Yellow Sweater

United States

Zinnia | she/her | bi | agnostic | 18 | WA

2021-2022 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate

Elitist Atlantic Subscriber (jk, but I do think the Atlantic does some awsome journalism)

I don't necessarily agree with my own assertions

Message from Writer

I like spaceships, temples, and tea.

Some of my favorite poets and poet-adjacent-people: Federico Garcia Lorca, Ocean Vuong, Annie Dillard, Italo Calvino, Arundhati Roy, Michael Ondaatje, Becky Chambers, Pablo Neruda... The list goes on.

I am on here way too much.

My book is out next June! It feels wonderful to be able to say that with such certainty!

There are so many excellent writers on this site, but if you are new and looking for a place to start, check out: Paisley Blue, aosora, wishtree, aismic, Starlitskies, R.j.Elsewhere, amaryllis, .. ugh there are so many more....

Published Work

Nothing but Blue

Is it strange that Mary Oliver reminds me of Hafiz, 

especially in the irresponsible dawn hours when I feel 

like I could swallow God even before I swallow

my dreams, when the ghosts of swallows still dance

in the light of a swallowed sunset, when there is 

nothing but blue inside, between these white pages?

Hunger, the Bullfight, a Field of Poppies


Prompt: What would you do to feed your children? 

I’d open my fists
and tell them that they came from inside my belly. 
I’d tell them that they could shrink to the size 
of a poppy seed without ever being empty, 
that they are flowers,
that the sun is as ripe as a watermelon. 
I’d tell them that when we die, 
we become seeds again, 
I’d tell them that I don’t want them to be seeds again,
I’d tell them that seeds are always 
supposed to be more than seeds. 
seeds are supposed to grow as green 
as a tilled field, as red as blood. 

let’s forget about red.
it was Lorca who said “Verde yo te quiero verde” 
and if anyone knew red,  
the red of burnt and barren mountains, 
the red of poppies in the springtime, 
the red of spilled blood, it was Lorca. 
if anyone desired red, 
it was the king of duende, 
the poet...

Knitting Phonemes

I’ve grown too fond of words, of their boundaries, and of how those boundaries blur. I sometimes forget that the truth at the heart of all other truths is that there is only one word, made up of an infinite amount of sounds. A word so long, you could wrap it around the earth. A word so long, you could knit a sweater out of it for the earth to wear.

Open



The church was locked. I rattled the handle, trying to force my way through the smoked glass door. It was noon and hot. I just wanted God or Love or Shade or perhaps to drink the Holy Water. I cursed the pope, slammed my fist against the cherry wood frame, then turned back towards the street. 

I stood in the middle of the road, my fingers splayed, the sun pouring over my head, in through my hands. Slowly, I walked back towards my house, retracing the path I had etched down the hill. 

This is what four years have come to: a school in the distance, an empty church on a hillside, a road, a home. 

Should I pray? Right here on the concrete, between steps?

Or should I wait till next week? 

2
here is the church
and here is the steeple, 
and here are the doors 
and here are the people. 

I feel only my bones,
curved...

Letter to the Editor

Long Covid

First off, I would like to say that I am extremely grateful for Ed Yong's recent article exploring the reality of Long Covid. It was a relief to hear the exasperating politics of my experience explained so thoroughly and thoughtfully.

While, as I said, I thought this article was incredibly thoughtful and thorough, I do feel it missed one essential consequence of academia's negligence: many sick people, especially those with negative test results, did not know what it was that was ravaging their bodies. For the first three months of my illness, until I happened upon the similar disease ME/CFS, I convinced myself that my debilitating symptoms were just bad allergies. It took another several months for me to figure out that what I was actually suffering from was probably Long Covid.

Since there's no definitive treatment for Long Covid, not having a diagnosis might not seem that dire. But, along with being mentally taxing, it makes it even harder...

Casually Holy

in the grey woods, beside the lake, 
casually holy, the rain began to fall. 
we had stumbled upon a place of burial. 

below us was the water, 
a sea of groundwater, fallen water.
saints and soldiers had seeped through.  

in God’s warm palms, cupped, 
small sips: swimming, surrendered, 
it was time to stare down the waterfall. 
 



 

Saints and Morning Fog

I woke up to a tender pink morning sheathed in grey. My eyes caught on a glimmer of gold, the shiny cover of a thick tome stashed on a bookshelf in a corner of my grandma’s attic. Closer examination revealed that it was a book of saints, a coffee table encyclopedia of Byzantine icons, a bible for the agnostic art historian. I realized, in a flash, sun pouring in through the window, that it was my eighteenth birthday, that it was time to choose my saints. The pink of the misty dawn was about to solidify into something blue and bright.

The twenty eighth of August is my time to make sense of the numbers etched into the clock face, the symbols scrawled onto my soul, the words I have been repeating to myself in the bathtub. Eighteen years. Eighteen chances to pray for something new, to make myself anew. A gold cover, a pink center, wet air that slides away...

World-War-We


no country is perfect, 
but watching futbol,
on a rainy evening, 
in a European pub, 
nationalism becomes
a flower right before
its petals fall off. 

can’t we dance
and not kill each other? 
or is the sun too hot for that?

The Footnote

The Same Blue

I think I’ve fallen in love with California just a little. The flowers are brighter here or maybe it’s easier to see the flowers in a desert (1). The mountains are made from corporeal folds you can squeeze between. They’re small enough to touch, to pet, to ride. 

I am sitting on the back porch of my uncle's gorgeous ranch-style mansion in the Santa Barbara hills, staring out, through the haze, at the ocean (2). On the ground are pink peppercorns dried out and wrinkling under the sun. I break one open. The resin gets stuck under my fingernails. It smells like poetry (3). 

I plan on spending the next day at the beach, getting sand between my toes, but part of me doesn’t want to leave the palisades I am perched upon (4). The Santa Barbara hills are reminiscent of the Andalusian mountains, whose peaks puncture the verses of the poet I’m obsessively reading, Federico Garcia Lorca (5).  

I...

Nothing but Blue

Is it strange that Mary Oliver reminds me of Hafiz, 

especially in the irresponsible dawn hours when I feel 

like I could swallow God even before I swallow

my dreams, when the ghosts of swallows still dance

in the light of an echoing sunset, when there is 

nothing but blue inside, between these white pages?

Codependent


the finite
and the infinite
are codependent.  
never stop
swallowing 
the sun.  
 

Dialectics

I gave my protagonist a lover because he needed a reflection. He needed someone to show him his curves. We become conscious when we see ourselves, when we're seen by our mirrors. It takes two to tango. 

There's no introspection without extrapolation. A thinker needs a point of reference, a ground zero for the explosion. Fall to the earth and kiss the dirt! There's no sky without a horizon. 

Perhaps I am being naively dualist. Perhaps we'll find transcendence in an orgy. Perhaps we carry a secret knowledge of how the world turns under our skin. Perhaps that's what drives our ecstatic twirling.  

But you can’t deny the stories in our night sky. The figures we have etched into smooth space. We play connect the dots and form our Gods from sinew.

Flash Fiction Competition 2021

Flood

It was a summer of wildfires. The smoke I swallowed stayed under my skin. It’d been nearly a month since it last rained, and I was taking showers twice a day to compensate. I knew my habits were irresponsible, one might even say nihilistic, but the constant baptisms were a salve. They kept me hopeful, holy. 

Then the water poured. I didn’t care if it was another flood. The dusty blackberries were washed clean. I took my morning shower out on the street, dancing like a child who still thinks God’s love is unconditional.

The Zealot King


Prologue 
“Tedam! What should I do when I find a snail in my flowers?”  I asked, holding up the small creature for his inspection.

“Place him as far from the eggplants as possible.” Tedam laughed. He was weeding the vegetables.  “Over there, by those dandelions.” He pointed to a patch of thick green grass growing by the cliffside. I leapt out of the sunflowers. “Be careful! The snail may look tough with his heavy armor and penchant for invading flower gardens, but he’s delicate.” 

“He’s pretty.” I stroked the snail’s intricately patterned shell with a dirty fingernail. 

“Look close enough and you will find that everything is beautiful.” 

“Even my fingernails?” 

“Even your fingernails.” 

“Even my toes?” I looked down, wiggling my feet in the mud. 

He smiled. “Even your toes, especially your toes. Your toes taste the dirt and it’s from the dirt that things grow.”   

I wandered over to the cliff edge, dropping the snail on the...

Another possible comp entry. Ahhhh I am so indecisive:)

My hands smelled like beeswax, like a beating heart. The air in the cave was thick and moist. 

We took our steps like medicine. Another, then another, faltering forward, swallowing the sacred darkness, squeezing our candles tight. The ritual felt like a funeral procession. But we were awake for our vigil. We lived as we died, holding our own hearts, our candles, our domesticated light.

I could still hear footsteps echoing in The Temple, The Kneeling-Space. Hot wax burned my hands. I tightened my grip. I whispered my prayers. I started chanting. We sang until our candles burned out.

No Helen

You’ll never understand Sappho, 
because you don’t read Ancient Greek 
or the hidden pages of history 
where we scrawled our passion,
with sequestered longing, desperate and dear, 
like a message in a bottle, left to the sea
to the shape of our shapeless love.

You will never understand how reading Sappho
is like finding myself, in a boat, in a body, 
how the map of devotion finally has texture. 
I know you don’t want to read another love poem 
to a faceless woman, but I have not yet found her face, 
but she is no Helen. She has no man
on which to triangulate desire. 

Mama, Please (possible alternative comp entry)

All I remember is the pink of my shut eyes, but they told me I died. The doctors peeled off their blue rubber gloves, and I finally understood why Hildegaard's music always makes me cry. 

Mama, I know you can hear me. My body is dead, as stiff as the angel on top of our Christmas tree. But, I’m still cold. Mama, when are you going to stop praying? Mama, please. 

God is tired and the earth feels like sand, but you have warm hands. Dig a grave.

Flash Fiction Competition 2021

Flood

It was a summer full of wildfires. I could feel my bones growing brittle as I hid from the smoke. It’d been nearly a month since it last rained, and I was taking showers twice a day to compensate. I knew it was irresponsible, one might even say nihilistic, but the constant baptisms were a salve. They kept me hopeful, holy. 

And then the water poured. I didn’t care if it was another flood. The dusty blackberries were washed clean. I took my morning shower out on the street, dancing like a child who still thinks God’s love is unconditional.

Nahama (a lot more added!)

For most of the year, the steep gray hills surrounding Sagala were bone dry, but in the spring they were dampened by an ephemeral dawn fog, from which grew a thin but bright layer of green shrubbery that, for a few glorious months, decorated the island’s acrid gravel slopes. I woke late that morning. The cool mist was evaporating fast. Pushing myself off my sleeping rug and mound of pillows, I stepped out onto the balcony. From my perch, I could see the white-washed stone walls and copper-roofed palaces of Sagala shimmering under the hungry sun. I blinked, letting my eyes adjust to dazzling light, as I listened to a distant bell ring out. I counted the chimes: four. I grimaced, remembering that I was supposed to meet Mosha for tea next bell.  

I retreated into my room, letting my robe fall to the floor, as I turned to face the exposed rack that displayed my carefully curated wardrobe. I...

First This, Then That

Above the Dirt

I’ve left the round earth behind. 
Above her curved back, I wait 

to feel my feet again,  

to be more than a giant who holds
the sun in his cracked palms. 

to be more than a subversive symphony
of fists and unborn moths, 

fighting gravity’s flame. 

Wildfires

I hate summer,
and I think 
this is because 
I was robbed 
of my childhood 

by wildfires.

 

Conversation Excerpt #3 (footnotes)

Mosha was on his back, staring at the blue sky. “Sometimes I think the sun looks like a flower. Is this a phenomenon worth explaining? 

“It’s poetry,” I responded without glancing up from my book. 

“Is poetry a phenomenon worth explaining?” 

I set his manuscript down and turned to face my friend, smiling. “Do you want me to answer that as a poet or essayist?” 

“Ha! Both. At the same time.” 

“Okay, fine. The sun is sometimes yellow. Flowers are sometimes yellow. Yellow is worth explaining.” 

“Excellent evasion. But I have one more question for you. Can yellow be explained?” 

New Pollen, Old Dirt

Growing up, I didn’t realize there was such a thing as a conservative intellectual tradition, or, to be honest, even a moderate one. I assumed (in a similar vein to people on the far right) that all real thinking was being done outside the mainstream. In the bubble I was raised in, people read Noem Chomsky and Charles Eisenstein like the bible, attended conferences on Ecoterrorism and how to build your own permaculture communities, embraced the idea of defunding the police before it was an Instagram slogan. The New York Times was a fine place to get basic news, but if you wanted a real perspective you had to go to The New Republic or Mother Jones. Anarcho-Communism was not a radical idealogy, rather a natural and necessary next step for human civilization. 

Of course, we were almost all white, well-off, and well-educated. My community was also quite old. Many people I grew up around had gone to Berkeley, Brown,...

Conversation Excerpt #1 (footnotes)

“I worship the constellations I trace in the night sky, while you worship the constellations that are already there.” I laughed. 

He nodded. “Yes, that’s true.”

“I was teasing you. Even you have to agree that there would be no constellations without consciousness.”

He smiled. “I know.” His voice was soft. “But it is just a matter of perspective, of semantics. See that’s the thing about language, about consciousness, it introduces us to paradoxes. I think the constellations have informed the shape of our civilization, while you think it's the other way around. Why does one have to pull the other? Why can’t we just hold hands with the sky?” 

