Monday, November 17, 2008


This is a VERY changed version of something I wrote a while back. Some might not like the changes. I'm sorry. Whereas it was once abstract prose, it is now semi-narrative poetry. I hope you like it, but this one is mostly for me.


to find beauty for that one i’ve yet to meet
i went one overcast twilight
through spacious flowered fields
past bubbling streams
that never reminded me of love
into the shade of murky wood
i came upon a pansy wilted
forlorn and choked
springing impossibly from hard granite
there i sat and pondered

on the beauty of
tear-stained tracks down children’s dusty faces
weeks of rain
strong battered women
fancy melting candles
and darkwood rooms done up in red velvet
sputtering stars fighting to shine their light through earth's twinkly muggy atmosphere
and wildflowers growing raggedly from a crack in barren rock

i want to make someone's sadness my own
cup a fallen star in my hand as it burns
shelter it from tempestuous winds
shade it from the garish glare of sunshine

on summer nights i lie in the crunchy golden grass
look at the ghosts of giants
placed in the night sky to remind us
we all must pass on
we are only visitors here in this strange land
i love them
their tragic stories
heroes fallen in crumpled heaps
mythical beasts slain in fields of blood
tiny cold lights their most eloquent “in memoriam”

the sun comes out
stories fade to soothing baby blue
heroes and their eulogies forgotten
their wonders exist only in darkness

will heaven be all light all the time
will there be the dark spaces between the stars or
will they be filled in with such blinding light that there won't be any stars at all
will there be shadows dancing from the fireplace onto cozy earthen walls
will the forest still hold its dark secretive appeal or
will the leaves in the canopies be forced to move aside
let in the light
reveal her secret places
will all music be in major chords
all clouds cumulus
all stories have happy endings
will we mourn our damned loved ones or
will our grief be enough to save them
will we have to forget in our happiness that we ever loved them at all

when we are stars ourselves
will we all shine the same stark white
can I shine burgundy
olive or
burnt sienna
let my dark desires be the catalysts that make me more like god
let my self burn up beautifully like a meteor as I near perfection
let the forest shelter foxes in her secret places and murky mysteries
let the gnarled roots of this old oak tree hold the branches high
let my scars
my beauty
or i’ll choose to stay right here in the gloom of cloudy dusk
a wizened and bent old beggar man
who can’t bring himself to pick one sad little flower
who will have to bring that one he’s yet to meet down here instead
who has maybe found a new kind of grace

Thursday, October 9, 2008


In a high school English class, we took a little trip to the computer room in the library. Our school didn't have a guidance counselor, but they did have a new computer-based aptitude test they were dying to try out on us. I sat between my friend Yava, a black gothic girl who would sometimes cut her palms and write the word "freak" on her paper in blood in class, and my friend Raj, a girl who was Indian or some sort of -Stani and who mostly just sat in class and didn't say anything.

When the results came back on the test, Raj was to be a butcher. Yava was to be an undertaker. And I was to be a librarian or 4h club counselor. Had the girls' predictions not seemed so eerily accurate, I might have spent more time wondering about the validity of this test, which had asked question like "Do you like books?" (love them!) and "Do you like school?" (hate it!) but never, "Are you okay working in an environment where no one talks?" or "Are you willing to go to college if it means a better job?"

The point is, years later when I needed a job, I found myself hearkening back to that test, and applying for a job at the local library. The application process was rigorous. Thirty of us were seated in a room and given a list of books to alphabetize or place in the Dewy Decimal system, and the first two to finish would be the ones hired. I have since learned that I should never, ever apply for a job where personality is not taken into account.

The job was fine, at first. I was a "page," and would come in in the morning, grab a cart loaded up with alphabetized books, and wheel it out to the shelves, where I would "shelve" them. It was quiet in there. Nobody asked me questions. I would go entire shifts without speaking to another human being. I would go entire shifts sleeping in my bed at home, and nobody noticed. How could they? Eventually I went about two weeks without going in at all, and that's when I decided to find a new job. I'd made it almost two months. 4H isn't very big in Utah, so I had to get creative. I did return to work at the library for a few more shifts, and one day as I was leaving, thinking about where else I might work, I saw a huge sign exactly across the street from the library that read "Looking for a job? Come inside!" So I did.

It was a phone survey place called BRG, an important cog in the great mechanism of consumerism. Employees there would call people randomly and get them to consent to taking a survey that would ask them important questions such as, "On a scale from one to ten, how much red would you say is at your local KFC, with one being no red at all, and ten being everything is red?" "How likely would you be to spend an extra five dollars to be able to get your personalized photo as the background of your Citibank credit card? Would you say completely unlikely, very unlikely, somewhat unlikely, neutral, somewhat likely, very likely, or completely likely?" If you say "likely" a bunch of times in a sentence it starts to sound really dumb.

Anyway, I picked up the application right then, and was instructed to return the next day to turn it in and schedule an interview.

The prospect of soon leaving the library for good made it easier to return there the next day. Still, there is a reason that librarians are sad, dusty women who die of old age around 45. Shelving books makes you go a little bit out of your mind, which you allow, because staying IN your mind while you do it is torture. So you start to play little games with yourself, like imagining the titles of the last two books you shelved combined into one, or if the author of each book had a superpower based on his name alone, what would it be? I'm sharing too much. Anyway, all those years ago when I had marked that I like books, I think I had misunderstood the question. To read books, I loved; to merely be around them, inundated in covers and bar codes and decimals, the bulk of responsibility to put them in their proper place stifling my every thought? That is my own personal hell. Well, throw in a mad press of pregnant midgets and spiders, and then THAT is my own personal hell. The point is, I had to at least imagine what was in those books, pretend to have some sort of a relationship with them. Not a book went by whose title I didn't examine. And on that last day, I found a book, a small one, that had the potential to change every aspect of my life, or at the very least land me that new job. It was called "How to Get People to Like You in the First 90 Seconds." I skimmed through one chapter right there in the aisle, and it seemed promising. I had about an hour left of my shift before I had to be at that interview, so I put the book-laden cart back in the back room, and sat down on a comfy chair out of site to read my new treasure. The principle was a simple one. Be like people. Do whatever it is they do. Match mannerisms, touch on the topics they talk about, etc. People like people they're like, according to this author.

I decided to try that out when I went to turn in my application, because what the hey? If it worked, great, and if not, there were other jobs.

The secretary at the front desk at BRG that day was a demure girl with an apologetic smile. I matched it, stating who I was and saying that I was "just" there to turn in my application, and I didn't want to be a bother, but how soon did she think it would be possible to get an interview?

She smiled slightly warmlier (warmerly?) and said to wait one second, then went in search of whoever it was that was going to give the interview.

