When I’m Gone

when I’m gone I’ll need a few things
there’s supposed to be a surgery
it’s supposed to work but I
know in my heart
when I’m gone someone has to
look after my sister

I need someone with the threat of
violence which was usually
my role
when I’m gone

I’ll need someone to apologize to my
I know why he doesn’t love me but I still
love him
I can’t seem to bring myself to do it now

and when I’m gone and the surgery
doesn’t work and I pay back karma
for the mythos of myself
and I am dead
I’ll need someone to look after my sister
because I won’t be able to do it anymore

and I’ll need someone to look
after my friends
most of them are wonderful people
I wonder how I could have been so blessed
and it’s freezing here
I’ve never been so cold except for maybe

I haven’t told my parents yet
it’s funny how once it’s physical people
start to give a shit again
it’s freezing in here

but Dustin you probably wouldn’t have
liver cancer if you didn’t
drink so fucking much
yeah well
I’m gonna need someone to look after
my sister
I don’t know why I am the way I am
I guess nobody does.

I’m going to need help. I’m calling upon
the stars and my friends and everything
else a person can call upon
because I’m going to need it.

I’m calling. I have to.
And I wrote a poem a week or two ago
talking about the fresh miseries
I’d write about in fifteen years
and what I wouldn’t give for
that but that was before the
diagnosis and all men die
I didn’t think I was that bad
I didn’t think I was that bad

but all things have consequences
for every action there is an
and sometimes a pretty poet has to die
and I am sorry
I am
I don’t know what the last thing I
write will be
maybe it’s this
like I said
I don’t know
but someone
has to see for
my family

Chris is angry and that will pass
when I do and Alex is not, she just
wants the best for me and Karen
thought I was the second coming when
I was born ten weeks premature and
fucking survived despite it
and John, my dad, the best man
I’ve ever known
I have no idea what he wants.

The area of the world from which I hail
is pennsylvania coal country
my great grandfather was an eight
year old breaker boy
according to family legend
he fell off a roof when my
grandma was sixteen
and he died drunk I guess like
I will
us Irish are stubborn fucks
the soil here is bloodstained
these men died in the ground
he fell off a roof, sure
but he died in the ground

I guess everyone tells themselves

I never had kids
I should have
I would have
I would have liked to have been a father
I would have liked to show my dad he
taught me one thing right, the
most important thing
or rather that I managed to learn it right

I would have liked to be a father

when I’m gone I’ll need you guys to
remember what I thought was

I had a therapist once, not long ago
he told me:
I feel like our sessions are like being
nice to someone who is about to
be executed

he had no idea
how right he was
or maybe he did.

I don’t know.

I just need
someone to look after
my family
when I

which may be soon
but I’m gonna fight
I have to.

Yellow-tooth unsmile

Did you guys know I used to write poetry
a hundred thousand years ago I wrote
a poem
only one I ever wrote
I thought it was beautiful
I thought a lot of things were beautiful
once upon a time a million years
ago I thought words meant
anything, and then I drank a
lot and a lot of people had to
die and I don’t fucking know
why I wasn’t
one of them
but I wasn’t, and so what now

a long long time ago I wished to
know the unhappiness I know
quite well now
and if I had to guess I’d guess that in
ten years I’ll write another poem
talking about the fresh miseries
I couldn’t even conceive now but sure
ten years from now
that’s if I’m lucky

the feelings are never new, nothing is new
just the intensity
maybe if I’m lucky, sometimes I think
I won’t have hands to write with ten
years from now through the dirt
I was so many things I am so many things
what the fuck happened
what have I done
I look in the mirror and I say affirmations
that’s my shame
I look in the mirror and smile yellow and
that’s my shame

I don’t smile anymore
that’s my shame
I can’t look at the consequences
I listen to my favorite song and I want to
tell the frontman he
ruined my life
and then ask him for a cigarette
while we smoke I’ll ask him:
when you started in music was it your
intention to kill your fans and he’ll say