“We could, I suppose. But we would lose ourselves, our art. To make something holy is to hold it apart. How about instead, we dance with the stars? Pull each other from our alters? ”

“I don’t dance.”  

“Really?”  I kissed him.

Conversation Excerpts #2 (footnotes)

“Being human is not about having a soul, it’s about creating one. We are all actors.”  I shrugged cockily. 

“Go scream your name into the ocean, I bet you will feel more alive. If we really are all actors, then who are we performing for when we are alone and burning? There are two answers: your soul or your God. And in your culture, aren't they one and the same?”  
 

The World's Writer

To Lorca's Missing Grave, To Franco, To Those Who've Left the American Flag a Bloodless/Bloody Blue and Black

True patriots always die because it is dangerous to love something so easily set on fire.

(Love is something easily set on fire)  

Oh Lorca, you loved your country, but your country gored you on the horns of its bulls, 
of its sacred beasts of cruel geometry, who knew nothing of the ritual that created them.    

Can’t you love yourself and love your country and love the country that exists inside yourself? 
Can’t you love the dirt and love the water and love the wind that leaves new pollen in the streets? 
Can’t you love a man and love the church and love the candles that turn into burning pillars? 

Passion is more than its fiery culmination. Lorca’s Spain was more than its murder.

July Grab Bag

Surrendering to Spring


I've always hated spring. I hate how it reminds me of death. It's too wet. There is too much pollen in the air. When the ground softens, I know deep in my heart that the world is going to have to make room for all that new growth. 

The year was 1937 and some folks from the WPA had come by to install electricity at my Tennessee farm, but I’d waved them away. What was the point of life without fire?  One sultry spring dusk, I pulled on my boots and lit a gas lamp, walking down to the river. I carried a piece of paper in my jacket pocket. The air was thick with that sweet fragrance of fornication. I wobbled forward on my two bad legs until I finally reached the banks. 

I wanted to go on an adventure, or maybe hook myself up to the grid. I wanted to cross to the other bank, but the Mississippi was...

Neon Orange

The subway I took back from school every day was always dark. The lights were spaced too far apart, the tunnel was too deep. I didn’t like the dark or the deep, so I stared at the dimly lit commercials on the subway walls, trying to conjure up an echo of the comfortingly complicated capitalistic world above. One brightly colored sign advertised squeezable cheese. The tube of cheese was being used to paint a moon in the sky. The color was the farthest thing from appetizing. It matched my backpack. I loved humanity. 

I leaned back against the sticky plush seat. I was tired, but I didn’t want to close my eyes. I was scared I would lose track of myself, of the fluorescent orange moon. So, desperate, I scanned the walls for more colors, colors I couldn’t find anywhere else except in this capsule of scratched plastic and dingy light. My eyes started to water. 

There was another man...

The World's Writer

To Lorca's Missing Grave, To Franco, To Those Who've Left the American Flag a Bloodless/Bloody Blue and Black

True patriots always die because it is dangerous to love something so easily set on fire.

(Love is something easily set on fire)  

Oh Lorca, you loved your country, but your country gored you on the horns of its bulls, 
of its sacred beasts of cruel geometry, who knew nothing of the ritual that created them.    

Can’t you love yourself and love your country and love the country that exists inside yourself? 
Can’t you love the dirt and love the water and love the wind that leaves new pollen in the streets? 
Can’t you love a man and love the church and love the candles that turn into burning pillars? 

Passion is more than its fiery culmination. Lorca’s Spain was more than its murder.

People Who Read Too Much Have Opinions on Henry Kissinger

people who read too much have opinions on Henry Kissenger.

my friends tease me for my long rants about Ceaușescu and Communism and how if it wasn’t for Climate Change Norway’s management of its oil reserves would be Close to Commendable.

I pretend to know right from wrong and the XY shape of history. 

but people who read enough/ and enough is often way more than too much/ don’t have opinions on Henry Kissinger/ because the more numbers you know the harder math gets/ and Henry Kissinger is just a math problem/ an unsolvable math problem/ an undefined ratio/ with genocide on the top and the cold war on the bottom/ is there really any way to know what American bombs destroyed in Cambodia/ or whether a theoretical armageddon helped to deter an actual one?

Tiny Love

Artichokes

I love artichokes and Pablo Neruda and the poems we read around the dinner table. I love how we stripped each other down to our hearts to fill our bellies, to be full again. I love how there is no distance in consumption. I love how you grumble in the kitchen and break our grandmother's pots. I love how the electric stove is nothing holy, but it glows red anyway. I love how there is always too much/never enough time sitting around the table. I love how we, bold women dreaming of each other, eat thistle flowers in the dark.

Bread and Butter (year and a half old story that I just rediscovered)

I found a piece of myself shopping for bread, smelling the round loaves, deciding which I would like to eat. I remember the grocery stores of my childhood: neat rows of vegetables and cans. I remember holding my father's hand as he collected the necessary ingredients, as he scanned price tags and nutrients labels, picking the appropriate nourishment. Grocery stores were both a chore and a mystery: cold, unfamiliar, almost unreal.   

I am at university now, in my own apartment. I own my mouth. It is up to me to feed it. But I don’t have my father’s iron will. I pass over the vegetables, repelled by their intimidating green. I skip the cans, even their price does not compensate for the effort of opening them. I find myself staring at the bread, at the beautiful curves of a ruined sculpture. I want to learn to bake bread. I want to build a delicious monument to orchestrated imperfection. But first,...

Sports Writing Competition 2021

(Mostly) Harmless Nationalism

My soccer-obsessed extended family always plans our European vacations so they coincide with one of two major soccer tournaments, the Euro Cup or the World Cup. This might seem strange, profligate in fact. Why would I waste my precious time in some of the most beautiful cities in the world, Paris, Copenhagen, London, Split, huddled in front of a screen watching sports? It’s even more ironic considering that, back home, my immediate family doesn’t even own a television. But sports, particularly global sports like soccer, are a galvanizing experience. They build community, comradery. The World Cup and the Euro Cup are healthy, exhilarating manifestations of both nationalism and globalism. I jump at the chance to join the euphoric Croatian crowds as they march through the streets, chanting Heravatska! after a spectacular and unexpected victory. Or drink slivovitz with a group of Brazilian tourists as we watch Brazil play Iceland on a giant screen in Split’s central square.   

We, humans,...

Fan-Attic

forgiveness is heavier than god. 
that is why I started praying 
on that hot Monday afternoon-

balloon.  

I felt the iron in my veins. 
I am not a fan. I am not a fan-
attic in the summertime

when death is alive and
beating like stale bread
dipped in communion wine

let’s hold our books tight 
because they turn into pulp 
under the first autumn storm.

I do not forgive humanity, 
but it's time to forget. 
there is no forgiveness in heaven.   

What I Have Been Scared to Say (inspired by R.J Elsewhere's call to action)

I’ve carved out a space for myself as a relatively moderate member of the fairly far left. I irritate my more radical friends by defending some of the basic tenets of the American system: democracy, free speech, the New York Times… Actually, to be entirely truthful I sometimes irritate people on both sides of the political spectrum with my unconventional attacks on those very same tenets. But the common theme throughout my political writings is this: despite its flawed foundation, we should work with America instead of against it to build a better future. 

I’m not sure if I still believe this. Last week it reached a hundred degrees in my hometown where, in the summer, the mercury hardly ever gets above seventy. The mountains burst into flames and the dirt turned to dust. I’m still breathing the smoke. We have ten years to curb our carbon emissions before we reach the point of no return. I’ve come to a...

Towards the Cliff and the Lines Made by my Ticking Watch.

The church was locked. I rattled the handle, trying to force my way through the smoked glass door. It was noon and hot. I just wanted God or Love or Shade or perhaps to drink the holy water. I cussed, banging my fist on the cherry wood frame, then turned back towards the street. 

I stood in the middle of the road, my fingers splayed, the sun pouring over my head. Slowly, I walked back towards my house, retracing the path I had etched down the hill. This is what four years have come to: a school in the distance, an empty church on a hillside, a road, a home. 

Should I pray? Right here on the concrete? Between steps? I put on a watch today, for the first time in months. The gold glinted under the rabid sun. But I haven't forgotten how to count my paces. Time is like the ocean beneath the cliffside. It’s not real, not...

The Earth and the Sun

I fall asleep reading about duende, reading, radiating duende. That’s what Lorca’s poetry does: it causes my grandmother’s pitched voice to tremble with a terrible softness, like the moon liquified and stored in a jar. God, I’ve used the word duende, the second most sacred name, so many times lately. I’ve used it to explain everything that can’t be explained. I hope I haven't cheapened it with desire.

The begonias are burning, I’m imagining them burning. They are pinker than my sun singed skin, so pink they are almost red. For a moment I trick myself into believing that the Spanish street names are more than an echo, that the baked brown hills of Santa Barbra are the Andalusian mountains Lorca rhapsodies over. As I trot down to the dust strangled creek, I feel a piercing, euphoric scream rising in my chest: Seville to wound! Cordoba to die in! 

The cliff we’re perched upon could crumble at...

On Fire

he taproom was full of murmurs. No one was speaking very loudly, but a room full of murmurs is still a full room. The soft voices pulled relentlessly at the tattered edges of the silence, unraveling it. It was nice to be around those of less than solid moral grounding. It was reassuring to realize that I was not the only one drinking to forget the moral laws that are a condition of consciousness.  I used to have spunk, a virtuous disregard for authority. I had pride, a flair for the dramatic, dignity, and fashion. I delighted in a beautiful game, a chase where the pursued held the power. 

I peered out the window. This planet was more barren than the last, but not a desert. Its surface was covered in light purple shrubbery or maybe it was a fungus. The ground itself was a shade of beige so light it was almost white. It looked like what the walls...

Science Fiction Competition 2021

Narnia

The taproom was full of murmurs. No one was speaking very loudly, but a room full of whispers is still a full room. The soft voices pulled relentlessly at the tattered edges of the silence, unraveling it. It was nice to be around those of less than solid moral grounding. It was reassuring to realize that I was not the only one drinking to forget the moral laws that are a condition of consciousness. I sighed dramatically, caught up in my overwrought lament. I used to have spunk, a virtuous disregard for authority. I had pride, a flair for the dramatic, dignity, and fashion. I delighted in a beautiful game, a chase where the pursued held the power. 

I peered out the window. This planet was more barren than the last, but not a desert. Its surface was covered in light purple shrubbery or maybe it was a fungus. The ground itself was a shade of beige so light it...

June Grab Bag

In the Morning

in the Morning, you listened to Classical music. 

you were a Child, the Piano an escalator. you danced shackled to Heaven’s Baroque Architecture, to the Music’s swollen joints. your Knees creaked, lamenting: we’re as old as Mozart, and he only lasted a couple of decades before he expired into History.  

you were scared of being a Child. 

the Sun hurt your Eyes. the Dew took too long to evaporate. you hated the fact that you had never tasted Coffee. you told your mother that you wanted Granola instead of Peanut Butter Puffin Puffs. 

the Day was a Cathedral. 

us Children built a society, a City in the Rose bushes. We bent the Brambles into Arches that could support the Weight of our Symmetry. We made our world into Something Delicate. and our Bones were stretched, de-Calcified.

you were proud to be a child.

fairies lived in the Houses you built for them. they left Thank You Notes on Legal Pad...

Science Fiction Competition 2021

Narnia

Have you ever read Narnia?” Alma asked, her gold irises glimmering sullenly under the ambient lighting. Alma was already intelligent, intimidatingly so, the contacts just focused that intelligence, distilled it. We were sprawled on the floor of her spaceship playing chess. “Checkmate.” I shook my head, grimacing over the board as I tried to find where I’d gone wrong. The chessboard was wooden, an antique. It stood out, warm and holy, against the burnished grey of the spaceship floor. 

“I haven’t.” I started to arrange the pieces again, determined to beat her this time.

“Have you ever been to Narnia?” Alma repeated, raising her eyebrows. 

“What are you getting at?”

“I know someone, on La-Hem, a portal weaver.” Her clear gold eyes were clouded with passion. I moved a pawn forward. 

“No.” I shook my head. “No. no. no. It’s illegal. Really illegal.” 

“It’s not like we’ve not done illegal stuff before. Remember those FaaTeeMaa seeds we took back on Nashequen. Is...

Mathematics

I’ve always had a mind for mathematics. Numbers seemed to exist in a separate universe, a universe of blank white paper and clean creases. A universe where you could trace the shape of thoughts you had not yet thunk, fold an origami crane that has already been folded. The world of mathematics was a world where scissors (and tape) were blasphemy. It was a temple, a place devoted to revealing patterns that already exist.

Beauty (a very very old essay)

I picked a blue flower, it was beautiful. I cried today, that was beautiful. Beauty is contrast, the contrast between the whole and the infinite, discord and harmony, the extraordinary and the mundane. Beauty is a blue flower among a sea of green grass, it is a single perfect moment in a day that would otherwise be forgotten, it is a person in a cozy yellow sweater watching the rain fall. Beauty is an edge. It is the tension between two opposing forces, the tension that holds everything together. Beauty is the nostalgia that gives our life meaning, which in itself is a tension of sorts, a tension between what was what could be and what is. Beauty reminds us that the world isn't static. It's in a constant game of tug a war and our consciousness is the rope.    

When there is too much contrast, contrast itself becomes monotonous, that is why we find simplicity so beautiful. It is...

Pandemic Tunes

Nobody's Empire

I’m a poet. I write my body and soul with the desperation of a prostitute. I dissect my pain and passion. But when I sit down to describe my illness... I am on the edge of nobody’s empire. My words fail me. It’s like staring into the void. ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is a complex, multi-system chronic disease that feels like having a persistent flu and leaves you utterly exhausted, both mentally and physically.

