Adrian Potter

The Mistake Poem

This poem is for the screw-ups
who can’t get right regardless of how hard they try
those who dangle from a thread of personal carelessness
the downhearted souls who know the lyrics to hindsight’s ballad
and sing them in a way only someone who’s touched bottom can.

This poem is not for the do-gooders and well-wishers
or the snobbish, the righteous, the unsullied,
or the ones with perfect attendance and straight A’s.
This poem speaks for the people who would willingly give up
everything just to undo the obvious missteps of the past.

Please forgive me
I am not without flaw
like most folks, I do not know what I do not know
so if what’s unknown reflects my personal errata
it might explain how inadequacies make us more human
or why sweet beginnings often end in dark consequence
nothing ever happens as planned
that’s the one warning this knucklehead can give.

This poem is for all those who wish to say I’m sorry
and accept blame despite the natural compulsion
to heap fault onto someone else’s lap
we all understand failure better in retrospect
when the soul mate we reach out to is no longer there
or rent money has been squandered by foolishness
or anonymous camera phones have sent
the world pictures of our undoing
or going for one drink turns into one too many.
I know where regret resides and I’m not trying to go there—
it’s a bad neighborhood
it’s better to avoid it.

Words are shaky crutches for the letdown we all feel
so this poem is a pathetic vehicle for me to tell you
each and every one of you
that mistakes happen
in so many ways
and of course their presence molds us
but it would be shameful to allow them to define us.

And so this poem ends because we know that it must
but before it fades away like childhood aspirations
I will recycle what my late father used to say
whenever I made a mistake:
shake it off and make it right.

When the wrong words fall like bombs from your lips
exploding relationships with those you cherish most
shake it off and make it right.

When you’ve choreographed the dance of hard feelings
and swung sledgehammers at the scaffold of trust
shake it off and make it right.

When your soul has stripped down all the way to apology
and begs for a pardon before there’s even an accusation
shake it off and make it right.
shake it off and make it right.
shake it off and make it right.

Living is the New Dying

The storefront preacher who canonizes disposable saints is clinically dead inside. A drifter in the alleyway clutches a bottle of shoplifted spirits. Both are inmates in an urban nuthouse where everything has more than one function. Shoelaces help sneakers dangle from power wires and junkies tie off for a fix. Backhanded describes the whores who’ve been put in check by their pimp and the compliments pimps use to keep them working the corners. The eyes of the world will be sewed shut while we abandon our unloved post-recession babies in homeless shelters and prison cells. Highs are now dirt cheap while lows keep coming at a greater cost. Eventually, living will become so expensive that dying will be the only fiscally responsible alternative.

Obvious Dangers

It’s the cautionary vernacular
of old blues songs. Hard luck
and unfaithful ladies, with venomous
intentions itching between thighs.
This phobia of public outbursts
and boldfaced lies.

Who can find peace in a crowded room?
Wallpaper, empty bottles, sleepy neon.
Foreign and persistent as a hundred
hussies on a dance floor, faint promises
loitering inside their mouths.
All night they whisper sex into
the ears of naïve gentlemen.
Run fingernails along
the crooks of their arms.

Here, midnight sticks
inside your throat, forges its way
onto your consonants. The women
at the bar reek of menthol
and sloe gin. A drunken soul
needs a booth to pass out in.
And a counterfeit angel perched nearby,
her hair falling like perfect wings
on either side of her head. It’s hazardous

how her lipstick gleams under the
strobe light’s steady pulse,
as the deep V of her cleavage
becomes a reminder
of how one pain can lessen another.
Her body like a shallow lake.
Rocky, and not meant for diving.

Adrian S. Potter writes poetry and short fiction. He is the author of the fiction chapbook Survival Notes (Červená Barva Press, 2008) and winner of the 2014 Lebanon Poets’ Society Free Verse Poetry Contest. Some publication credits include North American Review, Obsidian, Jet Fuel Review and Kansas City Voices. He blogs, sometimes, at

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