Posts tagged prose

Good Sheep


People said I was crazy, that it couldn’t be done. They’d hear the basics of my work and immediately write me off. It’s easy to dismiss something if you think the person is crazy. They pull the wool over their own eyes and then are surprised when the sky starts falling down. Even then some won’t take the wool off. But I’ve got it now, and I’m going to change the world.

You see, I got tired of seeing how ugly people are to each other and I decided to do something about it. There are people that are so broken the only way they can have any form of happiness is to inflict misery on others, but this will fix them right up.

I’ve invented the first ever conscience reading device. It took me ten years and numerous test subjects but I’ve nailed it. I call it “The Reaper”. It works based off of a person’s brain waves. It’s approximately five feet tall, five feet wide, and five feet deep. It’s big enough for almost anyone to be able to sit in comfortably. There’s a bench inside and in front of the bench is a small television screen. The subject is strapped in and then they are connected to a series of wires that feed into a panel directly under the screen.

The whole process takes under ten minutes. I’ll be able to develop a much faster and more efficient model once it’s proven how effective it is. My plan is to start small, I’ve already offered one to the local government and they have accepted. Once they help establish it’s effectiveness, I’ll approach much bigger targets and this time I’ll expect funding. Soon my device will be all over the country and eventually all over the world. But I’m getting carried away, let me explain what it does.

The subject goes into The Reaper and is shown a variety of video clips. First they are shown pleasant images to map out the parts of their brain that react to pleasure. After a map is outlined, the subject is shown unpleasant images. Images of murder, rape, and other vile acts. When a subject is shown an unpleasant image, the hope is that it produces feelings of fear or anger and will light up those areas of the brain. If the unpleasant images light up the pleasure center of the brain, the subject is eliminated. I won’t go into the details of how that is done, but there are no remains. They are here one moment and vaporized the next, it’s painless I assure you. The Reaper is merciless and has been programmed with every immoral act that one could be capable of. It does not discriminate based on age, sex, gender, or race. It simply sees someone’s true nature and removes them from the human population if necessary.

My ultimate goal is to have regular screenings of every person around the world. Crime will be non-existent and so will poverty. When a member of the upper class is eliminated their wealth will be distributed to the remaining population of the state they reside in, brilliant, I know. Think about it! No more rape, murder, theft, or any other contemptible act! The world will finally be at peace and people will be good. All of this will be possible with the press of a button.

This is the start of a new world and I am its creator.



Wandering aimlessly about and in between the imposing skyscrapers of the great city of Chicago. Without purpose in my mind or soul I walk about the concrete jungle of the streets- wraithlike. I pass people of all interests; Mothers, fathers, somebodies, and nobodies, deceptively beautiful people and imposing stupid people. 

In the city we have two worlds it would seem. The one you would see upon arrival from a foreign country or from a strange state- a city surrounded by black skyscrapers, layered with black asphalt, iced with a paler concrete for the people to walk on and decorated with all sorts of signs that impose some policy or reward with some hundred dollar toll. Then there is the covered world whose sunlight is provided by the orange streetlamps that are snugged right under its iron and concrete sky. With cracked, eroded, bumpy roads that give the dream of abandonment and occupied by citizens of quiet, hardworking demeanor. This is the underbelly of the city that sunbathes below. With rarely a soul walking about you look around- infested by bittersweet paranoia, swallowed by smooth anxiety, and a false,magnifying fear.

Iron beams stand guard like sentenced atlases. The weight of a city- for some their whole world- upon their processed shoulders. Withering away their strength like we gain wise hood: gradually. Every second a new pair of iron doors appear on both sides of the walls. Portals into the brains and bones of the buildings you didn’t realize were there the whole time. A van drives out and another one of a poorer condition slowly drives in to deliver its cargo. The smell of unwritten paper and uncooked food plagues the air and infects your nostrils. The workers go about unloading their energies upon the routine task. Walking past the imposing fella that is standing by the edge of the entrance. He might be a hired soldier or another drone, either way he looks important. This is a repetitive play that houses zero audience members and is witnessed only by the cast and the director. This goes on for miles, depending in which direction you head. It all looks the same after a while.