I found Belle and Sebastian last spring, right as my symptoms started to worsen. Bedridden with nothing to do except listen to music, I fell in love with Belle and Sebastian's lyrics. Their songs were delicate, gritty explorations of life’s glorious triviality. In a poetic tribute to the band, depressed by the pandemic and my failing body, I wrote: “My dearest Belle and Sebastian you break yourselves into pieces so casually/ such casual living is beyond me.” 

It wasn’t until later that I learned...

Dying Daisies

what are we but dying daisies? 

oh, holy one, one who is whole,
leave me without petals. I'm only
a yellow center ripe with pollen 
that has not yet become honey. 

Re-Search

Down the Road

When I first ate a rose petal, I was seven and wanted to be a flower fairy. It tasted bitter like summer sunlight— summer, sunlight, bitter, a flower floating on the ocean of my tongue. I haven't described the experience till now, but that’s what it was: a collection of associations burned into the shape of a moment. I had begun to compose poetry. Ever since putting that petal in my mouth, I’ve been a curator— not a collector, a curator. I could care less about stones, stuffed animals, and stamps. But I treasure the feeling of cracking open a geode, or watching a fawn prance across the lawn in the dewy hours of morning, or holding a letter damp with the essence of faraway places.
 
I’ve always maintained that perception, in and of itself, is an art form, one I aspire to practice with care and discernment. Moments can be composed like photographs, minutes like songs. I highlight...

Re-Search

Down the Road

When I first ate a rose petal, I was seven and wanted to be a flower fairy. It tasted bitter like summer sunlight— summer, sunlight, bitter, a flower floating on the ocean of my tongue. I haven't described the experience till now, but that’s what it was: a collection of associations burned into the shape of a moment. I had begun to compose poetry. Ever since putting that petal in my mouth, I’ve been a curator— not a collector, a curator. I could care less about stones, stuffed animals, and stamps. But I treasure the feeling of cracking open a geode, or watching a fawn prance across the lawn in the dewy hours of morning, or holding a letter damp with the essence of faraway places.
 
I’ve always maintained that perception, in and of itself, is an art form, one I aspire to practice with care and discernment. Moments can be composed like photographs, minutes like songs. I highlight...

Melted Eggs

After going to the market and examining the eggs I was supposed to crack, I cataloged my hard places: my skull, my keratin, my pink candy heart. 

I covered my skull with a chef hat 
(piously) 
I blanched my fingernails 
(hoping to soften them) 
and I turned my heart into a tender pulp 
(powdered sugar damp with sweat).

If you are already a statue, it’s crude to resist the sun. It’s better to melt, to free yourself from the hungry blue sky like a wingless, clawless, mouseless eagle.

Military History (obviously satire)

The Romans civilized the whole world! 
The Vikings were ruddy-cheeked adventurers with Cool Hats. 
The Islamic Conquest brought the Islamic Golden Age (the Almost Renaissance). 
Ghengis Khan, well he was brutal, but a Military Genius. 
Tamerlane? Timur-The-Lame you mean. He accomplished (murdered and wrote) a lot though, despite his disability. 
The conquistadors discovered the New World… I think. I think they may also have wiped out a whole civilization. 
The Ottomans sacked Constantinople (the last bastion of the aforementioned Glorious Roman Empire), but alas, they were stopped at Vienna. 
The Pilgrims discovered a Newer New World with Lots of Snow and then, correct me if I am wrong, they had a Big Dinner (with Smallpox as a party favor)?
The East Indies Trading Company bought India. How does that even work? hey, it’s Capitalism I guess.   
The European American Republic was where all the English who were so Enlightened they were almost French fled to, and invented Freedom *awkwardly raises...

Propped Up Sky

Cycling along the flat cement at sunset, we hear the frog song. It swells, candid and all-consuming. It’s like drinking plain mint tea on a bitter evening. But winter is gone now, we must find our sharpness elsewhere. 

Even the Douglas firs have become dry in this new heat. Even after a rainstorm, I see them struggling to breathe. My home is supposed to become a utopia before it dies. How many years do we have again? How many years do I have to live with unnaturally ripe strawberries and swans that have decided to stay for winter? 

The Kitchen

A kitchen is a place of creation and deconstruction. It’s where my mother cooks artichokes and where, together, we pull them apart. Garlic steam and burnt fingertips, we prepare our sacrifice.

My body is my God, my home my temple. Let's eat, worship at the dinner table altar, and sing praises for what we consume: our food and our love. 

Consumption is cyclical. So we’ll dig into the artichokes' tender heart and gloss each other's foreheads with our greasy mouths.    

To Sit on the Edge of the Moon

I sit on the moon's round rim, fiddling to the tune of the tides, humming a half-forgotten harmony. Bur regardless of the moon's phase, the sea wind will whistle and wind my strings too tight.  

I walked on water last night, but my footprints were blown away. Drenched and dry, I shivered, caught on the edge of something, of evening, of ocean.

When it is dark, almost dark, death feels much closer. The dark is full of unknowable cliffs, footsteps, and filled space. I can close my eyes, but I can’t sleep.

So I’ll play my fiddle and stare into the black water.

Homosexuality and Institutional Oppression/ Privilege (Please, please, read footnotes first)

I recently came across a group of people protesting homosexuality. There weren’t many of them, ten at the most. They were carrying signs on which was printed the message: Sodomy ruins cities. While the small demonstration certainly didn’t make me feel very welcome in the Midwestern backwater where I was considering attending university, my main feeling was one of mild derision. I was far more embarrassed for them than for my own sexual identity. Their bigotry and ignorance were pitiful. They were acting out of fear of a 2,500-year-old scripture that had most likely been mistranslated. 

I don’t mean to minimize the threat homophobia poses to the LGB community, rather share my own experience as a relatively privileged gay teenager facing, for perhaps the first time, explicitly homophobic behavior. I, personally, do not feel that my safety or my institutional privilege isthreatened by my sexual identity. That is not to say I haven't felt marginalized, or misrepresented. The...

Food Writing Competition 2021

Spring Salmon in Skagit Valley

No Pacific Northwest family reunion is complete without salmon. The fish is placed at the center of the table, of the altar, slathered in dill and garlic. Gathered in a loose circle, artichokes, asparagus, arugula, crusty sourdough bread, mayonnaise, and lemon wedges, all bow to the King. It’s essential to choose the right fish. It must be fat, fleshy, and fresh. The salmon’s got to have a soul. It’s got to have the Skagit River still singing through its supple bones. 

In the early 1970s a couple of Beatniks* moved to Edison, Washington, a tiny hamlet in Skagit Valley, with their two small children. My grandparents transformed an abandoned hardware store into an art gallery and living space. They created a community, a gathering place for poets and pot-smokers. And while hippie communes of the era have a reputation of being quixotic, transient, and ultimately unhealthy, the Edison Eye was different because it was, and still is, deeply rooted in...

Tender Fish Eyes

illuminated through fish-eyes, dead and tender,
my contours glow in the late afternoon light.    

As self-possessed as a cut flower in small vase, 
I stretch my stiff poetry, straightening my bent-arrow spine. 

fingers tracing the plywood surface of my desk, of my thoughts, 
I find a delicate harmony between the scales and the soul.
 

Perfume

Quesadillas and cotton duvet covers and cumin and dusty silence and old blankets and garage sale furniture and wet dirt and sea wind and rosemary and hand-made soap and too many condiments and too many beat-up books and too many boxes of tea and grapefruit and onions on the cutting-board and something stewing.

I hope my suitcase smells like home. 

Close (Prompt in the footnotes)

A warm morning, 
touch the corpse. 

A Stranger/ A Picture

a stranger's face, a mild wonder of afternoon light. 

the treadmill rolls on, hot cement, jogging sweats, 
I’ll see you again in my memories of tomorrow, my dreams, 
after we’ve sprinted around the block, emptied our lungs of old air

and stopped breathing. your dark curly hair and freckled nose remain.

Perfume

Quesadillas and cotton duvet covers and cumin and dusty silence and old blankets and garage sale furniture and wet dirt and sea wind and rosemary and hand-made soap and too many condiments and too many beat-up books and too many boxes of tea and  rosewater and grapefruit and onions on the cutting-board and something stewing.

I hope my suitcase smells like home. 

The Airport

My feet are untied, not my shoes.  

At the airport, the windows are broken. Fresh air conditioning pours in. It’s a place caught in-between, a place where something meets nothing, yet everyone has direction, self-possession. 

This is surprising considering the indecency of it, lots of glass, naked walls, the bare bone sound of a suitcase dragged across a marble floor, uniformed security guards, passengers in pajamas. There’s a vulnerability that comes from being alive, from leaving your life behind. 

My mom told me that until recently that she didn't realize “languishing” had a negative connotation. And why should it? Our fast-paced society is built on necessary restbits, the run before the jump. Yet in this modern world, full of in-betweens, we yawn, sweatpants sagging, heels clicking, as we wait to fly.  But we can fly, and isn't that amazing? 

As we are already stretched thin: sprinting, sleeping, stargazing, perhaps it would be better if we let ourselves become translucent. 
...

Lampshades

Your persistent algebra tears me from myself. 
After our kiss, my creaking timbers were finally composed. 

I've been waiting for a secret knowing. 

Under the covers, warm and full of light, it came to me:
the sun is real, but in every dew-drop lives a thousand stars. 

We are lampshades, you and I, with arms made to caress,
with tummies and lungs and breath,  

Did you see the moon last night? It was lost behind the clouds, 
behind the hands you held over my eyes. 

Babbling Heretics, a Retelling of Two Crucial Moments in Genesis (Trigger Warning: Blasphemy)

It could be said that the Original Sin was an act of devotion. Juice dripping from their mouths, Adam and Eve learned to call God good and themselves evil. They learned to translate the Tree of Life into fruit, rotten and ripe. Eventually, they discovered how to make pie. They went on picnics. They colonized The Garden that once was their home. They claimed it in God’s unspeakable name. But for a while after our banishment, we humans wanted nothing more than our own name, our own place in God’s creation. We still remembered The Garden. We still longed for peace and unity. 

Before humanity dared to envision heaven on earth, we looked to the sky. Before we realized God’s hands were our hands, we laid bricks, mixing straw and clay, slowly stacking up blocks towards the blue. Elohim's ego swallowed ours. What if we only built the Tower of Babel so we could stroke his face with our muddy...

Poetry and Spoken Word Competition: 2021

In the Blood of the Dying

I’m thrumming with a cellular thrill,
like a puzzle unsure of what to do with itself now that it’s cohesive.
four years of hell are coming to a close,
but my fingers are still skittering over the keyboard.
I’m still writing about science class, still analyzing the cafeteria food.      

In chemistry, freshman year, we're freezing cream.
Stupid-Boy embellishes his project with cherry flavoring,
spraying MiO all over his clinical-grade ice cream.
I watch, aghast, as he reveals the true meaning of applied science:
tie-dyed lab coats and pink desserts. 

I wish I’d stuck my tongue into adolescence.
I wish I'd eaten the pink ice cream.
I wish I'd enhanced my pubescent experiment with MiO.
a high would have gotten me over high school.  

chronically fatigued, exhaustion underpinned by desire.
I am awake and praying and desperate.
pseudo-science says my cells need a reboot.
and desperate, I'd go skinny dipping, screaming,
but I'm chained to the dusty steps of a half-remembered...

April Grab Bag

Glimpses

The Magic Man
He was a magic man. He lived in a little hovel on the mountain, where on hot summer nights he would blow smoke rings into the valley below. They lasted unnaturally long and glowed blue, sometimes pink. We in the village thought he was crazy. It was a well-known fact that only crazy people existed in a state of feral ecstasy: naked, wise, and alone. 

As I was later to learn, magic was not an aberration, rather a manifestation of lucidity, a terrifying result of the active practice of being alive. The magic man on the mountain, with his smoke-rings and loincloth, was a god. And he was far more real than the golden abstraction we worshiped. That’s why no one ever made the climb, no one besides me that is. 

To the Islands
As we rocked between the blue waves, we felt our salty skin slipping into the sunlit water, the effervescent past. The islands rose...

“All Alive”

Building with Pebbles

Some time ago, when I was young but conscious, my parents showed me a picture of my first snow. I was wrapped in a green blanket and wearing a strawberry hat. My mom held me close to her chest, but my eyes were wide open. 

The present is always influencing the past. I like to think that I remember what it was like to be that little baby, enthralled and in harmony with the world around it, unremembering. I like to think I know what it was to be alive. But the truth is I only have my own preconceptions, my own extrapolations, taken from that photograph. I have only the desire to be desireless, to live in a world full of fresh snow.

My first authentic memory is actually of filling myself with desires, of becoming human. 

When I was two or three, I would sit on the porch, wedging pebbles into the cracks between planks. When the stones didn’t...

Complacency

I tended a small garden outside my old cottage for many years. I grew peas and poppies and rosemary. It was a nice garden. Sipping a cup of tea, my hands close to my mouth, I can still smell a faint echo of the dirt that once coated my fingernails. 

I drove by the cottage the other day. The thatched roof was still charmingly frumpy, but the garden was dry and tangled. It has become a wilderness, and gardens are not supposed to be wild. I miss getting dirty; I miss caring for something beautiful. I keep my Honda so terribly clean. The plastic inside shines. There is not a crumb in sight. And I suppose it goes without saying, but there are no flowers.  