Barbara emerged a moment later. Or maybe I should say she erupted. She was wearing a muumuu that was louder and more floral than an ibex stampede through an Alpine meadow. And her neck! Her neck bounced her head around flaccidly like one of those dashboard bulldogs. I suppose she thought she was nodding enthusiastically, but it looked more like some sort of disorder. Slinkineckitis. Now, I had already resolved to be like her, no matter what, so I started in.

I moved my head up and down and up and down and around and around like I was trying to get water out of my ears or something. Her own bobble head kept moving even more sporadically than mine. After a little bit I noticed that her head didn't merely go up and down, but in a bit of an orbit, like the way the north pole goes in little circles on its way around the sun. So I threw that in, too. I also matched her Jewish-talkshow-hostess breeziness, and smiled confidently after everything I said, like I just knew she was going to love it and might even be considering writing me a little "thank-you" note for saying such wonderful things. After all, that seemed to be the reaction she expected from me.

The thought did fleetly flitter through my mind that maybe she really did have some sort of disease, and what if she thought I was mocking her. Then I realized that if it were a disease, she'd have no way of knowing that I didn't have the same one. If she couldn't control how she moved her head, then she'd have to assume that neither could I. Besides, maybe my head during that interview was the only thing in her world that wasn't moving up and down all the time. Maybe it was a relief to her to see such a level-headed young man when all the world around her seemed to be moving up and down like a storm-tossed ship at sea. Okay, probably not. But SOMETHING worked.

At the end of the interview she offered me two dollars per hour more than they pay the other employees, because, as she said, she had "a good feeling about" me. Then she handed me a blank piece of paper and a pencil and instructed me to write my own schedule. It was great!

Well, the job was great. For about a week. Then I had about two weeks of somewhat great to somewhat not great, and by the time I'd been there a month, the job was not great at all. Eventually I got sick of people yelling at me that they didn't accept sales calls (This isn't a sales call, ma'am, it's a marketing call) and that I had said I would take only five minutes and it had already been 25 (I'm sorry ma'am, we're almost done here. It'll just be another five minutes). Then one day my friends called to see if I would go on a road trip to Seattle and San Francisco with them. We'd be gone for a week and a half, and we'd be leaving the next morning. So I went.

It wasn't the best road trip ever (I think if an mp3 player accident forces you to listen to nothing but Abba and German lessons for an entire 40-hour car ride, it could even be described as the WORST road trip ever), but it sure beat going to work at that awful job. I went in to pick up my last check the day I went back, and the shy secretary asked me if I'd like to pick up a shift that evening. I pointed out that I hadn't come to work for over a week, but I was informed that Barbara was going to dismiss that. I told her thanks, but I had plans. Which included looking for a new job. (Anyone need someone to teach their kids how to raise rabbits and poultry? Anyone?)

For months after that, I continued to get exuberant phone calls and messages from Barbara: "Hi Robbie! I'm not sure if you were planning to come in to work today, but just remember that we're on holiday schedule, so you get an extra two hours to sleep in or do whatever it is you do in the mornings! Okay, buhbye!" The calls only stopped when I finally moved out of that house. For all I know, I still work there to this day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Retarded Pt. 2: Identity Crisis

I don't know what my problem is, but if you hand me a 2x3x0" piece of hard plastic, I will lose it within a few weeks. And the worst thing about losing one's identity is that in order to get a NEW identity, one must provide a photo I.D.

Early attempts to skirt the I.D. issue had failed spectacularly:

I was fifteen, and awkward. Picture me with a cowlick, mismatched clothes, broken glasses, and so awkwardly skinny my school counselor had put me into a support group for kids with eating disorders. And I'm trying to rent the Lord of the Rings game for my Super Nintendo on my mom's Blockbuster account. My name was on the account, but I needed a photo I.D. So I brought the game to the counter, holding my hands down by my waist, hoping the big brassy black woman at the counter would just forget to ask for my I.D. She didn't. I reluctantly brought my hands up to the counter, revealing what I'd been holding. "Here, does this work? Look, I'm right here," I said, pointing to a tiny photo of myself. "See?"

She sat there for a few moments, eyes bugging out of her head, and then she started winding up that spring-loaded neck of hers. I braced myself for a tongue lashing. But when she opened her mouth, it was in flat, cruel peals of hoarse laughter. Haaa haaaa haaa haaa. Hooo Haaa Haaaa. Like that. She doubled over, facing the ground, supporting the upper half of her body with her palms on the counter, one of which was slapping the formica for added effect. I just stood very still, trying to not let this become any more of a scene than it already had. The lady had other plans. She grabbed the phone.

"Darnell!" she said, still laughing all the while. "You have to come out here. This white boy just Hoo Haaa Haaa Haaaa. Okay, this white boy just tried to use his HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOK as his I.D. You gotta come look at this white boy. Hooo Hooo Hooo Haaa."

Soon Darnell was there, with some other employee, and the three of them were looking at me, looking at my yearbook, and falling all over each other in laughter. I didn't feel this was very professional, and in an attempt to remind them of their duty to their customer, I tried to get Darnell's attention. "Excuse me sir? Is this going to work? I missed school on picture day, but this is me in the beginning choir, see? Third row, seventh from the left. One two three four..." In my anger, I doubted Darnell could have counted to seven even if his eyes hadn't been full of tears of laughter. But nothing I was saying was making him laugh less, for sure. Suddenly I was a white guest star on "Martin," pushing my glasses up higher on my nose, nasally imploring the guffawing trio to stop laughing at me, and using white people words like "imploring" and "guffawing." To this day, I can't really be offended by whiteface Wayans-brothers-style comedy, as I know I have done my small part to contribute to the stereotype. At any rate, I eventually had to just grab my yearbook back off the counter and exit, silently. I have no idea how long it was before they noticed I was gone.

My point is that I had had very little success with legal forms of identification. I still didn't have any form of I.D. at all when it came time to get my passport so I could go to Chile on my mission. A kind Polynesian woman from church agreed to drive me down to Costco so I could get a membership and the accompanying photo I.D. Resourceful, right? I don't know why I thought that would work. When we got to the post office, they revealed that they had a list of pre-approved documents, and "Costco card" was not among them. Fortunately, we found some sort of flaw in the system, and the kind Polynesian woman from church, who did have proper identification, ended up having to perjure herself on some legal document declaring that she was my aunt, and that I was actually who I said I was. Surprisingly, that worked, and nobody ever tried to verify my relationship to her. Terrorists, take note.

