Whatever this is, it is

Dog & frog

Dog and frog. A friend’s Yorkie, not mine (sadly, as he’s a sweetie).

Here’s something not-so completely different. A proem (ranting + poem).  AU NOTE: Have fun, ghost of Dr. Freud!

Vestigial Child

What raw ravaged
seed defines me,
I cannot catalog,

but I can define
each wound
by its unwounding.

This sediment here,
youth; that, betrayal
of not telling.

This layer bounded
by leeched limestone laid
where each burial was swift

centuries chipped in
to what passes for
my soul these days.

Eggshell white
pieces, piecemeal.
Peaceful never.

Hurt rage ranging
as far as the tether
allows, sears, marks,

won’t give, won’t forgive.
Scars come unconditionally
coddling the cold warmth

of phenotypic oddity,
biological prop
vestigial child

mad witness to
your own match
immolating from within

an egg hurled
in that moment
coming full cervix

and splattering on
brutal bedrock:
stone of masculinity, madness

metamorphic as cell,
seed, shell. Birth, death
swaddled in light

bundle of bagged
flesh, fresh bulb
in welcome ground

stunted womb
rooming, roaming
from wing to web to ring.

Every decade
laying down silt
in slighted skin

curetted and curated
to show off. Look:

See that charred
oath dashed to hell?
Shelled-out hulls

fall easiest, prey
to gravity, strung
causing welts,

coiling Weltschmerz
around figments
of neck, rendered delicate

by one’s own
sublime grief, a
doppelgänger, which

won’t get out of
the way. Ghost
obscures the body

until all that remains
is the conversation
with the shadow.


The Randomness Story-Creating Machine of Us Here, Now

Happy New Year’s. Or new ears, if you’ve received hearing aids or those teeny-tiny globular batteries as a gift. Or as a hint or some’n.

I’m gonna go mash-up, mix-up, random live-stream on you, raging modernist and techie though I am.

I’m going to go off-script here and do something spontaneous and–for me–a bit crazy. As Seal said, we’ll never survive unless we get it a little bit of it, from time to time.

Okay, here’s the idea. Incoherent as it is. Play along as much or little or none as you want.

Let’s create a story together. I know it’s been done on Twitter, but let’s try it here in the comments, if that works for you. (I’ve developed an allergy to eggs, so I haven’t tweeted for quite a while. I should, but I can’t.)

Here’s a story I’ll throw out, probably making liberal use of some beauteous or bizarre turns of phrase and situations from the stories, articles, graphics/memes, music, other media, and poetry I’ve enjoyed in the last couple days. Use these scaffolds as you wish or not, and I’ll write along, too. Shall we build together? Til’ around midnight, EST, or whatever.

What the hey  . . . here goes. And, above all, have fun, Pen-ball Wizards.


You've got big boots to fill, co-pilot-writers. I know you can do it. :)

You’ve got big boots to fill, co-pilot-writers. I know you can do it. 🙂

How to Be a Woman in the Center of the Earth and Which Way to Go from There


Good madness is the kind you find looking (you, looking; it, lurking) under the carotid-red pillow at Grandma’s house. The one she sewed herself of the cheery holiday dear, leaping. (Wounded?) The one she continued on, she told you with a quiver of tears, that her mom never finished before she died.

Well, Grandma, she uses tinsel and a real tree because she’s got no cats. Nope, none of those little curious hair-pillows leaving vomitus that you’ve stepped on before you know it. (Another story for another time: how the black cat piled the dead thing’s organs up in a darkling heap on the sidewalk steps of mottled concrete.) Emergency veterinary clinics, 24-hour joints, cash-laden, sardined-crammed with people who crave the willy-nilly of chaos like catnip craves, well, a cat. It’s that whole one-hand-clapping, tree-falling-in-the-forest-who-hears-it conundrum. If a want is never wanted, does it cease to be? Do you cease to be if you have no wants? Who in the hell carries a loaded, cocked pistol in their purse with young, hence handsy and pilfery, children nearby?

Well, this fiction wasn’t supposed to be about pussies. Or pusses. Or pus or pluses, for that matter. Besides, I’m math-averse. And I despise guns, and boots stomping on historic human faces forever.

Sifting through a purse, I find a vignette I haven’t used before. A spill of light, the shape of a crescent. I’m a bit overwrought with that last bit, so I guess I can edit it to say “a crescent roll,” not the arty crescent or, still yet, the noble star and crescent associated with modern Islam.

And barnacles of bark, green and yellow in tooth and claw, are growing on this vignette. Humming, a veritable beard of bees. By the way, I pronounce vignette to rhyme with cygnet, or young swan. I used to mispronounce many words and was mistook for a Lafayette lass once. Now, nonce.

Dawn was a particular bitch gone–caught–in my mis-gated teeth.

Invalidated is the word of the month, I’m told. Regardless of your gender, sex, or otherwise. Have you ever felt invalidated? Inactive? Ennui’ed? Tired of life? I would say keep it up, but the joke’s been taken already. Probably in a Montgolfier balloon, too.