I don’t know
I never really thought about it

or one of them walked off stage
when a fan told him that her
sister killed herself to the song he
had begun to play
he left the venue and drank himself into
oblivion, is what I heard
and he still is, is what I hear

there is a burden to making art
no it ain’t digging canals or mining coal
but there is a toll
and I think about this and do I even want it
considering my usual subject matter
if I ever get a fan
will I kill them
but then I consider, it isn’t the making art
in itself that’s the problem
it’s the psychological deficiencies which
lend themselves to art-making

oh well Dustin that’s a little much isn’t it
well I don’t know if it is
life imitates art, sort of thing

I am too much, always been
should I change?


and when I’m happy
if anyone is
I will throw my typewriter

(I still use one; there is a satisfaction
in relatively simple mechanical objects
typewriters, pens, guns)

from the top of the highest cliff I can find
I already have one picked out
just waiting on the first part

but the more likely outcome, of course
when I’m gone someone else will
let it collect rust and stardust in their
basement or garage because no one
wants to write but
some people
seem to
have to

someone said that they’ll love him when
he’s dead
but I’m loved right now
not for my art, of which there is
these are the ravings of a fucked up mind
which is already
readily apparent

I wear my shame like a mirror

and I see myself in it

my brother hasn’t spoken to me since
July of this year
and my sister hadn’t spoken to me since
July of this year
I imagine myself writing about
how I’ve not spoken to my siblings
in fifteen years and I’m
stubborn enough to do that
if I’m lucky enough to live that long
and he was married to a nice girl
and my sister dates one too

I’m drunk enough to write a poem
my roommate is drunk enough to
burn the house down
he’s making bacon
the quotidian bullshit of life
it’s 2:40am
I am
the sum total
of very little
I’m 6’1 and I’m
cooking breakfast
my mercedes
benz sits in the driveway
and I listen for the
repo truck like my
Dad did a hundred
thousand years

I sit and lately I watch the TV
and I watch the shows I’ve seen maybe
ten or fifteen times
and I talk to them
the characters
I advise them
who are often about to die
how not to
and now that I write about it I think
I never advise the killers how to kill
maybe maybe maybe
please let it be true
I’m not that bad

I don’t know what broke my heart
was it a girl in 2013
was it myself in 2012
did I die on that beach of my
own fucking volition
sometimes I think I’m already dead
I don’t know what broke my heart

are you really there
would anyone even read this
I wouldn’t
but are you there
am I going to die
I’m asking you
am I
do I have to
I don’t want to

do I have to

I don’t want to
do I
have to?
well will I then and when
probably not yet
but when I’m gone maybe someone will
read this and think
he was hung up on himself
and even thought he could
preempt this criticism by
mentioning it
but it doesn’t work that way
and I am what I I I I I
a common feature in my writing, the I
I I I I I am so
fucking important
aren’t I
aren’t I

and there is always an end to the poem
all things end
thank fuck
the circuit closes the liver
fails and a curtain falls and
my parents cry
no father should ever bury his son
someone once told me
is there second life, am I re-
incarnated as a toad in the middle
of a road
like someone else said
I hope so

I don’t have much hope anymore but
maybe I will again
I hope so.

I Wonder How Many Members Of Congress Could Even Spell Fentanyl

I don’t know much about
much, is what I know
I don’t know how to
solve anything
I cannot present a solution
I do not suffer anymore from any
delusions that poetry intersects anywhere
with public policy
and I don’t know if this is poetry or
more the feeble efforts of a deeply
troubled mind to make sense of
what cannot be made sense of.