By the time I was 22 and living in Utah, having very recently decided that maybe it was time to get my driver license, I again had lost every form of I.D. I'd had, including that passport. I can only imagine with dread the black market value of a passport that belongs to a white American kid who happens to look middle-eastern. That aside, I started to look into what was required to get my license in Utah, and found that one of the first things I'd need was a legal photo I.D. Of course. A quick call to the DMV in California revealed that they still had me on record there, and if I could come in, they would be able to pull up a picture of my face in their databank and print me a new one. I decided to get my Driver's permit while in California, as well, since I'd need to have it for two weeks before being eligible for my license. So only a few weeks after having moved to Utah, I found myself on a bus bound back to California.

I have to confess something at this point. I've always wanted a photo I.D. in which I was making a funny face. I know that's not allowed, but I knew there had to be a way, and I figured it out during that long bus ride. I marched through the doors of that CA DMV already making a face. I figured if I made that face the whole time I was in the DMV, they'd just think that was my face. Even if they had their doubts, who was going to say anything? So there I was in the DMV with the right side of my upper lip pulled up, my left eye squinting, and a simpleton's glee beaming from my entire countenance. My brother Randy was there with me for moral support, which was good because I soon ran into problems. The main problem was that I was filling out an application for a California legal I.D., but I needed it to be mailed to my new home in Utah. So I hesitated, and finally decided to put down my new address and just hope that didn't cause any problems. Randy was watching over my shoulder to make sure I didn't do anything stupid. "What about your zip code?" I had no idea what my new zip code was at all, so Randy suggested I leave it blank, and if they really needed it, we could somehow look it up in the moment.

After several hours of sitting in those hard plastic curved chairs, making that face the whole time, it was finally my turn to approach the counter. I was attended to by an irritable Indian gentleman, who gave me the distinct feeling that he was sizing me up and realizing I was going to take a lot of his time. And it's true, I was. And I think that look is a job requirement there anyway, so I proceeded with the original plan. "I need to get my I.D.," I told him. Holding my mouth all crooked like that does funny things to my voice.

He breathed loudly out through his nostrils, his mouth a hard-pressed line, then snatched up the paperwork I'd filled out. I leaned over to watch as he started copying my information into his computer. When he got to the part about how I lived in Utah, he stopped and smoothed down his sideburns with his palms before turning to look at me. "You need to be a California resident to get a California identification," he told me.

I hadn't gotten residency in Utah yet, so I clarified things for him, by saying, "Hey, do your impression of an incredulous lizard."

At least, that's what he must have thought I said. It was a really good impression, too. What I had actually said was, "I AM a California resident; I just live in Utah." Randy jumped to my defense. "He just needs it mailed to that address. Please, he doesn't have any other form of I.D."

Somehow, with his eyes, the man was able to wash his hands of the entire matter. He simply shook his head and resumed typing, muttering under his breath. I watched as he got to the zip code, and as I saw him preparing to ask me, I got my response ready. "What is your zip code?" he asked, but as he turned his eyes toward my face and saw me preparing to say I didn't know, he quickly muttered,"Never mind. Doesn't know his zip code. We'll just put all zeroes."

And that was it. He took my picture and sent me away with the promise that I'd receive my I.D. in the mail within the next week to ten days. I got my Driver's permit right after that. I admit, I cheated. I'd misplaced my glasses right before the trip, and I'd had to have Randy read the eye chart to me while we were waiting in line so I could memorize it, but that's another story. The point is that my scheme worked, and with one unforeseen bonus....

You see, what I hadn't realized at the time, was that the face I was making in that picture didn't just look like a funny face. It looked like a retarded face. It was a legal California I.D. that wasn't a driver license, with a Utah address and 00000 as the zip code, a printed signature, and a picture of a retard, all with my name on it. Which was serendipitous, as otherwise I never would have been able to get my license just two weeks later....

(I'll get a clearer version of this up here soon)

To be continued....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Retarded Pt. 1

There was an elderly woman from Guatemala or Panama or one of those Mexican countries down there working at the In-n-Out Burger where I was employed in Napa when I was 22. Her name was Berta, or Marta, or something stereotypical like that, and I came upon her in the back room one day, clutching the potato tumbler with one hand for support, and her heart with the other for dramatic effect, her Charo mascara running down her wrinkly Hispanic jowls and coming to rest in blue-black spatters among the red ones already on her shirt from slicing the day's tomatoes (one of the few chores that could be entrusted to someone who didn't speak English, while also demeaning enough that no one who did speak English would do it, which is precisely why we had Berta, or Marta, in the first place). She looked at me as I approached, and sobbed hysterically, "¡No es ataque de corazón!" or, "It's not a heart attack!" I figured she lied to get this job; she was probably lying about this.

Don't get me wrong. Marta or whatever was like a mother to me. Not my mother, but she just seemed like someone's mother, to me. And we were pretty close. This was largely because I was the only other Spanish speaker who worked there, so they always made me be the one to tell her what needed cleaning or cutting. I had made her this tape to help her learn, in English and Spanish, the answers to the questions on the United States citizenship test, so whenever she was cleaning out the sinks, you'd hear her going "Francees Eh-scoatt Key," or she'd be sweeping behind the dumpster, from whence a voice would emanate: "Dee right to bear arms." I thought it was important that this woman be able to vote on crucial political issues, you know? So now you see how very close we were, Marta or Berta and I. And then one day she up and had an ataque, and I had to be the one to find her.

So I told my boss, and he called an ambulance, and they came to take her away. As they strapped her to the gurney, she called out, her eyes wide and wet with gratitude, "¡No doctores, no doctores!" which, as you can gather from the context, is some strange dialect of Spanish for "You can find my insurance card in the wallet in my left hip pocket!" In all honesty, the arrival of the paramedics had somehow exacerbated her panic, and as they loaded her up into the back of the ambulance, she yelled something that sounded uncannily like the English phrase "Geeve me leeberty or geeve me deeeeeeath!" That's the last thing she said, and then the heavy ambulance doors clanged shut, and I never saw that poor woman again.

Okay, it's true that I never saw her again, but that's not really what she yelled. What she actually yelled was the Spanish phrase, "No me dejes sola," which means "Don't leave me alone." And she said it, yelped it, almost pleaded it, while looking right into my eyes, and the ambulance doors really did clang shut unsympathetically right at that moment, and I was left with her final words to me resounding in my ears. The paramedics told me I couldn't ride in the ambulance because I wasn't related to her, but they were kind enough to tell me which hospital they were taking her to, and then they left.

My boss asked what she had yelled there at the end, and I told him. "Well, why don't you follow her down there and make sure she's all right?" he suggested.

"I don't have a car." It would take over an hour to get to the hospital on the bus.

"Here, take mine," he offered, tossing his keys to me.

