Wake Me When It’s Over- Nicholas Osborne


my boots are caked with mud and shit, and
likely other elements I’d soon withhold from mind;
I squat, with lumbar pressed into a man-dug ditch,
confined to this gashed earth we call a trench;
it’s damp out and my breath puffs precede me—
black smoke from a coal stack—sipping with mechanical
lips whatever lukewarm liquid sloshes in this old tin cup
I hold in palms that used to quaver, when blood
more innocent still coursed their length and width.

I’ve been told my hands look like a those of a pianist;
now just blunt and bloated stubs, with nails dipped in
midnight pitch—crescent slivers from the dark-side
face of a waning gibbous, so deep begrimed that I’d
need to hatchet-hack the digits off to separate
myself from this smut—the dirt that’s thick and
wet, and doesn’t wash off, though I could scour
my skin until I mined to bright white bone; it’s a hell
tar that bubbles up from whatever pit’s below, mixed
with melted rime from last night’s winter, puddled in the
deep, manifold impressions of confused and wayward boots.

and I don’t shake anymore—my nerves so frayed
they couldn’t pass a shadow in between them;
on edge so many shapeless days and nights that
‘scared’ has lost its meaning; I’ve forged my old fear
into a new-minted apathy I pass for courage—not
phased a twinge at the prospect of dying alone,
secure in the knowledge that my head will
tip from my neck soon enough, like what’s happened
to every other horizontal boy right over the ridge:
all dressed up and uniformed, posed like
alabaster storefront mannequins, showing off
their Sunday church duds to the ruptured sky;
splotched first here, then there with blooming crimson
flesh petals—a wild rose garden, sown in silent furrows.

I don’t’ think I’ve slept in weeks, but I tire more
of waiting; waiting for that looming sound to drill my ears
with jackhammer voice and ear-bleed whistle shrill,
demanding that I rise and drop this mug of sick—let it lay
forever lost, stamped into the muck and mire, to be
excavated by some shovel-wielding archaeologist, who sifts
where once I squatted— a few futures from now, in days when
time’s dementia has stolen the remembrance of my name.

girded with my brave indifference, I’ll wrap hands around my
gunstock, and sighing, mount that slimy slope,
where the only way out is over—the only way out
is out—when it’s a relief to finally expire, with nails in need
of manicuring; and I can exist as another cold fixture in
a larger human mural—a hunk of polished porcelain,
shaded thoughtfully in red acrylic that accentuates
my cheekbones; when this fucking waiting ends and
that brass tube screams its guts out, I can charge;
dead or free, or amputee—at last, I’m going home.


Nicholas Osborne

My thoughts sometimes stub their toes on a pen.

23 thoughts on “Wake Me When It’s Over- Nicholas Osborne

  1. Mister Nick, your words are so fascinatingly visceral. You deftly capture the mindset of an obsessive, brilliant, acerbic, pessimist. Which I utterly adore. It’s particularly satisfying to hear the varying scenarios from which to hear such a voice. I believe that there is much to be ascertained of an individual through their manner of expression. Specifically, how the formulate and structure their thoughts. In this, and indeed, all respects, I find you most fascinating and complex. I loved every word but “in days when time’s dementia has stolen the remembrance of my name.” was my favorite. An amazing piece. The ending was horrifically poignant.

    Liked by 2 people

    • In absence of any bullshit, that was my favorite line to be born from this thing too. Thank you, Max. I also find you fascinating. You’re like an Escher version of a Rubik’s Cube, if that makes sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again now… This piece is devastating and reminds me of the famous poem, “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.” Which is quite a wild compliment, if you know me. I hold these old poems in great esteem and only compare contemp to classic when it’s really something to shout about. I’d show this to my father, but I don’t want to wake his PTSD.

    The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
    by Randall Jarrell

    From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
    And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
    Six miles from earth, loosed from the dream of life,
    I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
    When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

    Nick, your poem is impossible to walk away from unchanged. x

    Liked by 4 people

    • Oh my. That’s quite a compliment. You have my gratitude for freely expressing your thoughts on this poem. I am very, very flattered that you see such value in it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. “I’ve forged my old fear
    into a new-minted apathy I pass for courage” … kinda how I’ve managed all these years as well I guess.

    What a way to capture the truly guttural emotion, the comments above are spot on. You exude the despair and bloody stump of reality so well. The language is perfect and I feel stuck in that mud holding that tin cup. Beautiful writing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much, Mark.

      I would say “I’m glad that you can relate to this poem,” but somehow that doesn’t feel right in this case. How about this? It makes me feel not quite so alone to know that you can identify with the feelings expressed. At the same time, I empathize; these are not easy demons to wrestle with.

      I’m grateful for your honesty and for your praise. Thank you, once again.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, some things are hard to wrestle with… not knowing if I’m brave, or numb, good, or lucky, right, or with the right crowd. I’m glad.. I think the whole point of sharing your thoughts is connection with others and at the very least, to feel “not quite so alone”… Samantha Lucero expressed the same sentiment earlier this morning. It is humbling to be able to share in this “enjoyment” of fine writing.

        Liked by 3 people

    • That’s incredibly kind of you to say, OP. We all know I’m a harsh critic of my own work, so I’ll have to take your word on its quality. Although, I am pretty O.K. with the way this one turned out.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, and thank you. Until very recently, I’ve never had a single soul value my work in such a way. I am gutted by that. It’s going to take some getting used to. Thank you for your wisdom and your friendship, Christine.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I fell in love with your writing the very first time I read it. I will keep reminding you of that. The best part of working behind the scenes with Olde Punk and Sam is feeling some small part of your journeys as writers and as human beings. I honestly don’t know why I am allowed this honor but I am grateful.

        Liked by 3 people

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