The only thing connecting the underworld and the city we all know and love is a single right turn at a certain street passing a rundown liquor store with a broken, flickering ‘open’ sign. Bernie’s, the place looks and gives an imaginary smell of defeated alcoholism and rumpled dollar bills. I take my opposing left turn and walk into a torrent of people with no names but with a life story. Intimidated I walk in the opposing direction of the torrent of people with no name. Already I am going against their will. This is an uncomfortable exercise.

I walk, that is all I do.

Block after block after block.

Hundreds of people passing all around me every second or so it seems like it. I am just one in a city of millions. I continue to walk till the torrent has lessened. It must be lunch time, when all the hard working, document filing people sit down at the nearest restaurant to eat in a twenty minute hurry. I walk. Soon a man with ragged existence waddles up to me spewing his thoughts onto the air, sending the sound waves into the world for some poor bastard to here. I come to know this man in a few seconds. Annoyed by my new acquaintance and his uncontrollable and delusionary soliloquy I walk faster. Away from orator and his ghostly benefactors. Annoyed by my new acquaintance and his horribly composed manifestos I double back into comforting anonymity. Turning right into yet another stream of people. I stroll amongst them hidden by their bodies who flood the canvas of the city like lions on an excellent hunting day. Hundreds of cars and tens of trucks pass by, honking out their calls into the city’s ears for all to hear.

I am brought passed pretty smiles and gleaming eyes, wrinkled masks and exhausted windows. They are all the same really. They are a soul without a name. One after another they come and then as soon as they appeared they are gone like a weak and tired footprint set on a sand down in the middle of the Sahara. Their faces blown away by the wind that carries the calls of the cars and the condescending tone held by office managers towards their document filing drones.

drifty, but not like a balloon on air


Coaxing sleep, I was counting sheep and the rolling eyeballs of my adult friends, holding my cell phone in my hand. When I reached the edge of the land, I lifted my foot with great care as if cradled between my cupped hands. I raised it over the edge of the boat and my self followed. Ever so gently I placed it steady, solid, and well-balanced on the bottom of the craft. My body came in with a gliding motion that gave definition and shape to the word ease.

I noticed then, again, my cell in my hand, aware of my grip but also attuned to the sense of retreating sensation in all my appendages. My fingers still wrapped around but not feeling, legs gone numb but still attached to me. 

Then, without any perceptible jerk or shove my dinghy was dislodged from the shore of consciousness. I felt with some small distinct corner of myself that I was now afloat. Surrounded, I was held by an elusive sense of movement, as came the last full exhale. The device slid from my hand, as my mind slid from my body, in a nested pattern that carried my vessel out and away. Away from the ground of awareness and into watery sleep.

That’s always the last we remember. We can never recall or access the exact moment we sink, below sleep’s water. We remain forever separated by this ticklish bridge from the moment we let go for deep. But oh, who doesn’t cherish that last floaty feeling, just before, just before… the last sound we hear, our own breathing.  


The first movie I ever saw on the big screen was Star Wars.

My mother had a toddler and a baby, and a best friend whose crippling arthritis kept her confined to a wheelchair, a decided inconvenience in those non wheelchair accessible 1970s.

But she wanted movie night, and movie night there would be.

My baby brother was left in the casually competent care of the gum-snapping Varano sisters up the street.

My little self was buckled into the back of the Pacer along with ‘Auntie’ Jo’s wheelchair, and away we all went … to the drive in theater.

Mom laid the back seat down to make a spot for me to fall asleep, and fall asleep I did, watching the movie as I stood up between the seats, the ladies’ faces rapt and flickering turned toward the screen.

I fell asleep, but not before that music had filled my little heart, that famous title theme that will give me shivers forever.