I tried to catch them, but yeah. I'd always been terrible at that, ever since tee-ball. But not catching the keys was less embarrassing than what I was saying as I was swatting at the air for them: "I don't know how to drive." Once I'd recovered the keys, I walked over to hand them to my boss (throwing was my other weak point), but he was still reacting to what I'd said, staring at me as though I had just told him, during the McCarthy era, that I was a Communist. A look that was half "I hope you're kidding," and half "This is a terrible time to be kidding." But I wasn't kidding. I had no idea how to drive a car. Well, not NO idea. I had watched Knight Rider religiously as a child, and I had even had a Knight Rider Big Wheel, so I knew there was something about turning a key, and then the car would talk to you and tell you what to do next, but that was as far as my knowledge went.

When my boss composed himself, he simply muttered, "Well, then, get back to work." And I did. As I slammed potatoes through the french fry cutter (the "freedom" fry cutter, as I guess we were supposed to call it in those post-9/11 days, presumably so we didn't have to keep paying evil terrorist-supporting France the royalties for inventing the name of the way we cut our potatoes here in America), I thought about Marta in her paper hat on a paper sheet on a hospital bed, refusing to sign scary paperwork in a crazy foreign medical building where no one spoke her language. Why had she panicked so much at the thought of going to the hospital, I wondered? I decided to think that the only reason the old woman had been so scared was that maybe she'd only been to hospitals in a third world country, and once she arrived at our nice clean American hospital, she'd calm right down. The thought also crossed my mind that maybe she thought they would actually send her to one of those hospitals back in her homeland once they realized she was illegal, and then I realized I wasn't entirely sure that that they don't actually do that, so I decided not to think about it.

Just so you know, the woman didn't die. She was given orders from the doctor to not return to work for at least a few months, and by the time she came back, I had moved to Utah. But I was changed in one way of major importance. I had decided that maybe it was time to get my driver license, just in case of emergency. No more old Mexican ladies dying alone because THIS guy didn't know how to follow an ambulance. But me, Robbie, getting a license? I figure I could have done the normal thing and taken Drivers' Ed and actually learned how to drive, like everyone else. But yeah right. At some point in the next few weeks, I was informed that driving was actually nothing like The Love Bug or Knight Rider at all. Plus, I wasn't really so interested in learning how to drive as I was in just getting my license. A driver license, as I understand it, is like a free pass from the government to be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. If I ever got pulled over for crashing off the side of the road, I'd be able to simply show my license, and the cops would just help me flip my car back over and wave me on my merry way. Still, as appealing as this license was starting to seem, I was keenly aware that it was The Man who was making me get my license. And I was never one to drive through hoops. So, instead of signing up for driving classes, I hatched a scheme.

To be continued....

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Corned Beef Hash

Warning: I know it seems absurd with such a title, but this post is rated PG-13 or 15 or so.

My friend David and I got so good at Taboo that we could do them all in one or two words.

David: Bubbles

Robbie: Root beer!

David: Not at a crime

Robbie: Bannister!

David: Doo doo doo

Robbie: Tchaikovsky!

We could get up to 14 or 15 in one turn. The trick was to boast about our mental connection while at the same time acting like we'd never played before. "So is this kinda like Password? We're really good at Password."

Then we'd destroy them.

There was one card that caused us particular consternation, however. It was one that read "corned beef hash." David had never tried corned beef hash, and he couldn't ever seem to get a grasp on what it was from my descriptions. "Wait, it's dog food for people? I don't get this." Every time that card came up in play, I would try to describe it, and he could never remember the name of it, and we would lose valuable time. I realized the only solution would be to expose him to the actual substance, but couldn't really see myself actually purchasing any.

Then came Youth Conference 1998, which we both attended. We did a canned food drive for the homeless as our service project. One of the bags that were left for us contained a can of precious corned beef hash! I was ecstatic. This was our chance!

When we got back to the church where our dance would be held that evening, we set down the bags we'd collected with everyone else's, but I slyly absconded with one purloined can in my hand. I walked into the alcove toward the scouting room, where my backpack was piled with fifty or so others, but the door was locked. I turned around to find some other place to stash the hash, but there were some church-lady types meeting each other in the hall by the drinking fountain, effectively cutting off my escape. If I was seen with a can right after a canned food drive, I was sure to be questioned. I don't know whether stealing a mere $1.39 can of processed meat would look like a terribly egregious sin to these ladies, but I was pretty sure that stealing ANYTHING in a church was frowned upon, and stealing from the homeless was probably reportable to the Bishop or God or worse. So I ducked through the nearest door, which happened to be the men's room, and looked around for a hiding spot. On the wall was an air-freshener. The type that sprays every fifteen minutes, but the only time you're ever in there long enough to hear it go off is when you're sitting on the pot, and so you start to wonder whether it has some sort of odor sensor on it, you know? So I was able to get the can to stay on the slanted top of that little spray thing. Feeling disaster (or at least judgment) averted, I then used the urinal, and as I was washing my hands afterward, I noticed the problem. The can was out of any normal line of sight when one was facing it, but it was clearly visible (unavoidable, even) in the mirror. I got it back down and peeked into the hall. The door to my backpack was still locked, and the ladies were still barricading the other end of the hall with their wall of gossip. I was getting desperate. I looked in the only as-yet-unexplored part of the restroom: the stall.

Then I got an idea!
An awful idea!

I took the wrapper off of the can (metal container), took the lid off of the can (toilet), and stuck the hash in the water in the back of the crapper. I would come back for it later. I can be a real genius sometimes, especially when pressed into a corner.


During the dance, I was walking by that hall to get a drink of water, when I noticed that the room with my backpack was finally open. If I was going to get to my backpack with the stolen Hormel goodness, I would need to act quickly, now, without thinking. I hastily ran into the alcove, through the bathroom door, across the few feet of beige tiles, and threw open the door to the stall, and--

--and the visual cortex of my brain fought the rest of my brain in an attempt to make me process the fat Mexican kid inside the stall had been masturbating when I first burst in, but now he was yelling at me. "What are you doing in here!?"

"What are YOU doing in here!?" I gasped. I had backed away from the stall as much as I could by this point.

"What's your problem? Why don't you knock?" he demanded.

"Why don't you lock the door?" I countered (reasonably, I maintain) "especially if you're going to be...." I fled.

I don't know how I was able to respond verbally to the boy; in my head the whole time I was just thinking, "AAAAAAAAAUHHHHHGHHHHHHH."

A few minutes later, under cover of dim lighting and whirling disco-ball stars of light, I saw el Mexicano gordo y masturbante back on the dance floor with some innocent young girl in his manos. After pointing him out to my friends, I cautiously slipped back into the bathroom, retrieved the can, and packed it away in my backpack. This time, as in all instances prior and since, I tapped politely on the stall door before entering, in order to assure myself of its vacancy.

David and I ate the hash the next morning, and David got to see just how barely tolerable, but shamefully enticing the stuff really was. And we had learned our lesson: never ever ever steal from the homeless. Bad things happen. There was, however, one wholly positive outcome of the whole ordeal....