So, when I found the vignette, I thought, what better way to give it life than to throw it out there to the webs committing us, one to the other. And, so, I created Calineapurnielathea-Su, a fictional character portmanteau.

Change her, rearrange her. Add people to the rooms of her mind, wind them up, burn them down, whatever you can concoct.

Put them in a Pizza Hut and let them go. Have them playing football, but, please, not American football, which seldom uses the foot. Go figure.

You could begin with this (or not):

“Afterwards Cal walked into a fine drinking establishment with five characters. It was secreted in the Oort cloud. Either that, or a cloud on Venus. It was called, simply, The Space Bar. Mostly inhabited by writerly types. That, and Cal’s companions. They were her soul’s doppelgangers (or pentagangers?): Creativity, Nature Girl, Mother Woman (thank you, Kate Chopin), Anxiety, and Self-Worth. Anthropomorphize or animalize them as you see fit.

Now, go!*


*Unfortunately, time being what it is in this universe–namely linear, as far as we know–you will probably want to keep your comment shortish so I can respond/gatekeep and all that good jazz before the clocks strike midnight EST and we all turn into pumpkins. Oh, okay, I’ll settle for a “normal” person, whatever the hell that is. Of course, keep it relatively clean, no racism, homophobia, religion-bashing, over-the-top animal or human cruelty/abuse, misogny, that kind of stuff. In other words, play nice y’all.





If You Were a Book . . . ?

arcimboldo-the librarian

“The Librarian,” by 16th-century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

If I were a book . . . Hmm.

I’m not talking about some macabre flesh-bound book, or the “art” of anthropodermic bibliopegy, but rather what works of literature have molded your world and mind.

A local bookstore got me thinking about this topic, by way of a novel called The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and a National Public Radio (NPR) piece on Gabrielle Zevin’s aforementioned book.

If a book were my “spittin’ image,” what would that book be? And, moreover, if I could stretch it out to three books, what books would make the list? Back in March 2014, NPR even called for a tweet-out on the three books that summarize or define you, with the hashtag #my3books.

I would love to hear your answers on #my3books. Like Zevin mentions in the interview, you have to resist the impulse to present a facade as yourself. Perhaps everyone wants to think that the perfect novel or even the “Great American novel” — whatever you perceive that fits into either category — epitomizes him/herself. So I tried my best to take off the mask. And keep it off.

Here’s my list. What’s on yours? (Yes, I’m trying to not do the Samuel L. Jackson “Capital One” impression here.)

  1. “The Scarlet Ibis,” a tragic short story about brothers and grit and regret, by North Carolina writer James Hurst. (There are some typos in this link, but it’s the best online copy I could find for you at this point.)
  2. I’m cheating here, but the next influential book is actually a nexus of horror books that sparked in me the desire to become a writer: Watchers by Dean R. Koontz, Night Shift and Skeleton Crew by Stephen King, and Book of the Dead (edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector).
  3. Four Quartets, by T.S. Eliot.

Also relevant to my fellow writers is the introspection-invoking discussion at Ionia Martin’s Readful Things Blog, in the article “A question for the authors out there.” Do you read in your genre, outside of it only, both, or none? Please share your insights in the comments, here or there or anywhere (as Dr. Seuss might write)!

And remember: to read is to travel through time (thank you, astrophysicist Carl Sagan).

What Erich Segal Got Wrong about Love


Cartoon can be found at truthdig (please consider purchasing it directly from the cartoonist).

Welcome to the large-hadron collider that is Words Matter Week, Day Two. If you haven’t yet, please visit the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE) Web site dedicated to this sixth incarnation of WMW.

Today’s WMW topic talks about life changes:

What word, said or unsaid, has or could change your life? How?

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”   ~Martin Luther King, Jr.


I’m peering through a literary kaleidoscope on this mattersome matter; that is to say, on this important theme. I keep fishing up two words: I’m sorry.

And yet, we are told “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Most people know this famous phrase from the Love Story book by Erich Segal, if not the movie.

To be fair, I’ve never read the entirety of Mr. Segal’s book, and I’m probably taking his quote out of context. Plus, I don’t mean to rip romance novels, but what hubristic jerk of a character really thinks in this absolutist way? If that’s the point of the line (to set up an antihero or villain), then bravo.

In my experience, love and humility are intertwined. Human beings are fallible, hence love and other human emotions, as well as the words used to express them, are imperfect. Words slip, slide, perish, and even sometimes break–at least according to American poet T.S. Eliot (read “Four Quartets” for these lines).

Now, I’m no Sybil of Cumae, but I think a simple “I’m sorry” might have the ability to transform some part of a life I have rued (to rework a line from poet Robert Frost). I’ve been party, unfortunately, to a few toxic relationships in my time, but I’ve also had to make my own share of mea culpas. So I know how two tiny words, three syllables, two or three breaths, can budge bitter hearts and begin to rebuild ransacked worlds.

Forgiveness, of self or of others, could free us from the suffering born of regret or anger or loss. And it’s hard to love if we’re unwilling or unable to either forgive or allow forgiveness.

