“Life: Unscripted” by Ian Dougherty

Life: Unscripted

There’s a moment in the script
where the main character has
that key insight that unlocks
the secret to solving the mystery or problem
they’ve been struggling with for
the entire course of the film

or lifetime

This is the screenwriter
(or typewriter’s)
own interpretation of how to resolve a problem
that was created
simply to propel the plot in a story about
people that are doing and feeling and living lives
infinitely more interesting than your own

And everything
conveniently folds itself up into tidy little knots

and it’s always some thing
that resembles some thing
that could possibly happen in real life

Except it’s not quite like that
because the sharp edges have been filed down
into pleasurable curves that you can fantasize about in the shower
after another night of not living the perfect life
in a meticulously decorated facsimile
of your favorite apartment
with the partner of your dreams
or the roommate that always knows the right thing to say
to ease the pain
or elicit a laugh from the studio audience at your expense

This is how the willing suspension of disbelief succeeds
at convincing you
you are not the person you were supposed to be
living the life you were supposed to lead

There comes a time when you
have to recognize that you may just be an extra
In someone else’s movie
and that you won’t get a slot in the credits

Because yours is not a speaking part

You just get to stand in the background
with that look of longing on your face

Eyes so desperate for attention
no one can bear to look at them
let alone learn to love them
for what lies unspoken beneath or behind
or the way the corners flutter
like they’re just about to cry
or scream
or burst into song
or shoot laser beams that set fire to everything they touch

But that wouldn’t really happen
because you’re not a mutant

You just play one on TV
you prefer the cold stare of winter

Clouds filling to the brink with a blitz
that will bring the entire city to its knees
in an impossibly beautiful
eerie white silence

Something you imagine the apocalypse would be like
except It would be ash instead of snow

Still cold as any love gone sour

A century without sunlight
and the resurgence of glaciers
because all we know how to do
is burn everything to the ground
and fill the air with our own smoke

The reason these stories keep telling you
you are inadequate
Is because we rarely feel we are enough of anything

notoriously bad at solving our own problems

We are hangover prayers whispered between heaves
into the toilets of our most broken days

Some days It feels like
the last needle’s worth of self-compassion
has left these bones

I’m sick of swallowing fantasies


Ian D is a Pittsburgh-born/Denver-based poet, musician, DJ, and performer. He has performed his poetry in 22 states and two European countries. He is a co-founder of the Mercury Cafe Poetry Slam and has been a member or coach of 14 National Slam teams, including the 2nd place finishers at NPS 2004 and the 4th place finishers at NPS 2015. His work has appeared in numerous online zines and print journals. He has published several books and CD’s. He is a mild-mannered civil servant by day and undercover creative by night. He has driven every single mile of Interstate 25, Interstate 70, and Interstate 80. He holds a Bachelor’s in Philosophy from Metropolitan State University of Denver. He loves Radiohead, Portishead, and Hatebreed. He is a divorcee and loves listening to music at unreasonable volumes while traveling at a high velocity, preferably at night.


Featured Image by Robbie Masso. Find him on Facebook, instagram, and his website.

Submit to Punch Drunk Press

Follow Punch Drunk Press on Facebook

Follow Punch Drunk Press on Instagram



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s