David: Masturbating Mexican

Robbie: Corned Beef Hash!

Yeah, we were unstoppable.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


So, I transferred all my poetry over to this blog (at least, all my favorites), and I spruced them up with some pictures and all. Since this blog is really my gage to see what out of the things I've written is the most popular, please leave comments on the ones you like the best. Hopefully my voice comes through in all of them. My signature is heavy on opinions and wordplay. We'll start off with one that is sort of an experiment in sound.


My feet get all pruny, skimming just below the surface of the water,
down where the frogs and the fishies frolic,
down in the brown where they squelch around,
faintly afraid of worms and germs and
creepy crawdads in the cold murky muck,
digging for twigs and stones with my tiny toes
while water wends and slowly flows.

I rub the sweat off my brow with my hand, and see the crisscross lines from the grass,
feel the bending blades under the weight of my body
pressing my pink palms to the ground,
Hold the land in my hands, and wonder what the world is worth,
feel the beetles and roly-polies busily bustling beneath me,
My fingernails scratching into the dark mushy earth.

A mosquito hums high by my head, harmonizing with a distant beehive,
while the river rocks provide percussion,
a swallow sings solo, slowly,
and I, their unnoticed but awestruck audience,
lazily lie by my creek, listen and learn the tune
of June.

The sunshine, like drops of sweat, rolls down my crown, turning me brown,
drowning me in gold-green warmth,
as my skin and limbs try to slowly grow
in its glorious glow like the grass down below,
eyes closed, and the rosy rays radiate through my little lids,
puzzle pieces of light on my face, all around this place,
the bright summer light providing quite a nice show.

And here, behind my eyes, between these pleased ears, my fears disappear,
the stress and strain of a world gone insane,
panic and pain down the proverbial drain,
and here, in my heart, a happiness hides,
spreading spryly inside, shining childlike light right out of my eyes,
and after a while,
my blackberry-bloodied lips quiver at the tips,
and softly slip into a sweet, sticky smile.

One Morning

One Morning

I peeled the sun and took a bite
And threw us into frozen night
So we could sneak around and play
(We never could by light of day)
Through static yards and neighborhoods
And into black inviting woods.

I grabbed the clouds and pulled the drain
To let out all the drippy rain
So I could hold your hand and run
Without the awful glare of sun
Through walls of rain so shiny wet
To wash our brain so we forget.

I took a deep breath just for fun
And blew the stars out one by one
So we could lie in solid black
With only dark beneath our back
Through years of brightest pain behind
But missing all because we’re blind.

The Time I Died

She bit my knee playfully on a cloudy day, hard enough that she had to spit out a little morsel of my flesh, blood dribbling down her mischievously pleased chin, dark blackberry stain red, and her impish eyes danced from behind a wall of thick hurried air that wouldn't crumble outward into my lungs so I could scream. Her blond hair wisped in the cold caustic breeze that assaulted my face, carrying bitter flecks of ocean across the stretch of sand and seaweed where they pelted us, the strong boy with strawberry hair and a hole in his leg, and the delicate waif with razor teeth, letting warmth and crimson spread beneath her and seep down to bathe the crabs. "I love you," she whispered like Claudius' poison in my ear. I scrabbled away, bellowing at last, pulling a yell up from every part of me like a tuning fork, a yell that was swallowed by the grey sky atop his hoary oceanic sister. The girl followed me on hands and knees like a puppy, a horrible demon cur with leathery gargoyle wings that wants to be friends but can't keep its tremendous weight from squishing your brittle soul, while something about its sleek scaly elegance keeps you aroused until it kills you. I ran and ran and fell, salt in my mouth and deep into the bite in my skin, and I rolled over quickly with a look of flagrant horror on my strained face. "You are not the only victim here!" she kept shrieking through injured tears, and for a moment I dumbly wondered if the imp was telling the truth, if there were others who had fallen into her trap. Then in dizzy desperation I stood down or up or aside or some direction and grabbed for the shovel, which I would swing around and around in a fabulous arc until it connected with the side of her shallow beautiful face. But there was no shovel, only a boy in wet blue denim shorts, and a teenage demon waiting for her breasts to fill her big sister's faded floral bathing suit, and lots of sand, and maybe some soggy bits of kelp and the flaccid blanket my mother had wrapped me in when I was younger to protect me from the elements. Even my essence was being carried away into the water, leaving no way of sucking it all back inside through a straw in the sand like the way they drink coconut milk in cartoons, and no chance of getting my life back from inside her belly without risking the loss of even more. As I bent to gather up the bits of myself and try to pressure them back into place, she came upon me, descended, and devoured the rest of me whole. She returned alone along the tortuous yellow-lined road that evening with stains on the front of her hand-me-down bikini, though witnesses in the town say they saw her in the company of a muscular shirtless young man with a blank stare on his face and a strange limp.


It’s overcast
And there are children playing tetherball in the recesses of my brain,
Skinning knees and making noise.
Everyone's aware that soon:
A bell will ring,
A dog will salivate,
And recess will come to an end.

By the fence
In my mind, a creepy stinky tinker rolls his creaky clinking cart,
Feared and sneered by children
For his beard and weird appearance
At the corner of the schoolyard.
He sends an oath to heaven:
He will get them all.

Up the valley,
Beneath the thick black clouds of doubt and in the wafting smell of dairy air,
Is a factory where they make the children’s toys.
Doll makers make dollars,
Exploiting girls and boys,
Building a skyscraper to heaven
So they can put themselves in better hospitals
When they are old.

In the hospitals,
Mental patients
Welcome newbies with their open arms and wounds.
They have been (for our
Sake) forgotten,
Sleeping in their urine.
They never go outside or see the sky.
We don’t have to think about them anymore.

On the playground
Of my brain, the tetherball comes ‘round too hard and smacks a child upside his head.
He cries and lies upon the blacktop,
Looking at the distant sky,
Holding his small hands up to the swelling
Of the other children’s laughter
In his ear.

In the teacher’s lounge,
Miss Rigby sits righteously at a desk in a chamber reserved for her alone,
Sipping her virgin Bloody Mary,
Praying to the bloody Virgin Mary
That she’ll die married, not a bloody virgin,
That God will open up the heavens
And shower down the blessings of a man
And purpose for her life.

Behind the jungle gym,
Young Prometheus coldly lies on jagged rocks behind my eyes,
Yearning for the skies
Yet tied to earth
With no rhyme or reason,
For no crime or treason,
Bound for heaven for his intrinsic godhood,
Bound to earth for his weak compassion for humanity.