I pulled into the driveway. It was instinctual. The gentle rumble of gravel was too familiar to be ordinary. I felt the sharp tug of the past as I steadied myself. I am old; even...

Typecast

Suffocating in the stiff silence of the fish course, I blurted it out. “I finally decided on a major.” 

“Oh yes? What is it going to be? Economics, Pre-Law... Please don’t tell me you decided to go for History. Useless subject.” My father looked up from his halibut. “I understand that undergrad is a time to experiment, but its primary purpose is to prepare you for graduate school. I want to be sure I am leaving the company to someone at least partially competent."

“Theater.”  

My mother pursed her lips, setting down both her knife and her fork. “Theater.” She repeated slowly. She sat there for a while, unsure of what to do with her empty hands. “When have you ever shown any interest in acting.”

“Theater isn’t just about performance. It’s the study of how we present ourselves. We explore the line between seeming and being by becoming.” 

My father scoffed. “Philosophy is even worse than history.” 

“I am...

Spring Break: A Reflection on Vacations

God, it’s finally spring. I can feel my face burning as I read out on the patio this morning. I wish that spring meant something other than an unfounded, unsubstantiated brightness that threatens oblivion and a terrible headache. But drunken monotony is better when it’s sunlit. My thoughts move more freely under the blue sky. I don’t feel like my words have to reflect the view out my window. There's no window, only air, too much air to breathe. 

I’m barefoot, lying in my aunt and uncle's courtyard. I’m the only one on vacation, the only one for whom the city with its neat neighborhood blocks lined with cherry trees and people walking their well-bred dogs, is an escape. I’m the only one for whom the conventional American Dream is an escape.  

As is the tendency of someone on a self-contained vacation, I find myself reflecting on the objects around me that are attached to some faraway memory. My eyes...

The Highway

It’s a clear day. The sky is blue. The grass is green. And we are driving down the highway. The journey is marked by spastic bursts of conversation and a chunkily categorized landscape. I press my nose to the glass and point. There go the suburbs, the farmlands, the mountains. We are squished between moments, reckoning with a folded horizon.  

A highway is a strip of land, paved over, with bold yellow stripes running down its center. It’s a dead snake. It’s everything it has crushed, everything it has pushed to its periphery. And it’s nothing, a vacuum with the sole purpose of transporting our consciousness from one location to another. A highway is a portal forced to exist in conventional space. It’s a portal stretched thin. 

My cousin says she finds the dirty dive bars and mangy strip malls, the nameless, thousand-mile purgatory outside the parapet, enticing. She says that everything looks more cohesive when viewed from another dimension....

Single Greatest Challenge

God is a Dreamer and a Killer

Mama is a rainbow hunter. She’ll lug you out onto the road when the world is wet and cold and shimmering. And she’ll stand on the cement until the grey sky reveals its true colors. I don’t have her faith. I don’t believe God made any promises. 

Today was a good day. My town felt like a village, the cherry trees were blooming, and I could see the horizon curve. It is a small world after all. Earth is blue and green and full of people chasing dreams. Around and around they go, watching the sunset. 

There’s going to be another flood. The blue will rise and the green will sink and the people chasing dreams will flail their arms. We're all going to die, and it’s our own damn fault. Mama, if God made rainbows He also made us. 

Climate change isn't imagined, but imagination is the affliction. Dreams kill life. They kill our ability to experience living for...

White Trash (footnotes)

My grandma dated James Dean. He took her on a drive down State Route 46 in his motorcycle. The same road on which he crashed a couple of weeks, months, years later. We Americans have a strange hobby: mapping our heritage. It’s easy to feel lost in our land of swollen traffic lanes and busy highway intersections. It’s easy to lose yourself.  

I am a daughter of English debutants and the Danish Avant-Gard. I am a daughter of Balkan Nationalism and Balkan slums in Chicago. I am a daughter of the American Revolution and “The Revolution”. I am a daughter of Fish-Town and London-Town. I am a daughter of capitalists and socialists, fascists and communists, psychologists and preachers and poets, Puritan pilgrims all. 

While the English have become disenchanted with their long-rotten Victorian class system, Americans are secretly infatuated with the notion of class. After all, classicism is much more glamorous than racism. We grew up with Disney princesses and...

Poetry and Spoken Word Competition: 2021

In the Blood of the Dying

Purpose: Mitochondria: measuring the minutes until I die:

I’m thrumming with a cellular audacity, like a puzzle that doesn’t know what to do with itself now that it’s cohesive.

Four years of hell are coming to a close, but my fingers are still skittering over the keyboard. I’m still writing about science class, still analyzing the cafeteria food.      

Materials & Procedure: Mitochondria: MiO beverage mix:

In chemistry, freshman year, we're freezing cream. Stupid-Boy embellishes his project with cherry flavored energy, spraying MiO all over his clinical-grade ice cream. I watch, aghast, as he reveals the true meaning of applied science: tie-dyed lab coats and pink desserts. 

I wish I’d eaten the pink ice cream. I wish I had enhanced my pubescent experiment with MiO. A high would have gotten me over high school.  

Data & Calculations: Mitochondria: M.E.

Chronically fatigued, exhaustion underpinned by desire. I am awake and praying and desperate. Pseudo-science says my cells need a reboot. A good...

White Trash (footnotes)

My grandma dated James Dean. He took her on a drive down State Route 46 in his Porsche. The same road on which he crashed a couple of weeks, months, years later. We Americans have a strange hobby: mapping our heritage. It’s easy to feel lost in our land of swollen traffic lanes and busy highway intersections. It’s easy to lose yourself.  

I am a daughter of English debutants and the Danish Avant-Gard. I am a daughter of Balkan Nationalism and Balkan slums in Chicago. I am a daughter of the American Revolution and “The Revolution”. I am a daughter of Fish-Town and London-Town. I am a daughter of capitalists and socialists, fascists and communists, psychologists and preachers and poets, Puritan pilgrims all. 

While the English have become disenchanted with their long-rotten Victorian class system, Americans are secretly infatuated with the notion of class. After all, classicism is much more glamorous than racism. We grew up with Disney princesses and...

Home’s Essence

Respite

Home is a place that doesn’t take up space in my memories. It smells like boiling water and uncooked pasta. It feels like skin. Moment by moment, nothing and everything in between. 

It’s only early spring for a few spectacular weeks. We’re only alive until the cherry blossoms dissolve under the rain or the patches of sunlight on the warm wood floor harden into scars and the rain stops falling. 

Life is like standing under a waterfall. It’s the first shock you remember and the end, the opening. It’s sucking in air. 

Home is the rhythm, not the melody. It’s the sunrises I’ve forgotten lying in bed. I love my home, but I only miss it when I am tired of living.

Escapril

1-Ego 
Reading essays out loud. A habit developed out of necessity. Ideas are nothing without shape. Conclusion. Introduction. And three pieces of evidence between. Even intellectuals must eat their vegetables. 

Desiring contours. A Green-Smoothie-California-Sun-Wrinkled-Corpse-Body. Making a shape. A slut. A tease. A tightlaced spinster with a stick up the ass. Giving life to a dead thing. What language does. Resurrection. Stereotypes. 

An ego the size of a balloon. Popping. Fast. Body disintegrates. Slowly. Imaginary blood between.  

The Waitlist (this is meant to be humorous)

I was just waitlisted at all three of my reach schools. And to be perfectly honest, I am perplexed.

My grades weren’t perfect, but I was still in the top 10 percent of my class. My essay was spectacular. It was even chosen as a finalist in the New York Times Personal Narrative Contest. My extra-curriculars weren’t anything special, but I think Robert’s Rules of Order are a ridiculous waste of time.  

My parents always told me I was brilliant. And though I protested, in my secret heart, I had convinced myself I was capable of anything (well, except changing a lightbulb). How many other kids do you know you spend their free time writing about how Hellenistic Christian Apologetics is at odds with the traditional Abrahamic thought-system out of which Christianity was born? I mean, I would be perfect for an overly pretentious university full of spoiled kids who reject practicality like the plague. 

Speaking of the plague, most...

Mid-March Grab Bag

A Window Into a Soul

It’s always raining. Each moment the grey cement of my neighborhood road grows darker, soaking up the mist until the rock reaches a point of tender surrender. Water fills the pores in the street and seeps into the muddy storm drains.

The sun occasionally shows its face but it’s always through a thin haze of persistent clouds. The light reflected in the puddles, in the green grass, in our mirrors and our eyes, is the sun’s brighter, purer derivative. 

There’s steam in my stomach, on my fingertips. Compressed, it turns the engines of translation. Sun into light. Rain into water. A window into a soul. 

Sijo

Scribbling

I scribbled a sunflower and pretended it was the sun. 
That is what it takes to fabricate an authentic smile. 
Life is made of careless lines, spiders and spirals and sorrow. 

Here Comes the Sun

Mina Shi sold seafood from all over the galaxy. The price depended on the distance an item had traveled and its availability. Mina specialized in the exotic, but she sold everything from the small purple barnacles found on every shore of Ee-ha, to rare earthen Tuna. She rose early each evening to unload her wares, carefully positioning her more flashy specimens so their scales or shells reflected the bright white light of Ee-ha’s extraordinary moon.  

As she waited for the market to fill up, the silent heat of twilight would dissipate and the desert flowers would unfurl, soaking up the moonlight. The evening was slow, but as the ground cooled, her customers would arrive in droves, crowding the market with their bright clothes and rhythmic, breathy voices.  

After deciding to start her import business on the newly booming planet of Ee-ha, Mina had done extensive market research to figure out what would sell best. She had settled on seafood because...

Living in a National Historic Landmark

My town is a Victorian woman who has lost her virginity, trying to hide her bloody underwear. The girlish lilac so many houses are slathered in feels off, like rough on already flushed cheeks. 

There is a man with a brass pocket watch who conducts a tour of all the haunted mansions and sewers, after an hour he sends the tourists off for pizza and cheap souvenirs. But we’re still living here, paying way too much in rent.

I have never liked brass. It reminds me of the tacky steampunk fair that used to commandeer downtown every summer. It’s burnished, but not rusted, a little like antiquated plastic.  

My town irritates me for the same reason I can't spend more then a day in Disneyland. Theme Parks are soul crushing. Evolution is staunched by mechanized aesthetics. That’s not to say there aren't beautiful places. History is lovely when it is allowed to crumble. And we are touched by the corrosive...

Prayer Book

I wanted to experience Catholicism, the ritual of eating God on a dreary Sunday morning. So last winter, I hauled myself up the hill to St Mary’s Star of the Sea, only to find that mass was conducted in Spanish and that God’s dismembered body was reserved for initiates. 

Is it too late for me to understand the rhythm of the ritual? Too late to flesh out my flesh? Too late to learn Spanish… Latin… Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic?  Elohim, your name is plural. I am who I am. You are who you are. We are who we are. Are we separate? Or are we whole. 

I want to kneel before beeswax candles, to feel God’s grace behind the stochastic incandescence of our light. I want to passionately believe what my ancestors knew. Dear, Mr, Sir, Your Majesty, Your Eminence, The Pope, give me a prayer book. I’ll repeat the words until they become palpable, palatable, poetry.

 

To Desire the Goddess

The methodology of beauty:

between piano chords, we listen to the rain fall. It splashes into the river. I am gone, lost through holes knife-point whittled into a set of reed pipes, lost to the rising wetland water. Each heart-beat is scattered, conducted like a flight of swallows. 

Homesexual romance is a broken mirror. Two friends, two lovers, miss-matched comedies and tragedies. You’re my better half, seen through a raindrop: wobbling with delicate viscosity, falling, perfectly shattered. 

Our bones are one. Our flesh is separate and stinking with perfume. In a series of dancing angles, we break like silk. We share our breath, our dream-scarred cigarette smoke, our deep-belly sorrow, through the sacred gate of our lips.
To love is to desire the goddess, to lose yourself between beats.

Friendship Tweet

Out of Me

Friendship is like an ingrown hair. It’s an entity of its own, sprouting under your skin; a cherished parasite that's painful to remove and painful to keep. There is nothing more intimate.

Stagnation

Everything comes from the cosmos. When the moon is ripe, she falls from the sky. Suddenly somatic, I grab her soul and squeeze.

Dirt gives us nothing, just fingers and toes, arms and legs, trees and buildings, mountains and God, all digging inwards, upwards, towards the sublime.

But infinity reflects the infinitesimal change of growing dreams.The sky falls into Narcissus’s stagnant pond, turning it into a muddy puddle, mineral-rich and human. 

Expansion

I caressed the sun last night, stroking skin and stars.

To intimately feel the darkness, is to see the light. 

I dug through wet dirt, searching for new forms of blasphemy.

Let me dissipate, let me become holier than thou.

Kierkegaard once said that we are great in proportion to what we love.

I love the moon as it swallows the night sky.

I love balloons as they burst, and tears as they fall. 

I love the God I have colonized.

Op-Ed Competition 2021

On American Values

One of my grandma's first memories is of huddling under a bomb shelter in London during the Blitz. Surprisingly, it wasn't a traumatic experience. Being an innocent, bright-eyed, three-year-old caught up in the horrors of humanity’s mechanized abstractions, she garnered a lot of sympathy. When the loud noises started, the adults would give her candy, sing her songs, tell her stories. It’s amazing how under the right circumstances bombs can become associated with bon-bons.

I don’t mean to trivialize the Second World War. It’s true my grandma was very fortunate, leaving England on one of the last boats to arrive in America unscathed. But this story has stuck with me. I've always found it sweet, funny even, but recently I've realized that it hints at something deeper: reality is malleable. By prioritizing beauty, joy, community, or even just a collective illusion over the impossible ideals of absolute truth and freedom, we are able to preserve our humanity in even the...

