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Whatever's Clever

The Smell of Spruce and Fog Heavy in the Air / Raven Calls

from My Life's Work by Ben Seretan

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Every time you praise me it tears my heart out a little. You shouldn’t feel this positively about me. In some ways I don’t think anyone should, but you especially. I’ve often felt like I ruined everything. I know I’m too enthusiastic, too stoked, I overplay and overshare, but tamping any of that down feels deeply wrong and disingenuous. I like being around you because you see me the way I want to be seen and I hope you feel that from me as well. I believe in you far beyond what you yourself believe. I want good things for you. You were never kind to me. I feel guilty at the relief I enjoyed after you were gone, for me and for others. I do feel that I could tell you this but I’m so grateful for you, your enthusiasm was (and continues to be!) a guiding light. I am very attracted to you but only physically and it makes me do and say incredibly dumb shit things. I know you don’t remember saying it but you told me once that I had your body to look forward to. And I did, I still do. I’m scared of how my happiness and adventurousness makes you feel. I’m constantly surprised we never slept together, although I get the feeling that there’s a threshold you keep presenting that, for whatever reason, I never cross. I never go quite all the way through the door. I’m sorry I was so drunk that time upstate. Knowing what you’re going through makes me want to drink even more. Being nice to you takes tremendous effort on my part. It always has, and now especially I resent the fact that you fail to acknowledge that. I imagine you pulling on my shirtsleeve, tears in your eyes, begging for any shred of forgiveness. You’ve gotten plenty of mercy but I’ll always resent you. I don’t understand what bar I cleared to be in your good graces, but I’ll do my best to live here. I wish you would respond to me, even to tell me to fuck off. Fucking off I can do but, like the song says, “I need to be told what to do - oh, I’m in a world of my own.” I want to see what came of that day and I don’t know how to ask, I want the messages full of exclamation marks again and I think that’s it, I mean that’s all I want. I’m scared no one will love me the way you did those few short months. At times I feel like you did the whole world a disservice by treating me the way you did - like I have so much to offer that it’s a shame I was penned in for so long. I think your whole vibe is dumb and childish. I’d still like to hurt you, embarrass you, demonstrate more fully how little I think of you. I don’t know why exactly we stopped being friends - okay maybe I can think of a reason or two but I don’t think we’ll ever address it. I get so confused sometimes. Did you still want to set me up with your friend? I’m both thrilled and terrified by my body, my age, my vibe. I understand why you acted the way you did when I was young - all the disgust you felt towards me, I felt it, too. A constant devil on my shoulder. Still hear the serpent whispers, but it’s getting better, and I hope you’ve gotten to feel the joy and freedom I’ve begun to feel at least a few times in your life. I know where you’re at, for the first time in my life I know. I wish you’d give me just a little more. It’s hard to be adjacent to you - I admire you, painfully so, and am sometimes bitter about it. Don’t you see that you got the better deal? I feel so guilty sometimes that I haven’t thanked you enough, made you feel my love enough, but every time we talk I know that what is unsaid is felt and understood - I hear it in your voice, and that’s all it is, the intuition of all of this, uncheapened by speech, unripened by the sun, alive and thriving on what is never addressed.

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from My Life's Work, released August 30, 2018

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Ben Seretan Troy, New York

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