In the chapel,
The priest is locked in his confessional and won’t come out until he’s found the perfect prayer.
He hunts for (and preys on) words,
Prays in words,
The plays on words go on and on
And fly to God or whatever lies beyond the stratus clouds.
He’ll have to wait to see if anything comes back.

On the hill,
Burdened Atlas holds the heavens out of reach from all the rest of them,
And maybe some young Heracles
Should climb the hill and tickle him,
Let the heavens come crash down upon the wretched children
And the slinking tinker and the priest, the makers of the dolls
And the poor young tortured titan and the teacher and the patients
And the rest.

The folks are stuck to earth because the gravity of their desires and sins is just too much.
If one is ever meant to reach the sky,
He’ll have to bring the sky to him
And to the whole damned world,
Toppling gods and beating odds
And falling to the deep blue way up high.
Why then, oh why can’t I?

The bell rings.
An angel gets its wings and wings away from us.
The children will play no more
And it finally starts to rain
At the end of the recesses of my brain.


WE are the ones who storm your frabjous castles
WE are the ones who eat the last piece of your birthday cake while you float in clumsy slumber
WE are the ones who raze your village, rape your women, and sell your children
WE are the ones who grow uglier at the threat of your beauty
WE are the ones who smash your saints and relics just in case they work
WE are the ones who have no qualms about dumping you headlong into the moat you dug for us
The ones who lacerate your tongue and then kiss you with salted lips
The ones who tell everyone about your sacred dreams and the demons that haunt you by night
The ones who poison the tip of the meat thermometer before truculently thrusting it up behind your scapula
The ones who drop logs and boulders on your anointed head, and revel in it
The ones who laugh for you to hear when your perfect pink baby dies
The ones who wade through your excrement finding the filthiest jewels to send back to you in the mail
Who rap your strong knuckles with the nail-protruding end of a dusty board
Who tell you not to think that brightly yet won't let you change
Who leave bloated rat carcasses on your charming marble porch
Who sing songs that crawl into your ears and gnaw blisters onto your exquisite brain
Who pee on the floor when it's your turn for bathroom duty
Who visit you in your old age and strike you down with a misty rusty scythe
That is who we are
Do not hate us

After All We Can Do

by Elder Robbie Pierce

I had been in that hole for a very long time—
In the dark and the damp, in the cold and the slime.
The shaft was above me; I saw it quite clear,
But there’s no way I ever could reach it from here.
I could not remember the world way up there,
So I lost every hope and gave in to despair.

I knew nothing but darkness, the floor, and the wall.
Then from off in the distance I heard someone call:
“Get up! Get ready! There’s nothing the matter!
Take rocks and take sticks and build up a fine ladder!”
This was a thought that had not crossed my mind,
But I started to stack all the stones I could find.

When I ran out of stones, then old sticks were my goal,
For some way or another I’d climb from that hole.
I soon had a ladder that stood very tall,
And I thought, “I’ll soon leave this place once and for all!”
I climbed up my ladder, a difficult chore,
For from lifting those boulders, my shoulders were sore.

I climbed up the ladder, but soon had to stop,
For my ladder stopped short, some ten feet from the top.
I went back down my ladder and felt all around,
But there were no more boulders nor sticks to be found.
I sat down in the darkness and started to cry.
I’d done all I could do and I gave my best try.

But in spite of my work, in this hole I must die.
And all I could do was to sit and think, “Why?”
Was my ladder to short? Was my hole much too deep?
Then from way up on high came a voice: “Do not weep.”
And then faith, hope, and love entered into my chest
As the voice calmly told me that I'd done my best.

He said, “You have worked hard, and your labor’s been rough,
But the ladder you’ve built is at last tall enough.
So do not despair; there is reason to hope,
Just climb up your ladder; I’ll throw down my rope.”
I climbed up my ladder, then climbed up the cord.
When I got to the top of it, there stood the Lord.

I’ve never been happier; my struggle was done.
I blinked in the brightness that came from the Son.
I fell to the ground as His feet I did kiss.
I cried, “Lord, can I ever repay Thee for this?”
He looked all about. There were holes in the ground.
They had people inside, and were seen all around.

There were thousands of holes that were damp, dark and deep.
Then the Lord looked at me, and He said, “feed my sheep,”
And he went on his way to save other lost souls,
So I got right to work, calling down to the holes,
“Get up! Get ready! There is nothing the matter!
Take rocks, and take sticks, and build up a fine ladder!”

It now was my calling to spread the good word,
The most glorious message that man ever heard:
That there’s one who is coming to save one and all,
And we need to be ready when he gives the call.
He’ll pull us all out of the holes that we’re in
And save all our souls from cold death and from sin.

So do not lose faith; there is reason to hope:
Just climb up your ladder; he’ll throw down his rope.

Other Thoughts

Have to find something else to think about

That man has a hook arm

Metal, impenetrable arms

Wait—How does he pick his nose?

Dead fish in the marketplace, grey, cold, dead

Almost out of money; have to return to work soon

Razor blade, poisonous, keen

Where are my house keys!?

Okay, they're in my pocket

I can’t do this

No drinking fountain on this damned bus

Blood, worms, dust

Forever unused bottles of nail polish and perfume

Our little bridge over the Napa River going by

A stop, and there goes Captain Hook

More Mexicans get on

The barren future

Getting sleepy

My headrest is gone


Awake again

Where are we!?

Downtown, all the people, moving, unmoved

So thirsty, always now

Foamy, spongy food; all I get anymore

Is that Tina Davidson? Has she heard?

Just look away--Can she see?

Uncomfortable bench, no seatbelts

Rusted, sinking nobody

Mouth dry, needing kisses

Have to pee, have to hold it

Always, always, have to hold the liquids in

Time to clip my nails again; no reminder

Last month is swallowing me

Train of thought slipping


Quickly, anything else

Scientific advances within the last hundred years

(not ENOUGH!)

Mom's meatballs

A kitten, and fleas sucking the life out of it

Frowning Arabian crossing guard, sweaty

Should have seen the signs


A bit ill; no more corn flakes at home

Chuck's baptism, creepy, necessary?

Guy across the aisle looks like a turtle, wizened

Cracking world made of solid ice

A bell, a light, a lurch!

Now down the stairs, left, right, left

Yellowing, lumpy mayonnaise spilt on the counter last night

No one to clean it up

No one to clean it up for

Cold, insensitive smiley faces, like stars

Distorted by the atmosphere, rushing blindly past

Gamma rays on my head, hungrily biting my face and neck

Raining that day, not like today

Powdered misery, just add water

Shouldn't have eaten those microwaveable nachos for breakfast

Pushing the pavement with my feet

Should have learned to cook for myself


Have to let go

I waste too much time

What does despair taste like? Does it taste ugly?