Ohio Portrait no. 75


If you work with or around psychologists long enough, you’ll be asked to hop into an fMRI. Studies need participants, particularly ones that can show up on time, agree to take out all their piercings, stay awake, and keep their heads absolutely still. 

Running one person through an fMRI costs approximately 10,000 dollars. Even a centimeter of movement can completely ruin the data. The fMRI is a claustrophobic, churning passage like a loud, clicking washing machine. The sounds make many people fall asleep. That ruins the data too. 

I’ve done a few. I’ve filled my facial piercings with plastic and taken my bra off (no metal allowed, including underwires) and lied down to stare up at a computer screen with a keyboard perched on my chest. It’s illegal to give participants any personal medical information, but if you know the psychologists doing the research, you get to keep a picture of your brain. 

One girl in the department went through the fMRI and found that she was missing huge sections of her frontal lobe. Specifically, parts dealing with social interaction. She was 20 years old and externally healthy; she had no idea. 

"Well," one of the researchers whispered, "She was always an odd duck." 

The song of the Owl God



The Owl God’s voice is like the sound of a strong bow,
bound with the bark of cherry, plucked with hands
as callous as snow. The human spirit through which he speaks
quivers; every word is a gift that the gods and things
do not have. The human, as a spirit and a container,
is more eloquent than a drum song, and alongside the spirits
of the percussions, the Owl God sings through the mortal Ainu:

“Silver droplets fall fall all around me
golden droplets fall fall all around me.” So singing
I went down along the river’s flow, above the human village.
As I looked down below
paupers of old have now become rich, while rich men of old
have now become paupers, it seems.

The other Kamuy sing and listen to his voice throughout night
and day, exhilarated by the scent and the sound
of the mortality, and by the fatigue of his body, as he
loses breath and becomes hungry. In the day, the Ainu chief
honours the spirit of the bear cub in the cold February,
slaughtered, blood leaking from the opened belly
and the arrow-pierced parts. The iyomante rimuse before
the killing: different kinds of inaw like spectators to the spirit
sending lined up, some gifts to gods, others god themselves,
prayersto the fire goddess, women clapping and dancing.
They offer sake prepared two weeks ago, dumplings
and walnut. The cub was captured in its den,
when the snow was still deep and kept in a cell
next to the house, where it was going to be killed.

Tonight, a sobering silence, the bear cub being skinned
with tools that have only been born recently. The bear’s
cell is aflame, being burned to ensure that the bear cub
has a home in the other world. The Ainu lament for the bear
cub’s death, while the Kamuy rejoice over the reincarnation
of an immortal spirit. The Ainu and Kamuy respect and live
within each other, as if one were a dream of the other.
Their ritual relationship is infinite, regardless of whether
one is rich or poor,

and the physical body is only a container with the gift of speech.


The Owl God, or the Ktan-kor-kamuy is the Creator God that protects the village.

Inau or Inaw, Ainu: イナウ or イナゥ, is an Ainu term for a ritual wood shaving stick used in Ainu prayers to the spiritual world. They were used in most Ainu religious rituals, and were also frequently made to request assistance for hunting and childbirth. Some can be used multiple times, while others are destroyed immediately after one use. Their size and the direction in which they are shaved depends on which kamuy it is offered to and what is being requested. (source:

(edit: ugh, the image post doesn’t really show the poem very well.)

Submitted to Lzlabseesu

Thoughts on summer’s twilight.


I can embrace fall.

Give me pumpkin everything, apple everything, over the knee everything. Give me fat sweaters with sleeves that I can pull down over my hands. Give me knit beanies and brisk walks and sunflower bouquets from the Korean grocer. Give me exhilarating runs on the river and cheeks flushed from the cold. Give me desolate shorelines and neoprene. Give me football and more football. Give me crystal clear and no humidity. Give me a color riot and crunch underfoot. Give me indoor time: to read and cook and play records. Give me mornings that stretch into afternoons. Give me clouds of down and tangled limbs and not one good reason to untangle them.

