At age seventeen, I smoked a million cigarettes,
sucked down a million coffin nails in acute sorrow,
wandered lost and lonely down desolate trails,
wondered if my life would ever be less raw and painful.
At age seventeen, I bummed around coffee shops
endlessly and aimlessly, always in search of something,
anything to fill the void, that needling sense of emptiness.
I killed time buried in a book, downing bitter drip coffee
because life was an oppressive burden of unbounded time.
At age seventeen, I ducked out of arthouse movie theaters
at intermission to grab a smoke in the alley, to satisfy my nicotine craving.
I’d watch indie films alone, sometimes as the only soul in the musty forlorn theater,
convinced I could keep bettering myself with art, that it would all be better one day,
that all my aimless striving would somehow come to anything but naught.
Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, a photographer, the editor in chief of the Northwest Indiana Literary Journal and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio. He is a 2017 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee who has had a play staged at the Detroit Heritage Theatre Festival, who has showcased his photography at the Oddtropolis Art Show in San Fransisco, who has read his work for the Fictitious series on the iO Theater stage and who was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His literary or photographic work has appeared or is forthcoming in more than 100 journals, including The Tipton Poetry Journal, Chicago Literati, The Vignette Review, Voicemail Poems, Dogzplot, Proximity Magazine, Stoneboat, The High Window, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Steep Street Journal, Beautiful Losers, New Pop Lit, The Grief Diaries, Gravel, The Offbeat, Oddball Magazine, The Perch Magazine, The First Line, Bull Men’s Fiction, Rising Phoenix Review, Thoughtful Dog, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Prairie Winds, Blue Collar Review, The Rat’s Ass Review, Euphemism, Jenny Magazine, Vending Machine Press and elsewhere. He should have gone to bio writing school to learn how to write a better bio.