Gouging blade in a dying wrist

Spiral checkerboard in my eyelids, hell

Here at last; the grass looks nice, green

Need to call Mom back

The empty spot of ceiling over our bed

Linoleum composure, easily wiped off

No one to clean it up for, either

How sad the caretaker woman must feel, no teeth

All her friends deep in plots against her

How do you spell resolution? How do you do it?

My shadow is being midgety right now

Falling across the erect slabs of marble

I can’t help but step on him, on you

Veins pumping black tarry sadness

Here I am, here.

Can't ever make some people happy

But I still bring flowers


I only think of you when I run out of other thoughts


A guitar strums simply somewhere out of sight,

Down in the valley this October.

We lie still atop the golden hill we’ve climbed, Jill and I,

To fetch a pail of water,

Looking down at the town below,

Only God watching us,

Looking down on us in turn.

The air is so full and crisp that you just know

That if you stuck your sweatered arms out to your sides and spun around,

You might just lift a few feet off the grass

Like a whirligig,

Then float gently back down, crisp and dried and gentle.

The sunshine comes down sideways, backlighting everything:

The purple grapevines, the dusty telephone poles,

The rusty cow-licked hair of children playing ring-around-the-rosies by the river;

Ashes, ashes,

We all fall down!

It's not exactly that there's no wind today, but

A breeze blows in from all sides at once, equally,

And cancels itself out, electricity hung like blankets to dry in the air,

Pine smoke and ashes smearing around seductively like rainbow-colored oil in a puddle.

Come; look with me at this withered, tortured tree,

Leaves the colors of brilliant mud, seemingly frozen in time here

Under cruel Medusa's stare, snakes of autumn for her hair.

Father time kindly glides by as we watch,

And a single leaf falls down, around and around

On its way to the ground and to winter and death and the natural progression of life,

Lazily, beautifully, tragically. Its life is a macrocosm of its death.

As is all of this.

As are we.

Ashes to ashes.

We all fall down.

For The Night

The jungle grows dark, and I
just lie there, pretending to sleep in
the foxhole with
your skin,
pressed against mine, struggling
to hold my breath as it gets
heavier and
heavier like a rucksack after a
full day's march. You
stir, and
I whirl
inside like I'm avoiding bullets and
dropping to the motherly ground,
exhilarated. I
sense your sleepy softness and
the hard muscle underneath, trying to
breathe you in
through the thin
patch of skin
on my elbow that
connects with your back. The crickets
grow quieter,
if there are crickets at all, afraid
like I am of waking
you and ruining my moment. I
shake, cold and rocks
and fear
are penetrating my
ribcage, but a blanket between
us would grant warmth while
rapaciously robbing me of your touch like
the naked little pickpockets in
the village. Hours
pass, and nothing moves but
my heart, and yours just
behind and the part in
my gut that must have to
hold perfectly still for me to fall asleep. Soon
the enemy is out, spying
on us with his garish
golden rays of
light pouring through the fronds and
tearing at my tired eyelids. It's
time to get up and march and
defend our country before
we are seen.

I do not fight for a nation or a people who
would not let me protect them
they knew
who I am, nor for a dream that
does not count my life
as worthy to sacrifice for it.

I fight for you, and
for the night.

You And I

You are the radiant yellow flower, sprouting suddenly in my hitherto well manicured lawn.

I am the child, exhausted and crying, holding your hand at the close of Disneyland day, whelmed by novelty and joy.

You are the centrifugal force, whirling me around so fast I think I might throw up, smearing happiness across the front of my clean white shirt.

I am Actæon, hushing my hounds and peering through the clearing at the goddess bathing in the woods, afraid you might see me.

You are the second source of light and gravity, burgeoning into the closed solar system I’ve created for myself, and exerting a new pull on all my planets.

I am the devourer, sitting at the edge of your world and drinking in the sunset until it sloshes around in my overfilled belly, groaning into the night.

You are the seasons, hitting me all at once and losing me in wonder and confusion and color and sunshine and cold, bitter, snow.

I am Argus, guarding my golden apples in my mighty tree with my hundred eyes, waiting for you to arrive with a happy story to lull me to sleep so you can pluck them all.

You are the neighbor child, coming over to draw me a pretty picture of a horsey, then putting all the crayons back in the box in the wrong order.

I am the baby, shrinking from your grasping, garish new world, trying to escape back into the comfort of the womb.

You are the moon, shining on a lake so serenely it tickles, and I want to shake your silvery beams off lest I laugh and ruin it all.

Please do not be surprised if you are left speeding alone through your flashy universe, while I walk away by myself down my solid familiar path through the dark parts of the forest.


There is a Force
That permeates the Universe
And keeps order.
We call it Gravity, though it is known by another name,
This force that keeps two heavenly bodies hurling together through the blackness of space.
And so I revolve around you, and you around me,
And both of us around the Sun,
Year after year.
They (the scientists) say
That just maybe the moon was formed from matter taken from inside the earth,
Pulled like a rib to form earth's own companion.
I do not claim that anything inside of me could have created you;
If so, that rib was my best quality before it was lifted out.
You run my tides, and guide my seasons,
And in the darkest night of winter,
After the evenings and the fall,
When the Sun has hidden his warm face,
You are the lesser light to rule my night
And keep me in your glowing embrace 'til break of day.
If we could eavesdrop on atoms,
Observe the smallest molecule of matter,
We would see that this Force runs every bit,
For deep within the sun,
Hydrogen atoms run on the same principle,
One proton and one electron, forever locked in holy orbit,
Until one bright and glorious day
When the two finally come to rest together,
Matter is transformed into pure light,
The light of the Sun, a million nuclear blasts,
Which extend out into the Universe,
Or right here to our backyard,
Falling gently on our apple tree, entering its leaves, and making it grow.
And as we watch the years go by, the moon traveling around the earth, the earth around the sun,
The snow and blossoms and fruit returning and falling away,
We remember that in such a garden, with such a fruit,
Was love first made possible on this otherwise barren rock of a planet,
Where there had been no fall, no falling at all,
And beneath such a tree, with such an apple, a man first discovered this invisible force that keeps the Universe moving around,
And keeps us together, falling into each other.
Down this gravity well, forever falling in love.


The clouds finally burst one December night with a phone call,

Lightning traveling along the wires,

Thunder awakening her where she slept,

Tossing and turning

On her flimsy wooden fishing boat,


A woman

On the other end of the line

Said he's not coming home

And in a moment the sun was gone from the sky.

Soon the storm was raging,

The depths of hell dumping down from the heights of heaven,

Her delicate head getting heavier with the weight of the cold rain,

The swells trying to toss her off kilter,

Children clinging to her thinning wet housedress,

Apostles huddling in terror,

Ghosts on the waves,

Bills in the mailbox,

No one to steer the ship.