Summer girls can embrace fall. I can. Let’s do it.


There is a sacrificial element to working in an office. As if the ancestry in our DNA quietly rejects the notion of cubicles, fluorescents and recycled air; as if the only way to please the gods of our forebears is to heap every scrap of paper, every stick of furniture and every bit of computer hardware into a giant bonfire; as if by dancing a ritual round the massive flames choked with poisoned, chemical smoke we might finally find the freedom to become human again. We could have that freedom again, whisper your thoughts in protest. All you have to do is tear it down; if you start, the others will follow. Those words give you a smile that tastes like the sickly underside of a greasy coin stuck to the floor in a public subway restroom because every part of you knows this is true. And still you resist because you know the first one to stand is always the sacrifice.


The management prowls out of their offices, thinking themselves alphas, apex predators that circle desks with micromanagement suggestions. Every part of us screams that a single pen could end them, a stapler savage their flesh, that they who insist on meetings are little more than scavenging jackals with delusions but we just type, do corrections as though partaking in obscene mating dances. You know the true apex are the shareholders, that the managers are little more than herbivores tasting so foul no one will eat them. The president of the company emerges like a rhino, all fetid breath and thick-skinned to bombast with sexist comments no one will ever report. We could be free, you think, but the walls of bureaucracy are thick shields against the madness of the world, and you slink back into your seat. Freedom is never safe, seldom worth the price. It could be the company motto. It is written in the restrooms. You could be more. You know this. But the cost. The cost. The cost.


the situation turned all the stars i used to watch into dead zones and all the dead zones into war zones that watched down on us from seven stories high

keeping us compressed and lost in both our flighty self worth and snapshot lovers, that never came close to lovers

adapting was always the tricky part, told by the types with arthritic minds overworked until their collapse turned their bills to apology letters 

We Are All Members of the Dead Dad Club (Eventually)


Maybe there really is a Jungian super consciousness that our minds all float upon, like ice atop a still liquid lake. Maybe it’s just that some ideas are so obvious that everybody has them. Whatever the reason, I keep running into other people, other women specifically, who speak of their membership to the Dead Dad Club.

The idea first occurred to me very shortly after my dad died. I was eighteen, living in the freshman dorms at The Ohio State University. He died randomly of unchecked diabetes after a two-year period of mutual estrangement.

The whole thing came as a shock, but an easily buried one. I kept it a secret from everyone around me, except for my then-boyfriend, who was on a Valentine’s Day date with me the moment I got the news. I went upstate for the funeral, I invited a handful of childhood friends, none of whom came, I got drunk and crawled into bed with my little sister, I went back to the dorms, I didn’t miss a day of class, I didn’t miss a day of work, I said nothing. I felt so much. I cried so little. 

A few weeks later, a girl down the hall lost her father. Heart attack. I had met the guy; he had a pleasant, square face with handsome features and rich bronzed skin. Their relationship was good. A widespread email told everyone in the dorm of her troubles. We were all encouraged to go to the funeral, to give the girl our regards. People rose to the occasion. She took a few weeks off.

I resented the massive embrace that she received and I had not, even though it was my fault for not telling anybody. I resented that people were warm and sympathetic to her. I resented that my boyfriend forgot about the death in no time flat. I resented, even, that her relationship with her father was healthy. But I could not hold it against her for long. After all, she was a member of the Dead Dad Club. 

One of my sister’s friends lost her dad relatively young, sometime after this. She had a strained relationship with the guy, but lionized him after his death. This hypocrisy irritated my sister immensely, but she didn’t raise the issue. After all, her friend was a member of the Club. 

The Club has burdens. You can’t bring it up, if you’re young; people get far too uncomfortable. You must act like it is not tragic, that you are fine. You must not be visibly annoyed when people cry and complain and mourn the loss of their grandparents or great-grandparents or their fucking dogs and cats. You must not speak of the Dead Dad Club to a non-member. You must not bring someone into the club if they are not ready. You must not let membership to the Club visibly taint your relationships, lest you become someone with D-word Issues. That is the worst fate of all. 