Op-Ed Competition 2021

On American Values

One of my grandma's first memories is of huddling in a bomb shelter in London during the Blitz. Surprisingly, it wasn't a traumatic experience. Being an innocent, bright-eyed three-year-old caught up in the horrors of humanity’s mechanized abstractions, she garnered a lot of sympathy. When the loud noises started, the adults would give her candy, sing her songs, tell her stories. It’s amazing how under the right circumstances bombs can become associated with bon-bons.

I don’t mean to trivialize the Second World War. It’s true that my grandma was very fortunate, leaving England on one of the last boats to arrive in America unscathed. But this story has stuck with me. I've always found it sweet, even funny, but recently I've realized that it hints at something deeper: reality is malleable. By prioritizing beauty, joy, community, or even just a collective illusion over the impossible ideals of absolute truth and freedom, we are able to preserve our humanity in even...

Puncturable

I'm terrified the hail is going to break my windows, and then, maybe my bones.

I feel delicate, at the mercy of atmospheric pressure. Hunching my shoulders, I shelter my precious heartbeat. The sky is omnipresent. It isn’t supposed to hurt me.

My skin is bruisable, puncturable. Like a nuclear warhead, the hail is an existential threat to my flimsy, perfect armor.  

I wander into the kithen. The rhythm is off this evening. A gust of wind, a jarring clatter, then a long bout of dreadful silence. I don’t know how I'm going to sleep tonight. I’ll just make myself a pot of tea and wait for the kettle to whistle.

Dream Big

A Brick Foundation

All writing is a form of deconstruction. Words are a semiotic representation of reality rather than reality itself.  We artists are ambitious, foolhardy, a little arrogant. We build dreams out of brick and mortar. My imagination is like an old quilt, cut-cloth details and applique. Sometimes the stitching comes loose and I can see my stuffing spilling out. 

With a body like mine, it’s worth the futility. I’m nothing but a scarecrow anyway. And confined to a sweaty bed, where else do I have to go but inwards, outwards, into the dreamworld? 

I like to picture my past, to perfect it. 

I’m a three year old math prodigy. We move to a hippy commune when I’m six. My dad’s an entrepreneur. We stay in a castle in Provence that one summer. I’m published in the New York Times. I get accepted into the University of Chicago. I win a Nobel Prize!  

All I really want is to breathe the spring air,...

March Grab Bag

In a Moment They Bloomed

Last week, I noticed the cherry trees had bloomed. 

Distracted, lost in the intimate grey of longing, I missed the exact hour in which the impossible happened. But when I finally opened my eyes, the bleak winter was gone. I could smell the sun as I walked along the sidewalk. The cement was warm and the soil was wriggling with a nascent green. 

Spring is patient and exuberant, full of disciplined joy. In a single, soaring gesture, our blue sky reveals itself. Our damp green grass is lit on fire. And pink cherry blossoms sweeten our thick, stagnant, stubborn breaths.

Scare-Crow-God

Handful by handful I excavate my scarecrow God from His grand old tomb. It’s sweaty work, unsatisfying and granular. 

The difference between Giza and Gaza can be measured in meters of sand. And a storm is coming. We have picked ourselves raw, exposing the flabby honesty of our corpse, the patterns the worms have traced in our flesh. 

Blowing dandelions with machine gun certainty, clay-stained hands, fingernails scraping drought-parched land. I wish date-trees bowed to passion. I wish the world was more than damned. I wish Jesus were a man. 

Hocus Pocus

Through my astrolabe I see the universe’s concentric squares. 
My longing keeps me captive and sacred in God’s incomprehensible geometry. 

God is an empty battlefield. A vast space filled by the intimate conflict of our desires, by the veneration of our passions. We feel the intensity of a battlefield because we fight in it. We understand space because we sculpt it. God transcends the dualities that define our religions, yet religion is our way of making God tangible. It is our way of grasping the pervasive, yet elusive, rhythms of mysticism that fill the space between atoms. We grasp at God because we position ourselves outside it, in a world defined by convictions. By separating ourselves we give God shape. To make something holy is to hold it apart, to imbue it with faith rather than reality. 

The curvature of prayer is parallel to linear logic. 
Hocus pocus. 
God tastes like bread and blood
and clouds.

Driving Through the Rain

It was hot in the car as we drove through the rain. Water ran down the windows, blurring everything except the already hazy glow that poured out from the street lamps. The broken droplets caught the light, transforming it into a watercolor painting. Vague but certain, this perfect representation defied the Heisenberg principle. 

Physics ceases to function after a couple hours on the road.  Nose pressed against the cold glass, you forget there is cement beneath you. The present is obscured by its continuous consumption. My mother had her hands on the steering wheel, her eyes elsewhere. I reached for the radio dial, but thought better of it. We hadn’t stepped on the brakes yet. That was music enough. We were flying with dream-like dissonance, our bodies separate from our movement. 

I Don't Know How to Pray, Passionately (Version 2)

I don’t know how to pray.

Sometimes I wonder if I am just not beautiful enough, not broken enough for God.   

Your religion is transcendent, sublime. It lives under the mud and above it. I'm jealous of how you expand, full of faith, to fit your constellations. Have you ever seen those gorgeous Georgian frescoes? They're fading now, but that's to be expected, considering they've withstood the Soviet Union and It's collapse.

It’s amazing that Seminary can produce both Stalins and Saints. But I suppose Religion would be passionless without idolatry, mere philosophy. Your burning love and hatred simplifies you into a hazy halo, an embarrassing fifty-foot-tall golden statue taken down in the night. Or I suppose it can leave you dead, nailed to a cross. 

I’d love to wake up, to feel my fingers and my toes and my animal insides. That's what it would take to become big, to become a body for God. 

Living in a National Historic Landmark

My town is a Victorian woman who has lost her virginity, trying to hide her bloody underwear. The girlish lilac so many houses are slathered in feels off, like rough on already flushed cheeks. 

There is a man with a brass pocket watch who conducts a tour of all the haunted mansions and sewers, after an hour he sends the tourists off for pizza and cheap souvenirs. But we’re still living here, paying way too much in rent.

I have never liked brass. It reminds me of the tacky steampunk fair that used to commandeer downtown every summer. It’s burnished, but not rusted, a little like antiquated plastic.  

My town irritates me for the same reason I can't spend more then a day in Disneyland. Theme Parks are soul crushing. Evolution is staunched by mechanized aesthetics. That’s not to say there aren't beautiful places. History is lovely when it is allowed to crumble. And we are touched by the corrosive...

Our Stories (Footnotes)

I drink from cupped hands, fresh water, fresh blood, fresh weeping. There is iron in our skin, solder. You play a winter melody like it’s a hearth fire. Hungry, hungry, whole, watching our souls ripple outwards. We are our stories.

Mid-February Grab Bag

The Lines of Memory

Have you read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino? His narrator, Marco Polo, understands that dreams are built from city-scapes, from the complex algebra of memory and desire. 

I suppose if I tried hard enough, I could draw a parallel between the 13th century and the our pandemic. Although the Black Death hadn’t yet devastated the world, plagues were a regular occurrence in Marco Polo’s day. Even death was mundane. 

I used to travel a lot. I’ve been to England, Canada, France, Thailand, Loas, Vietnam, Cambodia, Croatia, and Denmark. I spent two hours in Hong Kong and a full ten minutes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Stuck in my godforsaken town, I have begun to reflect on life. But it's hard to get lost, hard to find yourself, when you are locked up in your room. My desire has probably warped my memories, but I think that everywhere is more real than here. 

There is one city though, or perhaps it could...

Narcissus Boy (continued)

He hated himself. He was a wiry creature of self loathing, of hollow cheeks, arched feet, sharp fingernails, pouty lips and thick breath. He would smile, but even that curve was made from the same hot wire. He had taken sandpaper to his skin, rubbing until his soul was scarred and raw. 

We all experience heartburn, moments when our bodies are revealed to us with blinding clarity. But I have never meant anyone who could endure beauty like he could, who could withstand the dull ache. He was nothing but a model for hungry pencils: lines and sinew and thirds. When we lay together, I could trace his shape and his contours would linger, occupying space, but not consuming it.

It was early spring when I found him on a park bench, gazing at his reflection in the muddy pond. I liked his shape, his Narcissus facade. He had a book in his lap, small, with thick, dog-eared pages. Beat...

Memory Object

The Little Quilt

The blanket folded neatly at the bottom of my shelf is a patchwork one. It’s pieced together from tidy squares: bright pinks and pastel blues and little boxy animals. Coloring the very geometric lion's mane, is a discreet dose of yellow. The blanket has been folded and dusty for quite some time. It’s been canonized into an emblem of innocence, rather than tossed carelessly over the bed like the honest breathing thing. But I like it there, sitting on my shelf. I smile whenever I catch a glimpse of those bright faded colors all tucked away. Dusty things are often treated with care; I suppose that is why they become dusty. They’re little pieces of ourselves worth saving, worth watching as time plays its slow game. 

One day, as I watched the snow fall, I wrapped my old quilt around my shoulders. The texture of the cloth had slipped from my memory. It was rougher than I remembered. I realized...

Winter Light

My winter light is as sharp as a young lover’s fingernails. We are born from a terrible brightness, fresh and shaking, sun-swallowed and full of pastel breath.

Dear one, courageous face of God, tell me your little secrets, polish your fingernails until they shine.

Highway Intersection

I arrange the chapters of my novel like dominoes. 
I enjoy building complicated highway intersections  
and razing megaliths and discarding the daisies
you left on my front step the wet summer evening 
before we kissed and before I smashed the guitar
with which you strummed our relentless love story.

Names for Nature

The Wayside Moon

On the less developed side of town, there’s a big stone in the middle of a small field. In the summer, it’s grey flesh is warm. It’s a round thing, full. We spy on this curmudgeonly, kind, old rock from behind the blackberry bushes. I would love to run through the flowers, climb on its back. But it’s off the path. Even on a stroll, the public trail gives me an unyielding trajectory. 

In many indigenous traditions, each stone, tree, blade of grass, has a soul. This belief system is called Animism, after anima, the Latin word for spirit. But Latin is a stiff language, so it will inevitably fall short. There are times when I keenly feel my colonist mindset, my tendency to think in lines and definitions rather than in fields full of flowers, in strong, soulful stones.  

But when I look up at the moon, at a hunk of rock in the sky, I feel my belly...

Asteroid, Chapter 1

Prologue 

The world was moving very fast or maybe it was me, maybe I was flying at a speed where even the smoothest of turns jerked the precious air from my chest. I was breathlessly waiting to collide with an asteroid. My ship's controls felt slick in my hands, but I was holding them so tightly I doubt I could’ve let go if I had tried. As I hurtled through the Sekna Feelic asteroid belt, I realized the extent of my own reckless insanity. Then I saw it: a brief moment, a blur in the endless pattern of continuously filled space.  

“Fuck it.”  I adjusted the speed dial. It now read .995 times the speed of light. My sails went up. They caught the light; the angle was perfect. The solid, dependable rays touched the graceful curves of my sail and I was free. In the last moment before the leap, the gate closed behind me, smashing two of the...

Names for Nature

The Wayside Moon

On the less developed side of town, there’s a big stone in the middle of a small field. In the summer, it’s grey flesh is warm. It’s a round thing, full. We spy on this curmudgeonly, kind, old rock from behind the blackberry bushes. I would love to run through the flowers, climb on its back. But it’s off the path. Even on a stroll, the public trail gives me an unyielding trajectory. 

In many indigenous traditions, each stone, tree, blade of grass, has a soul. This belief system is called animism, after the Latin word for spirit. But Latin is a stiff language, so it will inventively fall short. There are times when I keenly feel my colonist mindset, my tendency to think in lines and definations rather than in fields full of flowers, in strong, soulful stones.  

But when I look up at the moon, at a hunk of rock in the sky, I feel my belly explode...

Rocket

It’s enough to have kneecaps,
        and a starship in your belly, 
red-lights and all. 

Space-time is a delicate structure.

Have you ever formed a fetus,
          played pattycake with your feet, 
bent and broken like a baby, 

rocking to choral music. 

I know my skin is sticky, 
          cause I painted my forehead, 
my sacred spot, with ash, 

downtrodden, coiled like a spring

There are elephants on our trampoline. 
           You big-brained, flat-footed 
tightrope walking idiot,  
            
let’s bounce.

Holy, Only to Ourselves

I no longer believe in revolution. Giddy hope strangled by the eventuality of surrender, like a paper flower disintegrating under the rain. Arms held aloft, kneeling in the mud, awake and temporary, it’s our duty to live another day pressed against the wall. 

Grinning, we fight: late night study sessions, takeout, chopsticks gnawed to splinters. There are moments when I feel rabid, heart full of darkness, wanting nothing but myself, momentary satisfaction, a void-like maw filled with dried marigolds and broken spiderwebs, and little notes saying I’ll be back in an hour, signed I love you. Growing upward, thinning with the never ending atmosphere. 

We call Genghis Khan brutal. The Mongols left their dead open to the Blue Sky, so vultures could pick them clean of flesh. I suppose there is a brutality to clarity, to wiping civilizations off the earth. Wouldn’t it be lovely to look up and see heaven? 

We humans are meant to be dirty. You can’t...

Semiotics/ Semantics

We, big-brained humans distill the sensual into semiotics. 
But cracked open, cracked up, stopped at the stop-sign, 
I’m made aware of the prickly hairs growing out of my skin,
of the virulent grass pushing through the cement.

