When words meant to be spoken are bottled up for too long, those words stop showering and shaving. Crank speed metal at four a.m. Carve lines into your forehead with rusty knives. Illegally park in handicapped spaces, create fake ads on Craigslist. Those bottled-up words trade up for down, left for right, dropkick you into the shacklebone zone. They smile in public, beat you in private. Fill your mouth with rains and hurricanes, pee a circle around your soul and mark it for extinction.

When words meant to be spoken are bottled up, they make rotgut wine, start lying about their age, slap a bumper sticker across your ass proclaiming: Graduate of the 12-Step Program for Underachievers. Those bottled-up words French kiss barrels of loaded guns. Become chalk outlines on the streets of reason. Leave you stripped and abandoned like a stolen car. Rewrite your life in third person blank-eyed verse. They smoke too much, tip too little, forget the city of their birth. Collect countless coroner’s reports and mold them into your shadow, then nail it to your feet.

Bottled-up words hog the sheets when you’re trying to sleep. Babble static. Drop bombs of chronic confusion. Grind your teeth into tombstones, scribble obits into your every breath. They desecrate instead of elevate. Tie your thoughts in a noose, hang common sense at high noon.

When words meant to be spoken are bottled up for too long, they stamp your life: Return to Sender. Trash talk you from heel to horizon, yet always speak your name and credit card number loud and clear when checking into death’s hotel.


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RICH FERGUSON has performed nationally, and has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Exene Cervenka, T.C. Boyle, Jerry Stahl, Bob Holman, Loudon Wainwright, Ozomatli, and many other esteemed poets and musicians. He has performed on The Tonight Show, at the Redcat Theater in Disney Hall, the New York City International Fringe Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, South by Southwest, the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival, Stephen Elliott’s Rumpus, and with UK-based poetry collective One Taste. He is also a featured performer in the film, What About Me? (the sequel to the double Grammy-nominated film 1 Giant Leap), featuring Michael Stipe, Michael Franti, k.d. lang, Krishna Das, and others. He has been published in the LA TIMES, Opium Magazine, has been widely anthologized, spotlighted on PBS (Egg: The Art Show), and was a winner in Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match, LA. His spoken word/music videos have been featured at poetry film festivals throughout the world. Ferguson is a Pushcart-nominated poet, and a poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown. His poetry collection 8th & Agony has been published by L.A.’s Punk Hostage Press.

13 responses to “When Words Meant to be Spoken Are Bottled Up For Too Long”

  1. Erika Rae says:

    Reading your work always feels like coming home somehow. Raw and beautiful and dangerous as ever, Rich.

  2. There should be a voting mechanism on TNB for how well we like a post. Instead of stars or likes or thumbs up, it can be little Balloon Boys 1-5. And I give this five Balloon Boys. I second Erika above. I love reading (or hearing or seeing) your work, Rich. Always nice to swing by TNB and see that hat of yours in the left corner.

  3. Ashley (N.O. Lady) says:

    I love reading your work.
    You shine, Rich.

    • Gloria says:

      Thanks for sending me over here, Ashley. Gorgeous as always, Rich. And so true. Words that must be spoken will eat you from the inside out. Thanks for this.

      • Thanks for reading, Gloria! And thanks for the kind words. I might make it up to your neck of the woods this year to play a show. We’ll see how things go with the new CD. Would be great to cross paths. All the best to you and yours.

    • As always, thanks so much for reading, Ashley. And thanks for the kind words. Hope you and yours are having a wonderful new year.

  4. Rachel Pollon says:

    Lordie. Thanks. For scaring the crap out of me. And hopefully scaring some important shit out of me, too. Beautiful, great.

    • Thanks for reading, Rachel! And thanks for the kind words. But I hope that I don’t scare too much shit out of you. That could get quite messy for all parties involved. Take care.

  5. jmblaine says:

    Five magic balloons
    in a starry sky
    orbit scribbles
    & chronic bombs

    Rich came

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