In graduate school, I made friends with a girl whose mom died when she was a child. I tried to bond with her over it; she belonged to the Club! But it was not the same club. She lost her mom young, they had a good relationship, it was her mom, not her dad, and so on. I tried to tell her about the Club anyway, to commiserate.

She told me that sometimes she suspected her mom was still alive, somewhere out there. I tried to tell her that I had never seen my dad’s body, there was no urn or coffin at the funeral, and sometimes I thought I saw him, too. But she was too busy talking.  She could not stop talking about her dead mom, herself, her sorrow, her few memories, herself. It never became a conversation. 

Recently, I was reading the comic Sex Criminals by Chip Zdarsky and Matt Fraction. The protagonist is a young foxy librarian who can stop time with her orgasms. She lost her father when she was very young. In a flashback, she says, “I was the first kid at my school to become a member of the Dead Dad Club.” 

Reading that, everything inside me dropped a few inches.

I had a similar leaden feeling when I read Fun Home by Allison Bechdel. In it, Bechdel recalls the death of her father. She was nineteen, away at college. He was a troubled man with a temper. He died in a way that might have been intentional. 

Bechdel and I belong to a very small, very specific subset of the Club. We are in a Club within the Club, a Club perhaps consisting only of Allison Bechdel, my sister, and me. The parallels are so enormous that I can’t tell anyone how much or why I like the book. When I met Bechdel at a book signing I made excessive, plaintive eye contact. I wanted so badly to tell her I was in the same Club. She seemed a little weirded out, and reasonably so. 

My sister is in another kind of Club: a sorority. Each year they have Mom’s Day and Dad’s Day, celebrations with scheduled events and potluck meals. Each year the attendance is lower on Dad’s Day than on Mom’s Day.  Our own mom attends both.

There are other girls in the sorority with dead dads. When a new girl with a dead dad joins, the rest are hesitant yet excited to welcome her. Eventually they get the courage to ask: “Do you want to be a member of the Dead Dad Club?” Once, a new girl mentioned the Club on her own, without prompting. They were just sitting around hanging out and she said it: hey, we’re all members of the Dead Dad Club, or something like that. 

How does everyone know? 

Dads are a funny thing. So many of us have strained relationships with them. Dads are unknown sometimes; sometimes they are distant or ill or very disordered. Some do not know how to love. Some know only how to hurt. Some are mediocre but try very hard. Some disappear. Some lose contact through no fault of their own. Some die too soon. Some die at the appropriate time. Some never exist. 

 Some people believe that your relationship with your parents determines your political leanings. A motherly government is a Democratic one; a fatherly government, Republican. Some people think individuality is created by having a strained relationship with one or both parents. Some people think your relationship with your father determines your beliefs about God.

 I don’t know that I agree, but mine do track: I see both God and Dad as hapless, unreliable, unreal, dead. I see a lot of men that way. I am one of those girls with D-word Issues. I suspect that everyone I know might reject me at any moment, verbally abuse me, and suddenly die.  I am sick of acting like that’s not true, or that it’s shameful. I have decided that “getting over it” means simply absorbing your trauma and what it’s done to you into your broader sense of self. 

A childhood friend just lost a father to prolonged illness. He was on dialysis for a very long time; his death was salient long before it came. 

He was a good man. They had a good relationship. He was a sweet, expressive, creative, and kind person. I think his death was “good”: it brought peace, and came at a time when all his children were on good terms with him. 

Based on social media, my friend seems to have made her first, tentative peace with the loss. I want to see her. I want to send a message, saying Welcome to the Club. Let me know if you need anything. Let me be your mentor. 

But I will not. Every member of the Club must recognize the Club and declare her membership herself. 

Outstanding read.