It's semantics really; are we alive or dead? 

Excerpt from Asteroid


(This is an excerpt from a novel I was working on last year. It's meant to be humorous. I think all you need to know is that protagonist Tamerlane, who is brilliant but absolutely insane, is getting interrogated by his best friend who he hasn't seen in a year. Don't worry too much about the plot. Most of this scene is just philosophical digression) 

“I am truly free. I am not burdened by caring. I am not tied to anything, not my beliefs, not even my own self preservation. I have escaped time.” 

She laughed. “This existentialist nirvana is very theatrical Tamerlane, but I know that it’s something you can only ever aspire to. You told me in your last grand abstraction that you were scared of yourself. To be scared, especially of yourself, you have to care.”

“You’re wrong. You see, the best part of not caring is that I get to contradict myself. I simply make a game...

Liturgy of Cut Forsythia

We dissect our tangerine-skin to it’s etymological etching, 
peeling until we are beautiful and expansive,
like a flowering tree that doesn’t know how to keep itself warm, 
fingernails releasing essential oils from corpse-memory.  

Under spring’s uncompromising light each leaf is exhaustingly complex. 
So cut your forsythia, save your gold for cloudy days. 
Remember God made us ugly and abstract so we could domesticate fire. 

The Journalist, 1919 (Screen Play Adaption) (TW: Some Profanity)

INT.  A NEW YORK SALOON, 1919.  NIGHT 
The camera follows a young woman, SARAH, as she enters a grimy underground saloon. She is dressed in a fashionable silk dress, a feminine peacoat, and she is clutching a small purse inside of which is stashed a wallet and notebook. The bar is poorly lit and filled with male revolutionaries who are drunkenly discussing politics. They glance suspiciously in the direction of the young woman as she makes her way to a table. With affected confidence she pulls up a chair. An OLD MAN already seated at the table smirks. 

OLD MAN
Where’s your picket? Shouldn’t you be fighting to participate in your precious democracy? 

SARAH
My democracy? It has too many frills for my taste.

OLD MAN
(laughing) 
Just as well. It’s all coming down. 

SARAH
All of it? Why not just cut it’s frills?

OLD MAN
The whole thing rotten to the core. Corrupted by capitalism.

He bangs his fist...

To Desire the Goddess

The methodology of beauty:

between piano chords, we listen to the rain fall. It splashes into the river. I am gone, lost through holes knife-point whittled into a set of reed pipes, lost to the rising wetland water. Each heart-beat is scattered, coordinated like a flight of swallows. 

Homesexual romance is like a broken mirror. Two friends, two lovers, miss-matched comedies and tragedies. You’re my better half, seen through a raindrop, wobbling with delicate viscosity and falling with perfect arrowdynamic slant. 

Our bones are one. Our flesh is separate and stinking with perfume. In a series of dancing angles, we break like silk. We share our breath, our dream-scarred cigarette smoke, our deep-belly sorrow, through the sacred gate of our lips.

To love is to desire the goddess, to lose yourself between beats.

Clerics

To be the perfect woman for a poet, 
a cold-brick romantic in a flapper dress!  
I've started eating butter without bread.    

Justine! Lifeless and exquisite, teach me how to be a goddess. 
Godless, I would collar my little men clerics 
as they knelt, pontificating their sadness to my satisfaction.  

Our Northern Days

Is it beautiful to give life to a dead thing? 

The sand is littered with Moon Jellies. They jiggle when you prod them.  

I woke up cold this morning, stroking my own skin. 

Our northern days are short and watery; they bleed into each other. 

I wish I liked pickled fish. 

I wish I could cherish the details, watch them change color in a salt brine. 

But my anality is perverted. I measure life by its consumption. 

Under the fleeting winter sun, I warp the clock with my obsessions.

I’m retracing: desperate fingers, a delicate brain.

25 Words

Dirty Soap

This isn’t what living is supposed to feel like. I cry to cleanse myself, but the tears just keep falling, water caked on like mud.

The Metronome

I am terrified of what it means to be alive,  
terrified of the queasy absurdity of living, 
the spring-flower-hot-oil rhythm of life.  

Trilling along a relentless number-line, 
we step over our self-constructed cliffs.
I think mathematical relationships are proof

that God is real and that we discovered Him. 
Our good-bad heartbeats are caught between
the loose geometry of falling-dead leaves 

and a cruel metronome.

Pandemic Metaphor

Dead Books

Junior year I filled up a journal with the corpses of memory. Now, the red, leather-bound cahier is full. But my neatly labeled, black and white composition books lie stacked up on my desk, never opened, empty with the memory of corpses. The last image I can clearly picture is spring fading into summer, green grass withering. I was catching up with my own heartbeats.

I used to think my pens were precious. I kept them in a forty-dollar vase from the Bohemian store downtown. But I doubt Ginsburg kept his pens in a vase, I doubt he had forty-dollars to spend. It’s true my poetry has gotten better now that I’ve forgotten about AP Calc tests, now that I treat my pens like dirty socks, now that I only write about dead things. 

No, I only write about things, components, abstractions, the tedium of perfect souls. A couple days ago, I was asked to write a poem about a...

25 Words

Dirty Soap

I took a plunge at midnight. I tossed my body into the sea, and I watched the black water pour into my drought punctured soul.

Narcissus Boy (continued)

He hated himself. He was a wiry creature of self loathing, of hollow cheeks, arched feet, sharp fingernails, pouty lips and thick breath. He would smile, but even that curve was made from the same hot wire. He had taken sand-paper to his skin, rubbing until his soul was scarred and raw. 

We all experience heartburn, moments when our bodies are revealed to us with blinding clarity. But I have never meant anyone who could endure beauty like he could, who could withstand the dull ache. He was nothing but a model for hungry pencils: lines and sinew and thirds. When we lay together, I could trace his shape and his contours would linger, occupying space, but not consuming it.

It was early spring when I found him on a park bench, gazing at his reflection in the muddy pond. I liked his shape, his Narcissus facade. He had a book in his lap, small, with thick dog-eared pages. Beat...

Lost in Translation

Singing Darts

My mother tells me that when I was little I would lie in bed, exploring my phonemes.

I have been reading Lorca lately. I hardly speak a word of Spanish, but my chest swells with each syllable I whisper. 

“La Lola/ canta saetas”  saeta, sa-ee-ta, sa-eta...

Saeta (pronounced sah-ATE-ah) is a dart, an arrow, or a piercing song from the Andalusian region of Spain. In poetry, saeta can exist simultaneously as a dart and a song. Both it’s sound and shape pierce the heart. 

I like it when translations leave the poetry raw, senseless and full of sense. Like a child I feel my way through, delineating my own precious shades of passion.  

January Grab Bag

Forever

Our precious sorrow was as soft as silk and as hard as stone.

You cried, face in my lap, filling me with ecstasy.  
I trembled under a frog-song disquiet,
too thin for the heavy twilight fragrance. 
Dying sunlight filtered through our stain-glass souls
as I watched you rock yourself to sleep. 

I am a small, ugly, croaking thing with a little grace
that burns inside me like my grandmothers' milk. 
We waste our lives hoping dusk will last, 
hoping we'll dance desperate and naked, 
caught between the sun and the moon forever. 

 

Between the Sea and the Bed

It’s a solitary thing to be awake when you are not supposed to be. I’m building cities with my hands, holding stones I have sculpted. I'm naming the clay. 

A lighting rod stuck in the mud,
                        pebbles hurled at the blue,
                                              bass strings wound loose,
                                    I'm grasping gravity.  

Why do dreams teeter like improvised jazz? Why do they refuse to collapse? In a collective fever I harmonize with my solitude at the oppressive hour of 3 AM.

Excerpt from Asteroid


(This is an excerpt from a novel I was working on last year. It's meant to be humorous. I think all you need to know is that protagonist Tamerlane, who is brilliant but absolutely insane, is getting interrogated by his best friend who he hasn't seen in a year. Don't worry too much about the plot. Most of this scene is just philosophical digression) 

“I am truly free. I am not burdened by caring. I am not tied to anything, not my beliefs, not even my own self preservation. I have escaped time.” 

Seeta laughed. “This existentialist nirvana is very theatrical Tamerlane, but I know that it’s something you can only ever aspire to. You told me in your last grand abstraction that you were scared of yourself. To be scared, especially of yourself, you have to care.”

“You’re wrong. You see, the best part of not caring is that I get to contradict myself. I simply make a game...

A Biological Death

My living hands dance without my body. They are composing a symphony, while I stare at the dead flies decomposing on my windowsill. The eulogy enshrined in my memory of tomorrow is disembodied, as clinical as biology. 

When we die we are placed in a box. Mine better be beautiful, like heaven, because I hate being a corpse. I hate that my stubborn humanity will keep me from the earth.

Gold

When sunlight turns liquid, like laughter, we watch ourselves fall into the river. Our souls are bubbly and unbreakable, unbound by time. I think freedom is overvalued. And just like Gold, there is nothing that brings us more unstable ecstasy.
 

Commensurate

Absorbed in dialog, our words stumble into each other like blind lovers,  
our brilliant clumsy tongues hopelessly courting the infinite.   

The space between our desires is proportional to the space between our philosophies, 
and you gesticulate a burning sun.   

We are curled up by the fire, snacking on filberts and fresh apples.
Our ennui and gentle passion is augmented by the rain.

Longing to unhinge my desperate jaw, I ask you if you would like to hear my poetry.  

I read the rain, the filberts, and the fresh apples, hoping that you don’t understand my dialect.
 

Holding Back Tears

If you stare long enough at an abstract painting, you will begin to see yourself in every illogical curve. I was listening to Elliot Smith this morning when I realized a simple truth, being sad is beautiful. But so is being happy, angry, tired. We are beautiful because we augment our curves, whether they be smiles or frowns. Even Cubist paintings are two dimensional; with a foreground and a background, held together by tension, by poignant harmony and discord.  

Bloody Blasphemy

I’m looking for new forms of blasphemy. 

I feel like a decrepit waterslide in Sokhumi; most of my tourists are gone, but I remember what it was to be an attraction. 

The Black Sea is still beautiful and blood-full, burning with nationalist fervor. But the Adriatic, fresh-packed with western tourists, is red as well. 

Not even the Puget Sound is at peace. We wave flags proclaiming a free Cascadia.   

There are moments when I hate/love myself, when I am reminded of my gunslinging ancestors who, amidst the olive groves, declared their island sovereign. 

I feel like an island. I retrace my own borders with every word I write, each cherished poem a meaningless manifesto. I am Zinnia. I am still beautiful and blood-full.

Sunflower Seeds (off of R.j.Elsewhere's prompt, warning: explicit imagery)

To write is to consume the sun. To stretch our fragile bodies until we hear the glass shatter. To exploit our belly-buttons for the puncture wounds they are.  

I cry like a baby. 

Sun, 
I desire you.  

Mediterranean headaches, 
hands pressed against my eyes. 
You turn blue into a turgid God, 
Sea sick on insubstantial light 
I undulate, puking words into the turquoise sea. 

Sun, 
I would make you solid.

I want to eat fistfuls of dirt and cherry blossoms, 
to surrender as you inflate my insides with your vastness. 
Full and alive, aching with a prayer of terrible gluttony,
the sun and I would skewer ourselves on kebab sticks still dripping with fat.  

But I settle for sunflower seeds.
Bitter and salty like sweat,
I place them on my tongue and spit,
staining the page with a half chewed fetus.  

 

Underneath the Textured Night

Fingers digging into corduroy, scratching fabric. Counting is not enough, I follow my sheep once I fall asleep. All my infinitives are split. 

To really go to the moon. 
To know the moon is real. 

The sun rises each morning to the forced rhythm of a fifties doo-wop song. 

I am afraid inside every daffodil is a star.
I am afraid life is not but a dream.
I am afraid to wake up. 
I am afraid.

Cultural Density (footnotes)

Culture is collective accomplishments made within the confines of laws and traditions. These rules are essential, without them we would have no frame for interpretation. They create complexity by requiring us to work with them, to use them as building blocks that can either be stacked up or knocked down. Cultural rules are essential in developing something I have termed cultural density. I believe density doesn’t only apply to the physical world, but also applies to the world of ideas. By thinking inside the box, our ideas are forced to fold in on themselves, becoming increasingly complex. Without some form of containment, we wouldn’t have enough overlapping experience to communicate or interact with each other in a meaningful way.

Trivial customs such as small talk or table manners may seem mundane, but they give us a common language which we can subtly warp. Social rules give us the chance to exercise our ingenuity. We highlight our cleverness by making minor...

Writing Resolution

Ur and the Encyclopedia Britannica

On the other side of my tiny town is one of the most well respected poetry presses in the country, Copper Canyon. I have been told I have what it takes to make it all the way, the whole seventeen blocks. But seventeen years have come and gone. And even the three blocks to the grocery store feel like an odyssey of epic proportions. 

It’s funny how we measure life in blocks. We turn even the most mundane measurements into vertical distances, towers and poems. Civilization has always been very dense. Ancient Ur was only .27 square miles. And stacked precariously high, the Encyclopedia Britannica occupies less then one square foot. 

My poems swallow galaxies with their vastness. I’ve tried to remedy the problem, submitting to pretty little magazines, taming my wild breaths until they curl in my throat. I’ve tried to make myself complex. And I think I am getting somewhere. I really do. But the sanctity of each...

The Blue Hour

It’s the blue hour. I’m listening to choral music. Balanced and rising, it feels perfectly natural to believe in beauty. I pull my covers over my head, desperate to find that obvious wonder inside my own breath.