So, were he alive, I’d love to pick Mr. Segal’s brain about that touchstone line. I suspect he might even regret it himself, in that many people know him chiefly for that line, taken out of context.

What word or words could reorder your world? While you’re pondering this, I urge you to consider taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words, also 2 March to 8 March 2014.

Finally, I’m sorry, Ryan. I never meant to hurt you, but, conversely, I’m glad you are where you are today, as I am where I am. Things worked out exceptionally well for us both.

Atomic Words and the Authors Who Exploded My World

Bleeding Pen--ObjectsThe word I’d found in my grandmother’s book fascinated me down to the cellular level. P-tar-mi-gan. Ptar-mig-an. How do you even pronounce it?

Little did I know then, but words would collide, then cohere, to round out my “observable universe.”


noun \ˈma-tər\

2b :  material substance that occupies space, has mass, and is composed predominantly of atoms consisting of protons, neutrons, and electrons, that constitutes the observable universe, and that is interconvertible with energy

And as worlds go, I started small. A Dog Called Kitty was one of the first chapter books I read as a child. Fast forward to my “tween” years and I was reading everything from Brontë to Lovecraft to King. And when I turned over that pink scrap of paper and began to write my first horror—and horrible, I might add—short story, I certainly didn’t know what I was going to make of my life, but I hoped it might have something to do with language.

So it was with great interest that I discovered “Words Matter Week” (WMW) a few years ago, brought to you by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE). This year’s WMW features a question each day, and NAIWE is actively seeking bloggers’ and writers’ ruminations on the power and prominence of words in our lives. I encourage you to participate all week long, March 2-8, 2014.

Writers craft words into memorable phrases, stories, poems and plays.
What writers make your heart sing? Why?

Unfortunately, I am limited in that I can read in only two languages, so I haven’t had the opportunity to touch all corners of the globe with this informal “Authors I Love” list. Naturally, I am open to your suggestions and will enjoy reading meditations on how words matter to you.

To prevent eyestrain, I will only briefly explain why each author has exploded my consciousness, thus reshaping my world.

In no particular order, here are some writers worth getting to know:

  1. William Shakespeare: A shroe, a shroe, my dingkom for a shroe! But seriously, hands-down, the Maestro Wordsmith.
  2. Charles Dickens: Character-driven, highly descriptive, and conflict-laden. Simply put, the best character-namer in the business.
  3. Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finn and the “damned human race.”
  4. Flannery O’Connor: Gothic, Southern, conflicted. One of the best short story writers in the English language.


    Photograph from the Southern Literary Trail

  5. Stephen King: Abandon all hope, ye who attempt to write as well as the King of Horror (as I did in my callow youth).
  6. Anne Carson: Faces pointed at me like knives. The surgeon’s skilled touch, but with words.
  7. Jean Auel: Research meets a strong female heroine or two.
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien: Language, lore, elves, and more.
  9. Harlan Ellison: Angry candy, a paladin of the lost hour, screaming without a mouth.
  10. Ray Bradbury: The writer’s writer; Martians, book-burnings, and pricked thumbs.
  11. William Faulkner: Eating toothpaste, dirty drawers, Yoknapatawpha, “Barn Burning,” and the “human heart in conflict with itself.”
  12. Tennessee Williams: Streetcars, lobotomies, tragedies, menageries.
  13. Marianne Moore: Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.
  14. T.S. Eliot: A modernist metaphysical poet whose music resonates into my time-present, time-past, and time-future.FourQuartets-book cover
  15. Wallace Stephens: Things as they are were changed upon Stephens’ blue guitar.
  16. e.e. cummings: listen, i dont pity one bit this überabsurd, underappreciated helluva good universe-creator.
  17. Toni Morrison: Haunting, harrowing.
  18. Julie Otsuka: Incisive, like a scalpel.
  19. Samuel Beckett: We are all born astride the grave.
  20. Dean R. Koontz: Three words: Watchers (the book).
  21. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Gatsby‘s partial people.
  22. Sherman Alexie: His works are at once human(e) and humorous. Pathos and black humor at their finest, and all “absolutely true”!
  23. (Poet) Allison Funk: At the epicenter.
  24. Langston Hughes: Sadly, we all defer dreams sometimes.
  25. O. Henry: Hometown boy, short-storyist and master of the “twist” at the end.
  26. James Baldwin, whose writing reflects back to me constantly and is rather like “a great block of ice [that] got settled in my belly and kept melting there slowly all day long”
  27. Vladimir Nabokov: I ooze with disgust for and loathing of Humbert Humbert (well done, Mr. Nabokov), but the writing is unparalleled.
  28. Maryn McKenna (science writer): Infectious diseases, you gotta love ’em.
  29. Carl Zimmer (science writer): Parasite rex and more.
  30. Piers Anthony: Wordplay and swordplay; dub me a Fanthony, but there’s nary a Mundaneday with this guy around.

Who bears your cup of literary nectar? I’d love suggestions of other authors and works.