You died to the best of my knowledge
on April 26 2022

lost his battle, is what they say in
such cases
lost his battle
and isn’t that a nice way to put it
apt, when it killed a hundred thousand people last year
that is an entire war
if war were compressed to just the death
no political aim, no fight, not really
just a dead generation in their bedrooms and
in gas station bathrooms and every single
other place, losing battles, a losing war
but Nicky you didn’t lose any battle
there was no war, no one fought
you were murdered by accident, by
a world that can present no
solution, that cannot regret, that cannot
fucking feel
I can’t pretend there’s any valor or glory or
tragic grandeur anymore
if there were any notion of justice in
this world, any fairness, any love or
decency then no one would have to
think up euphemisms to use in obituaries for an overdose, there would be no pharma
marketing drug names words like an alien
curse upon us all, it’s killing everyone, it’s
killing everyone and what can
we do
I don’t know
I can cry and I don’t
know, I have no solution
and it isn’t getting any better
lost the battle, hell
people follow battles in newspapers
people win and lose elections over battles
but this, this is killing everyone, and maybe
the world at large cares enough to cry
a little
but not enough to present a solution and make it
stop killing my fucking friends
and I get white hot heart pounding angry
and I think about this until I
realize I can do no better either.

there must be something please
it’s too hard
I don’t know how this isn’t the biggest
political issue in the country a
hundred thousand dead in a year it’s so big how
is it even real
I don’t know
I don’t know anything
I can’t parse it

it’s too hard.

All We Ever Wanted (to know) Was Everything

that which does not kill me
might fuck me up irreparably
and maybe that’s real strength
after all a scar is stronger skin
a weld done well is stronger than
the initial casting
but it has to be done well
that’s important, that matters
it has to be done well

or maybe not, I don’t know
I’m not a welder.
I don’t know what I am.
I’m the carbide tooth at the tip of the bit at the
end of the shaft of a drill
spinning down through the ancient world
for purposes beyond me
and surmised only dimly even by the
is he god? I don’t know
would god understand my hopes my
dreams my little anguishes any better than
I do those of the quarks that comprise
subatomic particles?
does a quark dream? I don’t know
I hope so.

I’m prehistoric peat moss buried by a
hundred million tons of time and
pressure burning at the nozzle cone of a
breaking the pull of the world whose
heat and gravity in the great and utter dark
where it all broke down
the devolution from biology into chemistry
the men came with carbide teeth spinning into the
spinning world and
through machinery and into the light
I was there
and this world
left, briefly
and from a great height maybe
put a picture on a TV screen on April 10 1997
maybe put a ton of TNT in a packed movie theater on December 16 1944
maybe put boots on alien rock on a
famous date
maybe blow apart seventy three
seconds after liftoff maybe
all the work
all the time all the love all the hate
maybe the sum of human sensory experience
could god even understand
could anyone
what is understanding
what does the carbide tooth think? I want to know
what does the crude oil think
where is the driller
where is the rocketeer
I want to know
I have questions

can you see me
can’t you see me
can’t you see how hard I’m trying
can’t you see the fire in my chest I hope to
burn forever
and will the weld hold?
and can a
quark dream?
I bet.
I hope so.


at the jumping off point
that was a long time ago
quietly shivered in the back seat of a broke
down buick and that was
not so long
and my life is beautiful my life is
lovely and you are lovely and can’t we
look past the pockmark scars and the ruined smiles
and the mirror tells me I am
beautiful and I am
the slow motion implosion of small life is
compelling and tragic, the mirror
says, sneering, and you are beautiful and you are
lovely and my friend the worms in your
face aren’t real, the knife however
and that was years ago, years and years ago
I don’t forget
not things like that
only the good things, only the best things
cruel turn of the human mind isn’t it
I can’t forget
and the road we took took us to the place
we got
and I guess I got everything I ever wanted
and where was I
before the shouted promises we thought we
had capacity to mean, before
some things are too awful to even say
the words don’t hold them
but on the other hand, some things are
too wonderful
they explode the words like ships overladen
in a blow
and it all passes into the other
towering capital O
where what, we can at best just guess

where was I in the little spinning world
in its little rutted track around a light that
cannot care and will consume it without
even knowing when it dies
a long time a short cosmic blink away
five and a half light minutes from where
Dustin DeVilliers, 27, Fulfillment Specialist, Sober,
sits in a room and fights with himself
and spins circles
wishing for the right words
where was I in a wish upon a dream
fifteen or twenty years ago

I was here
I speak through the stone and I say,
I was here
and I hear:
it’s ok it’s ok.

