It’s Been A Rough Ride
My name is Damian Rucci and I’m a poet from New Jersey who has been fortunate enough to bring my words from the Garden State around the country. For the last four years, I have been given all I had to the lifestyle I was living. I’ve sold everything I’ve owned (usually not much) five times over to finance tours and to put gas in the tank to make it to readings.
I’ve left jobs to hop planes and trains to make new friends, read to audiences from Buffalo down to Dallas and overall kept my eye on the prize to just abandon the life that I was born into.
But for the last seven months, I went completely ghost. I’ve missed deadlines, dodged gigs, went absent on dear friends and just disappeared. I wanted to write this to explain what happened and why I fell off the face of the Earth.
First, Some Background On Me
I had been active in the music with a handful of shitty bands playing VFWs, American Legions, and buddy’s garages and when those youthful nights of rebellious noise rounded down to its end I found a new outlet: poetry. I had always written lyrics but when I discovered the poetry open mike scene in NJ at 19 I found a new place for my words.
I jumped up and soon made comedian friends in New York City did a handful of cringe-worthy shows that left me teary from bombing so many times but I couldn’t make it work. I needed to grow. I bowed out. Found an apprentice meat cutting job and like everything I do I dove head first into it.
There I found a world of savagery that was enticing. I worked endless hours with a group of friends fueled off amphetamines, caffeine, and cigarettes and saved enough cash to nab a basement apartment at a friend’s house. There I spent the early morning hours after my twelve-hour shifts reading and writing poems.
Riding my bicycle to work one day I was struck by a car and broke my legs and cracked my head open. In one singular moment, I lost my job, my basement apartment, and my ability to be independent having to move back to my grandmother’s trailer.
Something happened there. I had always carried a deep hurt and anger in me and the accident helped it bloom from my heart and it flowed through my bloodstream. With no money to get physical therapy, I taught myself how to walk again in a month. I began posting my new poems on the internet and found myself connected to the small-press poetry scene. I was angry. Angry
From there I couldn’t be stopped. I hit hundreds and hundreds of open mikes eventually starting my own in my hometown and growing it from seven heads (including my fiance, brother, and mom) to one hundred & eighty-five at our closing night.
I was accepted into a writing residency at Osage Arts Community and left my job to come out and work on my craft. It was coming back to New Jersey where things began to go haywire. I toured on the way home and it ended with me waiting for a Greyhound on Chester Avenue in Cleveland.
The twelve-hour ride on the dirty dog was overwhelming. I was excited to return to my fiance, but I had a hurricane brewing in my gut of anxiety that Jersey was going to swallow me whole and it did.
I found another meat job and within weeks of being back home, I was working over one hundred hours a week. I just wanted to give us a good life and to break the chains of poverty that I’ve worn around my neck for so long.
I worked at nights at a pet store too and just fell back into the old habit of sacrificing my body for the almighty dollar. I worked in the cold fourteen hours a day and worked with water eight hours a night to the point that I lost the skin on my hands. I ran my body down. I lost hope. Poetry was the last thing I was thinking of but it was everywhere around me.
“What do you do when the fire in your belly only burned from anger? What do you do when you’re not angry anymore?”
For the better part of seven months I’ve worked so hard to just keep the lights on that I knew I couldn’t keep up with my other life. I had to put it on the back burner and had to focus on survival. I grew up. The old anger that fueled me began to give way. What do you do when the fire in your belly only burned from anger? What do you do when you’re not angry anymore?
I’m not sure. I’m back at the residency now with my fiance. I’m piecing together scraps of poems and easing back into the creative mindset. I’m going through my emails and my messages and finding structure and stability again.
To my friends and those who support me, I’m not out of the fight yet. Every dog has its day. It feels good to be back.
Follow me on Twitter @damianrucci