The cave smells like sweat, lingering dreams, and fighting-warmth. Because it’s Saturday, I know I can lie here until everything precious fades away and my heart is as light as the sky. 

Pink and Red

Your lips are pink. I can’t tell if it’s lipstick or love. 
I am frowning, halted, playing hopscotch with my breath, 

                                          but you are swathed in that pink dress, 
                                          as guileless as the summer I tried to paint as stifling.  

To falter is to wait to be sophisticated, 
           
                                           to wait until a pink heart turns red.  
 

The Origen of Lament

I destroy the sanctity of ritual like a Christian apologist. 

No matter how hard I try to be beautiful 
I end up equating the romantic with the infinite
and decomposed roses lose all their potency. 

Why must I ask Sophia to justify Herself, 
when She, in Her dancing perfection, embodies wisdom?

Rebellion

Common sense wavers in the moonlight. 

The derelict structure of human heartbeats,
denotes only the space between our sighs. 

Our tower of precious moments teetering,  
we revolt against the stars. 

There is a round pond in the woods near my house. In the summer it's full of ducks; In the winter, emptiness. During the dark hours it's filled by neither ducks nor emptiness. When shivering with midnight audacity I peer into the faceless water, I am looking for nothing more than Avalon. 

Paper Burns Nicely

It’s evening, a woman in her mid thirties (Rachel) sits in a closed cafe, sighing over a coffee table piled with unpaid bills. On the wall next to the table is an electronic fireplace. 

ELIZABETH 
(Off stage)  Open up, Damn it! I am in desperate need of something bitter!

Rachel creeps to the door. Outside, standing in the rain, is a college-aged girl dressed in nothing but a silk slip.

ELIZABETH
Are you the proprietor of this fine establishment?

Rachel nods slowly. 

ELIZABETH 
Then let me in for God’s sake! (Rachel opens the door. Elizabeth stumbles inside) Coffee. Coffee, please! (Rachel pours her a mug) Fuck! That’s hot. (takes another sip) God, I love coffee. It’s fucking terrible! 

There is a brief pause while Elizabeth drinks her coffee. 

ELIZABETH
(Grinning) The world, it’s ending, you know. It’s all ending. 

RACHEL
(Deadpan) The world’s ending?

ELIZABETH
(Raising her mug) Yes. Drink up.

RACHEL
Why… Why is the world ending?

ELIZABETH
The...

Two Dimensional Oscillations

I haven’t been breathing well lately. No fresh air. My oscillations are stationary. I celebrate by brain’s success trapped in an aching body. My Washington bedroom has become a portal to New York.

The rich pastels of early Winter are locked behind glass.
My breaths are locked behind glass.
My jubilation is Two Dimensional.

In chemistry class, instead of studying the universe's fundamental building blocks, I think about the entropy pulling my gut into my stomach, pulling my stomach into my heart, and my heart into my brain. The imaginary walls are breaking, but the real ones are solid. 

I lose myself to an infinity without density. Dimensional analysis fails to yield Three Dimensional forms.

My work wasn’t published in the New York Times, only my name. 

Recording the Emptiness

Fred

Fred watched the moon rise over the harbor from his dusty cliffside perch. He had Madrona Bark in his hair and a dispassionate scowl on his face. The eerie light reflected off the shiny plastic yachts, as they swayed, pulled by the tide. The harbor was empty. The tacky, Muted-Americana of restaurant umbrellas and 80’s Cape-Cod Mini-Mansions, was brutally revealed with an insubstantial honesty. 

Fred hurled an empty Budweiser into the ocean below. He waited for the splash, but the aluminum was lost in hazy darkness. He reached into his bag for another beer, chugging the salty liquid like it was sea water. This time, after he’d sucked it dry, he crushed the can in his fist. The metal became metal under his iron grip.  

The stars materialized and he thought about his mother’s bleach-burned hair and wet-wild eyes. He remembered her voice. It was husky from all those cigarettes and songs sung into the harsh breeze. He thought...

Nobody's Empire

I’m a poet. I write my body and soul with the desperation of a prostitute. I dissect my pain and passion. But when I sit down to describe my illness... I am on the edge of nobody’s empire. My words fail me. It’s like staring into the void. ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is a complex, multi-system chronic disease that feels like having a persistent flu and leaves you utterly exhausted, both mentally and physically.

I found Belle and Sebastian last spring, right as my symptoms started to worsen. Bedridden with nothing to do except listen to music, I fell in love with Belle and Sebastian's lyrics. Their songs were delicate, gritty explorations of life’s glorious triviality. In a poetic tribute to the band, depressed by the pandemic and my failing body, I wrote: “My dearest Belle and Sebastian you break yourselves into pieces so casually/ such casual living is beyond me.” 

It wasn’t until later that I learned...

Stomach Ache

My friends Bible-Bash with Nietzsche
Jesus is the cigarette butt of their nihilistic jokes.  

I am not a Christian, mais je suis chrétienne.
I venerate Beeswax Candles and Hildegard and Fragrant Oil.  

I find the hungry-void counterproductive, 
so I take communion and feed the God growing in my belly. 

Starry Night

My viscera is inflamed; 
the demiurge in my belly is drinking red wine.
There are too many precious things trembling 
between cupped hands, innocent and full of wild longing.  

Fireflies fill the sky, 
turning Van Gogh's backyard into a galaxy. 
Our intimate universe throbs with gentle fire.  

 

The Sea Inside a Conch Shell

Evergreen bodies smell like car freshener, like condominiums decorated with seashells and radio-pop. Death is flattened into linoleum flooring. Pacing over the fake wood, our sacred right to decomposition is vacuumed away.  

On Sundays, after a breakfast of frozen waffles, the mega-churches are packed with ecstatic worshipers, praying for an afterlife full of golden syrup.

Can we capture life? Tame it with billboard advertisements proselytizing Triple-Cheese-Pizza and Vegan-Meats? Filter out the pain with syrupy promises. I dare you to find a empty parking lot and spray paint your desires on the cement. I dare you to grow your body until it no longer fits inside your well tended lot, until the traffic squeezes a desperate song from your lungs. 

Bread and Light

Tea Time

I drink tea with the devotion of a zealot and an addict. It falls fast and straight, pooling in my belly. 

Ritual: 

  • Hot. 
  • Hungry. 
  • Herbs. 
  • Honey dripping from my chin.   

I distill the sacred from dirt, 
from fragrant leaves and cold morning air,   
from finger smudged paper and little lustful sighs. 

When the sun is a broken gold, I wilt and wake and wish. 

In my kitchen, filthy hands on my flowery tablecloth, I sip.

Starry Night

My viscera is inflamed. 
The demiurge in my belly is drinking red wine. 

There were fireflies last night. 
They turned Van Gogh's backyard into a galaxy. 

The world throbbed with too many precious things. 

It’s hard to breath when fire becomes gentle.
When it trembles in your cupped hands, innocent and full of wild longing. 

Why I Write

My Magic

I grew up in the worlds of Narnia, Middle Earth, Hogwarts, and Prydain. I knew the mythologies of these imaginary universes better than those of my own reality. I thought I could fight injustice with a sword, commune with plants and animals, and perform powerful incantations. I waited patiently for an adventure to sweep me up. I never happened upon an interdimensional wardrobe, but because I looked for magic, I found it all around me. Sometimes, as I roamed through the woods, or lay in bed listening to the rain pound down, I was sharply aware of some underlying rhythm. I was aware of a tenuous mystery I could feel, but never explain. As I got older, the distance between me and the fantasy worlds of my childhood grew until these vague moments were the only kind of magic I managed to hold onto. I still want to believe in magic. I think that is in part why I write....

Her Constellations

The light was soft, painfully soft. The exquisite gold of the sunrise muffled our passion. I reached for her hand, but she pulled away, regarding her own reflection in the lake with clinical poise. I understood then, in the smallness of that single wordless movement, how I chafed her. My human smile, my human lips, my desperation; she ached for the clean emotions of love and hate. Our relationship was filthy and confusing. 

We sat on the edge of a round lake, surrounded by tall pines and implicit shapes veiled by the thick summer air. I grasped helplessly at hidden flowers.

I fell back onto the wet grass, the light had solidified, revealing the dull clarity of morning. “I find you beautiful, you know. Like a collection of unquantifiable stars I have tried to flatten into a constellation.” 

She turned to me, her perfect body hard.  She gestured to the rising sun. “I don’t understand your rhythm, let alone your...

Guernica

In a room with colorless walls, we beat carpets and dead horses until we’re covered in dusty blood. We sing at the top of our throats. Our golden screeching fractures the gilded ceiling mirrors. 

The fascists and communists dance; bleating literary references, while minorities are massacred, while peasants starve, while bombs fall in Guernica.       

Pure Destruction

All the colors are contained in that distant, bleary culmination for which we wait. After I die, I will plant a garden on the moon and watch as my flowers float away. 

Sometime I feel like I use too much air, but I know I haven't taken enough breaths. The clouds still swath the sky and my belly is empty. Everything will be revealed with excruciating clarity when I finally manage to destroy myself by drinking the stars. 

Morality

God told me that, like the laws of the universe, morality is entropic. 

Oh! But It's a glorious thing to fade and fray, a banner left too long in the sun. 

May we exhaust ourselves,
May we refuse to decompose,
May we deny our bodies surrender!

Dissidence

The harmonics of amassed dissidence thrum, caught on the lips of a pragmatic dreamer. 

It is enough to shatter the moon. 

Little trembling stories, little songs, little streams, little seas, I hold them in my throat. 

And I waver,
pierced by monotone pleasure: 
pitched starlight and cricket song.
I surrender my asymmetric shoes to the music, 
pendulum motion grinding me down to my underwear.

a pushing, a pounding, a pulling,
a pushing, a pounding, a pulling,
a pushing, a pounding  a pulling, 

a bum on cold cement moment of revelation. 
    

The Zealot King


Prologue 
“Tedam! What should I do when I find a snail in my flowers?”  I asked, holding up the small creature for his inspection.

“Place him as far from the eggplants as possible.” Tedam laughed. He was weeding the vegetables.  “Over there, by those dandelions.” He pointed to a patch of thick green grass growing by the cliffside. I leapt out of the sunflowers. “Be careful! The snail may look tough with his heavy armor and penchant for invading flower gardens, but he’s delicate.” 

“He’s pretty.” I stroked the snail’s intricately patterned shell with a dirty fingernail. 

“Look close enough and you will find that everything is beautiful.” 

“Even my fingernails?” 

“Even your fingernails.” 

“Even my toes?” I looked down, wiggling my feet in the mud. 

He smiled. “Even your toes, especially your toes. Your toes taste the dirt and it’s from the dirt that things grow.”   

I wandered over to the cliff edge, dropping the snail on the...

Today is not yet History

On Christmas Eve we stayed up late talking about Eastern European politics because the Berlin wall fell thirty years ago. 

Today Georgia turned blue. But revolutions don’t become history until our books simplify them into the methodically dismemberment of out-dated brick walls: pickaxes, tie dye, singing in the streets. 

“Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind…” 

Today, the Senate was ransacked. Today, the American flag, the American capital, was defiled by white supremacists. Today, Nancy Pelosi’s office was vandalized. Today, officials found two bombs stashed in cardboard boxes. Today, a woman was shot by rioters. Today, five people were killed by guns in the land of the free. 

“Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind…” 
 
Today, the democrats won. Today, the first black senator from Georgia was elected. Today, the people lifted America up with their ballots. Today, the brick wall got a little thinner, our pickaxes a little lighter, our singing a...

Stomach Ache

My friends Bible-Bash with Das Kapital
Jesus is the cigarette butt of their nihilistic jokes.  

I am not a Christian, mais je suis Chrétienne.
I venerate Beeswax Candles and Hildegard and Fragrant Oil.  

I find the hungry-void counterproductive, 
so I take communion and feed the God growing in my belly. 

Desertification

Grapevines drooping in the hot sun. 
We make wine of our moments, of grace-past, 
of solemn banter and wild, wilted eyes.   

Justine, Justice, we break ourselves on dispassionate perfection, 
fingernails and soft flesh and bordered breath.   

Our chests collapse. 

The Zealot King (Prologue and First Chapter)

Prologue 

“Tedam! What should I do when I find a snail in my flowers?”  I asked, holding up the small creature for his inspection.

“Place him as far from the eggplants as possible.” Tedam laughed. He was weeding the vegetables.  “Over there, by those dandelions.” He pointed to a patch of thick green grass growing by the cliff side. I leapt out of the sunflowers. “Be careful! The snail may look tough with his heavy armor and penchant for invading flower gardens, but he’s delicate.” 

“He’s pretty.” I stroked the snail’s intricately patterned shell with a dirty fingernail. 

“Look close enough and you will find that everything is beautiful.” 

“Even my fingernails?” 

“Even your fingernails.” 

“Even my toes?” I looked down, wiggling my feet in the mud. 

He smiled. “Even your toes, especially your toes. Your toes taste the dirt and it’s from the dirt that things grow.”   

I wandered over to the cliff edge, placing the little snail underneath...

Writer's Block

I turn squares into circles 
because life can not be summarized by rational geometry.

I hammer clean angles, 
till their points are blunt enough
to cut silence. 

Poetry is wide and woolen. 
and stupid. 

But its elemental pieces are curved, 
Take that Javascript!

The Boy

It was a sunny day when I happened upon a pretty boy playing his flute by the river. I listened to his music, watching the delicate shape of his smile as it fluctuated between concentration and ecstasy. His music was primitive, but his passion was beautifully innocent. 

