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Upstream Inching

from My Life's Work by Ben Seretan

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Is this too much?

Lately I have been assertive and seemingly sure footed, at least more so than I’ve been in a long while, and I wield this confidence awkwardly, like a too-big and blunt-edged sword. But I have wallowed - a hog in the mud - in the comforts social and financial afforded to me by status as a straight white male. I work for a living in a field I take ethical issue with. I have neglected the full personhood of friends, of strangers, of lovers, of coworkers. Of family members, of service workers, of the homeless. I have strung people along. I have been untruthful, duplicitous, and scheming - both knowingly and unwittingly so (which is worse?). I have shown great cowardice on many occasions in my life and I am terrified of ever being wrong in any way. I will go to great lengths to insure that I am perceived as being good, nice, right instead of owning up to my bad moves. I carry my missteps heavily - they weigh on me, turning my stomach - and yet I fuck up constantly, which leads me to believe that I relish the feeling, a glutton for punishment. And a glutton in general. I am vainglorious, full of myself, proud of both my accomplishments and my intrinsic self on an indulgent and forgiving scale - in other words I judge myself the least harshly of anyone I ever consider. I give myself enough rope. I am constantly talking shit. I cut other people down out of my own insecurity, but rarely to their face. I am disinterested politically - I roll my eyes often at the news and frequently succumb to the perils of apathy. I exaggerate constantly. My deepest desire in life is to be cool. I have leaned heavily on alcohol in order to have fun. I am strictly not the person I present to the world, or at least my outward social presentation is a heavily edited, polished, aspirational version of someone I wish I could be and with each passing day I feel like the image gets fuzzier - a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. I am bad with money - somehow both a tightwad, ungenerous, and an indulgent spender. I have issues with intimacy - both in desiring it constantly and freaking out when I have too much of it. I cannot enjoy the good things I have when I have them. I instead prefer what has been lost or destroyed or was terrible. I have intentionally turned away from a number of opportunities to be truly happy. I impishly harbor delusions of grandeur, a greedy little glowing sphere of hunger. I can only act with my own health in mind for so long - eventually some destructive behavior comes along and is irresistible to me. I act in the service of excess. I have explained away far too much of my shitty behavior because of a former partner’s treatment, my religious past, my circumstances, etc. It was certainly rough at times but I often feel that I have squeezed every hard little bitter drop of juice from my uninteresting narratives. Feckless. My emotional well being is absolutely tied to how engaging people find me online or in text messages. I recognize how entirely futile that is and yet. Even at this moment I am here demanding attention, hoping that by ruminating on my baser qualities I can somehow clear myself of something. Perhaps I can strike out a few lines in the ledger and gain provisional access to Paradise by the skin of my teeth.

I'm not a particularly good person. I just have the wherewithal.

An old poem, spring 2016:

SONG OF LOW ESTEEM

I know that you can do better
And in time
You will
That my body is strange
And ill-defined
A cloud of anxiety
Bursting with rain
I sweat too much
And my job
Is uninteresting
I don't make enough money
And I never will
I live in a shitty part of town
In an unimpressive apartment
I'm a carbon copy
Of other boring people
A fatter version
Of people I despise
I'm ungrateful
For the privileges I've enjoyed
And unaware of how to better use them
The stupidest shit makes me laugh
Things that nobody gets
Or cares about
I cry easily
And stammer in arguments
My opinions come from
Newspapers and magazines
I look at idiotic websites
I'm passive aggressive
I can't advocate for myself
I am emotional
In the workplace
But also everywhere else
I spend unwisely
And am deeply, truly lazy
I'm nostalgic to a fault
I pine for a childhood
I don't even consider happy
I have lost my principles
And my religion
And other cohesive notions
I do not photograph well
And though I perform often
It is with false bravery
Always with that lozenge
Of doubt and hatred
In my throat
Swallowing hard
Whispering "fuck it"
And baring my skin
To the heat lamp
Of the eyes
Out in the crowd
Desperate
Transparent
Neither hip
Nor desirable
Self destructive
No self control
Still bitter about
Slights
From 10 years ago
Still baffled
Never getting the joke
Always a few steps behind
Often plain wrong
And finally
When it all comes out
Mediocre
Uninteresting
Back to ashes
Amen

credits

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

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Ben Seretan Troy, New York

**ECSTATIC JOY**

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