I love you.
it’s ok.

If It Isn’t Asking Too Much (It’s Always Too Much)

what a pretty prison I’ve built around myself
what a fortress

blow it to pieces.

An Ode To My Boots

I stand
upon the shell of the living world
and I am young
there are thousands of miles of molten
heat beneath my feet
and above the cold
deep beyond all reckoning
interspersed every hundred billion years every trillion trillion miles with little
specks with big names
arcturus or
they are old
and there are little specks with little names
like Dustin
I am young.

I wonder why I write about death so much.
I wonder why I think about it so much.
I posed this question and a good friend of mine
suggested I write about my boots
and I said, I do love them
I’m going to do that:

they are sturdy and well-cared-for
they were expensive and they were worth it
when the sun comes around I plan to wear them up mountains
and my summitted view will be augmented one inch
vertically by virtue of their heels

good things are worth caring for
good things are worth nurturing

I will look from
four thousand
miles above the
living core of
the living world the
light will cross my
eyes my brain will
produce neuro-
transmitters I will
know why
I even bothered

I will know why
I already know why
how couldn’t I

in my heart I always knew

yeah I’ll talk to death again for a second:


I drive
past your
house from time to

other people drive
and I want to tell them
someone lived there
I want them to know:
a person
used to
live there

everyone should know.

Dustin Always Was And Still Remains Staunchly Anti-Death, Ideologically-Speaking

here’s what you have to do:
it’s ok, just here’s what you have to do:

you just have to do it perfectly
every single time
and you have to do it all day every day
and you have to do it perfectly every
single time
all you have to do is, and it’s easy, just
never fuck up, not even once, you just
can’t fuck up, not in the smallest way, not
once, and you have to do it
every single day
all of the time
really, it’s easy, and the stakes aren’t that
high if you do end up fucking up
just one time in some tiny way
because then it’s not your problem anymore

it’s ok when the curtain rolls it’s ok baby it’s
ok you won’t be there to hurt anymore the
stakes aren’t that high and unfortunately
they’ll have to put you in the dirt but
that won’t really be you anymore you
won’t meaningfully meet the worms and
with your lengthening nails won’t leave
any sad little scratches and you’ll get to
wear the dress you wanted because they’ll
cover your arms with foundation and no
one will see and the
stakes aren’t that high they aren’t
that high it’s only everything my love we
only stand to lose everything it isn’t
anything at all when the light is gone the
problem is not your problem anymore
there is no you there is no me there is no
poetry no words no name no stakes to
wager on no game no love to lose no life
no hope no life no love no
pain no pain

you only have to do it
every single day

it’s nothing at all

Interrogative: what the fuck?

I have questions
one of them is how the fuck can I
feel so lonely surrounded by people who
love me
one of them is how the fuck can
anyone love me
I have questions
one of them is how the fuck does a 26-
year old woman die during childbirth in the
year of our lord 2021 and why
wasn’t I nice to her
why wasn’t I nice to a lot of people
why did I deliberately set out to hurt people
is it because I was good at it? and isn’t talent
its own miserable expectation
so be careful what you get good at huh

why is it that when I speak the words don’t
even come close
why at the tip of a hundred million years of
trial and error and strife and sex and death and war and peace and everything at the
vanguard of a five billion year march into
oblivion I have to sit here and try with
quite literally everything I have to not put a
pistol in my mouth, to not intravenously
narcotize myself into
into what
into what
I have questions
what the fuck is that kid gonna think
what will his grandma tell him that he
killed her
or maybe that god did
or she’ll just cry, I would
I have questions
why do I care

I have a question
how couldn’t I?

It is incumbent upon a human being to care
you just have to

I’m Dustin and I’m a lot of things.
I want to be kinder.
Thanks for letting me share.