?
It was a momentary lapse of reason, a temporary blindness, if you will; I acted in the burning swell of passion, was captured by the blinding furnace of forgetfulness; I regret it; I repent; now let me out you judges and lawyers and doctors of the common good. Let me spread radiant wings towards an obelisk dawn! Let me conquer the grim horizons of a crooked tomorrow!
Do not contain. It serves no function. It in no way eradicates what has gone before. Let me out! Let me sing and I promise it will be please your furious ears. I promise it will redeem her. Do you hear me? And are you listening? ANYONE?
No one hears a single note belting forth from my desperate lips. No one listens as the symphony of pain and frustration rises up from a barren soul. Again and again I sing. But it is always the same tune. Every song sounds like the cry of the unforgiveable.
September 24, 2015
You can buy a razor blade here, believe it or not, down at the commissary. This morning I used mine to slit my wrist. Only I failed. Didn't bleed out. Some stupid prison guard saved me. He goes, "You don't deserve to croak, scum!" A Correctional Facility Nurse bandaged me up and I was hurled back into solitary.
Oh but listen! There are those who say the shadows walk among kings. There are those caught in storms, who swim in tsunamis, who make up lies for the atmospheric advantages. There are prophets and magicians and presidents of broken nations. There are armies of pretenders. There is the congress of men along the perimeter.
Please listen! The rhythms, the maelstrom of jazziness, the poetry of words are all a barricade against my own savagery. Against my own blindness. Who am I telling to listen? Who am I talking to?
I am listening to myself but not hearing. This is all taking place in a vacuum. So much silence. So much loneliness. A thousand friends sit on my lap. A billion birds swarm my mind.
I don't like the sight of my own blood quite as much as I secretly relished the sight of my own daughter murdered by my trembling hands. She didn't deserve it. Not even close. My crime is the only one worthy of discussion. Oh why? Why? How? How can I laugh in the Grim Reaper's face?
Okay, I'm afraid. So I sit here, all morning, the leaves whispering to me as they climb the walls. They whisper "go home fool!" They whisper "die bastard." They tell me they will only shut up when I am fried in the chair down here in good old Texas. They say "you've been lying to yourself." They say "count the hours scumbag."
They tie me up and torture me and laugh. Now they say: "YOU listen. YOU SCUMBAG. YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE DONE THAT. THERE IS NO DEFENSE. NO JUSTIFICATION. NO POETRY THAT CAN SAVE YOU. SO SING, IDIOT, BUT YOU ARE DOING SO FOR YOURSELF. YOU ARE SINGING THE ETERNAL LONELY SONG THAT NO ONE CARES ABOUT BUT YOU. LISTEN TO THIS… FOOL…LISTEN TO YOUR OWN DOOM." Then there is silence. And I weep. I am listening. And listening. And listening. But there is nothing. Not a sound. Absolutely nothing to hear.
Matt Nagin’s fiction has been published in Beautiful Losers, In Recovery Magazine and Void Magazine among others. His debut poetry collection, Butterflies Lost Within The Crooked Moonlight (2017) has garnered very strong reviews, and his poem “If We Are Doomed” won The 2018 Spirit First Editor's Choice Poetry Award. He is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter. More info at mattnagin.com.