I appeared before him, the shining image of a woman, and kissed his lips. He smiled a solid smile. It was a little less delicate but just as sweet. 

I want him to hold me, because that is what boys are supposed to do. 

Maybe his arms would be nice. Solid. 

I am supposed to want the boy who plays his flute by the river. I am supposed to want more than his arms and his sweet smile. But my shining womanhood is just too bright. He is warm, but lacks Marilyn Monroe's luster.  

I want to laugh with him, to dance with him. I want us to talk our way around each other in...

“All Alive”

Building with Pebbles

When I was little, two or three, I would sit on the porch, wedging pebbles into the cracks between planks. When the stones didn’t fit, I bruised the wood. To fill every little gap was the very first goal I remember setting. I think the emptiness bothered me. 

I would examine each dusty pebble before finding it a place. I would rub it between my oily fingers. I would hold it to my mouth. It smelled like determination. 

Children have a certain gluttony. When we are young we require things to make sense. And we are content defying logic to avoid uncertainty. 

I never mended my porch of imperfection. But I can still feel the ache, the tangible thrill of an impossible project, of methodical faith.

Sunflower Seeds (off of R.j.Elsewhere's prompt, warning: explicit imagery)

To write is to consume the sun. To stretch our fragile bodies until we hear the glass shatter. To exploit our belly-buttons for the puncture wounds they are.  

I cry like a baby. 

Sun, 
I desire you.  

Mediterranean headaches, 
hands pressed against my eyes. 
You turn blue into a turgid God, 
Sea sick on insubstantial light 
I undulate, puking words into the turquoise sea. 

Sun, 
I would make you solid.

I want to eat fistfuls of dirt and cherry blossoms, 
to surrender as you inflate my insides with your vastness. 
Full and alive, aching with a prayer of terrible gluttony,
the sun and I would skewer ourselves on kebab sticks still dripping with fat.  

But I settle for sunflower seeds. Bitter and salty like sweat, I place them on my tongue and spit, staining the page with a half chewed fetus.  

 

Rebellion

Common sense wavers in the moonlight. 

The derelict structure of human heartbeats,
denotes only the space between our sighs. 

Our tower of precious moments teetering,  
we revolt against the stars. 

Setting as Mood

The Red Corsage

I was drunk and stumbling over broken glass, gum wrappers and the laces of my shiny shoes. It wasn’t a joyous inebriation; the stars seemed distant in the brown city light. I had made my way off the highway and was now walking through a filthy alley with a flower still pinned to my jacket. I had half convinced myself the alley was a short cut. But really, I just wanted to walk through a dark alley. I wanted to break my skin on the sharp edges of the world and let the pain spill out. Getting knifed is a good remedy for a broken heart. 

I kicked at an empty can, but missed. My cursing echoed, unnaturally loud. I cringed, but cursed again. And again. I bent down to tie my shoes, Slumping against an alley wall. The strings wouldn’t fit together. I gave up, examining the flower instead. It was red, delicate. I wanted to rip off its petals one by...

Frozen Flowers

As the bath-water rises to my chest, I consider the broken philosophy of frozen flowers. I need a break from dying so I can die again and finally decompose. The line between summer and winter has dissolved. Jarred by the erratic motion of minutes,

I breathe and I breathe and I breathe. 

Life is a series of insurmountable singularities. I hold up the blue sky with my pinkies, sweating in fervent denial of all the incomprehensible eventualities. The liquid is up to my chin. The  impenetrable viscosity of lukewarm water is juxtaposed against my goosebumps and belly full of extremities: winter and summer, inhales and exhales. The bathtub overflowing,

I breathe and I breathe and I breathe. 

Mid-December Grab Bag

Imaginary Numbers

Dear √-1, 
time is imaginary. 

But rhythm is real, 
and it corrodes us like warm desert wind.  

Humanity is getting hot, 
too much negligent friction.  
Our frayed shoelaces are trailing on the cement. 

Capriciously,
we dissolve into disparate threads, 
highways going nowhere,
towers of red plastic cups leaning like Pisa.   

2020,
you were a year of muted revolutions.  

At the end,
winter sunlight filters through
filmy curtains decorated with butterflies.   

Lying in bed,
I separate moments from the sun, 
until the light resembles jasmine tea, 
until I can drink spring’s hazy flowers. 

In the night,
when I picture the butterflies,
I think only of their wings, 
flightless civilizations of stained glass,
trembling in the acrid breeze. 

Disembodied, 
my body aches and flutters and waits to be beautiful, 
I weave a year out of sighs,
tripping over shoelaces that were never meant to be tied.

2020, 2021, 2121...,
with faintly whispered sincerity, 
I hope our galaxy collapses and we stop spiraling...

Commensurate

In dialog, our words stumble into each other like blind lovers,  
our brilliant clumsy tongues hopelessly courting the infinite.   

The space between our desires is proportional to the space between our philosophies, 
and you gesticulate a burning sun.   

Given First Line

Colonialism

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board: silk, bananas, opium, assam, cinnamon, gold, cotton...  

Linen suited bureaucrats, I address your fidgeting, your ledger books, and tacky tea cups. It is easy to wish, to build an empire from algebraic desires. But summaries aren't measured in sweat.

 

Frequency

The sun is under a lot of pressure.
3.84 trillion psi at its core.
Hot enough, free enough, to compose wild-eyed symphonies. 

I am growing and burning.
Each sunrise reminds me that I am going to die.
The trembling gold solidifies and I turn back up the asphalt road,
pinned to the indelicate laws of pendulum motion.   

Navigation is tradition.
We walk through the sunrise and into the sunset. 

Far over the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,


there and back again 
and dragons 
with fiery stomachs
and home 
with a hearth inside. 

We must away, ere break of day,
To claim our long-forgotten gold.


We dance; 
we tango in alleyways
and taste the dirt in our red wine

The fire was red, it flaming spread,
The trees like torches blazed with light.


Living, the stars shine and create and fill us with the bloody music of our legends.

Ornamental Angels

My soul is depreciating. I folded myself into complex origami, Gothic arches and bowties and little paper snowflakes, but the creases are starting to tear. 

There is nothing aesthetically pleasing about a Christmas Tree.  Cathedrals are beautiful. Mosques are beautiful. Forests are beautiful. I think Christmas Trees might be beautiful. Is it beautiful to give life to a dead thing? 

Do hopeless pilgrims pound life into miles? Do fat bankers eat living gold?  Do passionate martyrs die alive? Or do we modify our Gods after they are gone: hopeless, fat, passionate.    

I’m failing to harmonize. Ornamental zits corrupt my facial symmetry, and the rain falls rhythmless. Midnight is passing, the moment illuminated in electronic light and an electronic choir of depreciating angles.

Pandemic Memoir

Lethargy

My cat has become very fat. 

My Grey

Where I live, both the sea and sky are grey. The clouds collect in our cups. Mirrored in dichotomy, monotony dances, revealing the subtle irony of divine humor.  We drink tea. 

We can only contemplate infinite. By defining our melancholy, we make it finite. 

God, You are bitter-sweet. Whole. Made of a dense, dancing, emptiness. I pour You into me like hot water and I wait to feel the colors. 

Under heavy blankets, hovering amidst insubstantial blue, I watch the achromatic light evolve as the morning flattens and deepens. I wait for grey.

Old Stone

I walk through a cathedral. Cavernous, but perfect in its symmetry. The arches and trusses are curves accented with the geometry of angles. The cathedral is patient, but I can smell its exhaustion. It's shade is heavy like musty perfume. God's glory is a lot to hold. 

We gave the cathedral a soul. We sang to it. We filled the cavernous space with our expectations,

with arms held to the heavens,
with weighty proclamations,
with Latin phrases of frozen form. 

It is tiring to hold our syntax. 

But cathedrals are proud. When we cry, they lift our chins to the cross.

She meets me there. I am staring at a window, but my eyes can't penetrate the glass. It’s stained with stories. I lie down, flesh and bones and blood. The stone floor pushes me back, back together. I feel the tension, convulsing between surrender and desire. A human in the face of God.     

She holds me. Her arms are warmer than the...

Fresh Yellow Legal Pads

I dressed impeccably each day for work. I carefully chose a pair of high waisted trousers, silk or wool, depending on the season and a gauzy blouse that showed just the right amount of neck. On Friday nights I pulled on a black dress, a strappy thing I wore to ensure the dinner was kept short.  I was business like in all things, even pleasure. After the boy took the dress off, I would walk him to the door. 

I had reports to finish, pages and pages to fill with words, dull black words on unnaturally white sheets of printer paper. I had always assumed that as a lawyer I would tear through legal pads in a flurry of frenzied logic, brilliance peeking through the messy scribble of my rhetoric. But in reality I spent all day at the computer. The letters were flawless, the language sterile. There was no sweat, no frantic scribbling, only the muted tap of fingers...

Rome

Romans are made of marble. 

Carved with the heavenly grace of muscles and pride, 
Rome equated Divine Providence with bureaucracy. 

Each empire has its own currency,
its own series of sacred faces,
Its own iconic blasphemy. 

The Romanovs sewed gems into their underwear. 
And then, in their nightgowns, they were shot. 

Bullets commodified just to pierce their hearts and diamond encrusted corsets.

Like banquets, blood baths are opulent.
Like religion, philosophy corrupts.

Fresh Yellow Legal Pads

I dressed impeccably each day for work. I carefully chose a pair of high waisted trousers, silk or wool, depending on the season and a gauzy blouse that showed just the right amount of neck. On Friday nights I pulled on a black dress, a strappy thing I wore to ensure the dinner was kept short.  I was businesslike in all things, even pleasure. After the boy took the dress off, I would walk him to the door. 

I had reports to finish, pages and pages to fill with words, dull black words on unnaturally white sheets of printer paper. I had always assumed that as a lawyer I would tear through legal pads in a flurry of frenzied logic, brilliance peeking through the messy scribble of my rhetoric. But in reality I spent all day at the computer. The letters were flawless, the language sterile. There was no sweat, no frantic scribbling, only the muted tap of fingers on...

Desertification

Grapevines drooping in the hot sun. 
We make wine of our moments, of grace-past 
of solemn banter and wilted eyes.   

Justine, Justice, we break ourselves on dissasionate perfection, 
fingernails and soft flesh and bordered breath.   

Our chests collapse. 

The Drabble

A Moon-Eating Resplendent-Goddess Lizard-Woman

I fall back onto my silk pillows and open my mouth to the moon. I swallow the hard light like it is chewable. I am already full of jasmine tea, thick summer air woven into spider webs, honey comb, crushed ants still skittering, and bitter dandelions.

Each night I concoct an elixir of pungent emblems to flavor my dreams. Insatiable, I keep to the fourth dimension where everything is edible. 

Lazily, I snatch a moth with two fingers, folding its hairy wings, placing its still warm body on my tongue. A moon-eating resplendent-goddess lizard-woman with incorruptible innocence, I fall asleep. 

Frequency

The sun is under a lot of pressure. 3.84 trillion psi at its core. Hot enough, free enough, to compose wild-eyed symphonies. 

I am growing and burning. Each sunrise reminds me that I am going to die. The trembling gold solidifies and I turn back up the asphalt road, pinned to the indelicate laws of pendulum motion.   

Navigation is tradition. We walk through the sunrise and into the sunset. 

there and back again 
and dragons 
with fiery stomachs
and home 
with a hearth inside. 

We dance; 
we tango in alleyways
and taste the dirt in our red wine

Living, the stars shine and create and fill us with the bloody music of our legends.

Given First Line

Colonialism

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board: silk, bananas, opium, tea, cinnamon, gold, cotton...  

Linen suited bureaucrats with ledger books, it is easy to wish, to build an empire from algebraic desires. But summaries aren't measured in sweat.

Calculus

There are curves in calculus. Lots of curves. You have to calculate infinity multiple times. It is a bit redundant. Complicated things are often variations of the same thing. I dropped calculus. I had a hard time thinking of a curve as anything other than a curve. Calculus was irritating, an exercise in the power of arrogant human assumptions. It was like drawing the outline of a map and pretending to know what was inside of it.   

She was most definitely a curve. I could pretend to know what was inside of her, but I only had a broad equation for estimating her infinite possibilities. The possibilities of multiple kinds of infinity. I followed her, plugging in numbers, asking the occasional pointed question. I had a lot of questions. She always strode ahead of me, her steps purposeful. But she never seemed to have a destination. I wanted to hold her hand, be swept away in her remarkably simple infinity,...

The Philosophy of Seeming

My Aesthetics are different from my Poetics: 

Things should either be practical, or beautiful in their own right. 
Words should be repeated with traceable rhythm. 

Two summers ago we took a trip to Copenhagen. Scandinavian Cool was woven into the city's geometry: clean canal water, yellow plaster, color coded bookshelves and a pleasant matte finish. The bricks were carefully laid. 

I do not have the discipline to shed my mask, to peel back the varnish and reveal the sanded wood underneath, to be beautiful in my own right, to trace my own rhythm.  

So I state my philosophies: 

Things should either be practical, or beautiful in their own right. 
Words should be repeated with traceable rhythm.

Acid

Lactic:
ingrown passion. rotting flowers. sweating like a clinomaniac. sweet, sweeter, sweetest, sour.  I want the sky to fall.   

remember the pickle jars.
I left them on the windowsill.  

rain water. salt water. vinegar. coffee stains on the coffee table. concentric circles all the same size. each slow breath, static, commensurate. I follow broken lines. fermenting in-domitable curves. 

passion ingrowing, flowers rotting, sweet dreaming, sky falling, pickling, expanding, folding, never whole, never more than whole.