The whole universe waiting for her to face her storm,

Grab the wheel,

Save them.

But the wheel had come loose,

The rudders were broken,

The ship could not be steered.

"I cannot even save myself!"

She yelled in her prayers at night.

"I cannot weather the storm."

She rocked herself to sleep,

Hugging the cold places on her back where his arms belonged.

The long night dragged on,

Creaking timber,

Cracks in the boards where the water was forcing itself through,

Where she couldn't keep everything together.

And in the fourth watch of the night,

Sometime in mid-January,

In the center of the pitching waves and the pitch black,

She looked out over the tumultuous sea

And faced her God.

She could barely discern his face

Through the rain and mist and darkness and distance,

But she called out to him.

"Lord, if you are there, please bid me to come to you."

And he said, "Come."

She looked around at her small house,

Two kids to a bed,

And she looked at her empty résumé,

And she looked at her empty cupboards,

And then she peered over the edge of the small boat,

And looked at the murky, stormy water,

And imagined all the eels,

And sharks,

And tentacles down in the sludge.

Finally she looked up at her Lord, who was still beckoning,

And she stepped off her porch

With her briefcase and a sack lunch,

And went to work.

She did it!

She was doing it!

She didn't need to swim.

She could walk all the way.

And she sat behind her desk,

Filing papers and earning money.

But then she knocked a stack of papers off the desktop,

And she bent to pick it up,

And she looked down,

And she saw the swirling sea,

She saw that the wind was boisterous,

That no one would ever love her,

That her children would starve

And she'd never make it on her own.

She was afraid.

She started to sink,

Up to her neck in bills,

Over her head with raising a family,

Drowning in cold turbulent loneliness.

With her last breath she gasped,

"Lord, save me!"


Jesus dived into the water,

Sank into the sadness with her,

Stretched forth his hand,

And caught her.

Wet, and shivering,

Tangled in seaweed,

He pulled her onto the boat,

Wrapped her in a towel,

And hugged her to let her know she was safe,

His arms warming her back.

He closed his eyes,

The clouds parted,

The wind ceased,

The boat stood still,

The bills were paid,

The children were fed,

And the spots of longing on her back had vanished.

When the sun came out,

Pouring golden light on the gray sea,

And she was made perfectly whole,

Jesus left her side.

She stood again,

Went to the edge of the boat,

Looked out across the gentle waves,

And whispered over her placid sea,

"Thank you, Lord, for rescuing me.

Please help me learn how to walk back to you on my own."

She got out of bed, got ready,

And went to work again

With a prayer in her heart.

A Natural Death

On the way over there

Father said something

I didn't understand

about youth

in Asia and Mother horrored at him

as though he had just said “murder”,

dropped the M-bomb

[embalm] in our happy family van.

“She had to be alive

so our son could have a chance

to meet that woman who used to sing

and make strawberry cheesecakes,”

she said,

“and besides it's just the moral thing to do,

the natural thing.”

I had no idea

until we had arrived

that we were going

to visit a woman's old srange feet;

claws, veins, and coldness;

great grey gargoyle's feet

at the end of a


of a bed.

I did not want

to touch the old strange woman attached to those feet,

yet strong adult hands

firmly pushed my narrow scapulas

and all of me

toward the alien tubes,

tubes robbing the death from her nose;

toward her eyes, eyes

like bitter cold mood rings;

toward her teeth

like a wooden chest in the attic

whose cracks have widened with time;

toward matted grey hair

[grave hair]

like frosted grass concealing warm bugs.

Mother said

she used to sing things

with a once unblistered tongue,

shout hello to her grandchildren

from her porch

with a twinkle

in her clear sapphire eyes,

but all that was here

was like some unearthed

and eroded artifact

that offered no hint as to the essence

and spirit

of the ancient civilization that had once possessed it.

Then terror and dread


as a crow's leg of a hand

appeared from under the yellowing crocheted afghan


one of the hands that mother said

used to bake strawbury

pies and roll meatballs.

It acted autonomously,

clutched and explored my shrinking face,

her skin cold like ashes

where one might expect warmth.


no, aliveness--

pulsed in and out of those tubes

to her nose and body

like thick bitter cough syrup through a straw

and then she looked

at me,

or rather something dark and outside looked at me

through my great-grandmother's eyes.

I was on display here

for a fossil to observe

like a Bizzarro museum.

My inside places got all cold and hard,

and my clothes slackened a bit.


she released me

and I backed away,


not caring if I bumped into a chair

or a stack of flowers on a TV tray,

doomed to perish

with their faded


or best those foreign metal canisters of essence

forcing aliveness into the worn

[worm] body,


from the dust of that sterile

lifeless tomb

of a

living room.

there were adult whispers then

and strained feigned faces

while I sat in the coroner

drawing shallow frowning faces in my breath

on the window,

trying to shudder off the


flakes of her skin on my young face.

Months later

they buried those feet

along with the rest of the woman

I had met that night

where a little decay

would finish making her into dirt.

Left unburied

was the part that Mother righteously said lives on,

the part that sings and makes spaghetti,

the part that sadly I had never met,

it having departed long before our delayed encounter,

her carcass having been draggled through the morals of relatives
and in the end left alone to survive.


Cut down in the forest
Only a stump remaining
Dragged back home to Mom
Lower limbs trimmed away
Propped up
Dressed nicely
For all to see
Sapped of life
Adorned with ornaments
Filled with memories
Family gathered
Gifts given
Speeches made
Tribute paid
Then dried out
Hauled out
Left on the curb
Purpose served
The War Hero

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Well, folks, it's finally here. The online version of the movie my friends and I worked so hard on last spring. Please, if you like it, link to it, e-mail people the link to it, send us feedback at The goal is to try to get a writing deal for a sitcom for the Sci-fi channel. Maybe I'm shooting too high, but we'll see where this goes. Also, if you'd like a DVD copy, we'll make you one (with extras!) for $5 once we get that system set up. Pre-order by e-mailing us a request at Hope you enjoy! Also, we loaded up a pretty big version because we didn't want to cut down very much on the video quality, so depending on your internet connection, you might need to wait for it to load a bit. You can also try them at their youtube locations here, here, and here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


“We can’t have you in here with the other girls.”

The other girls shift skittishly, sensing the storm on the horizon.

Ursula sits on her haunches on the chair of her desk with her muscular brown arms folded on top of her black ashy knees, her back pressed uncomfortably against the bars on the window, her forehead and eyes pointed at the adults as though pure rage might explode out at them. Her neck swivels menacingly; the vituperation continues as the staff members warily close in. “Bitch! I don’t need your fat-ass face in my face! You want something in your face, go get another cheeseburger!” To another: “Just come at me! I’ll rip your titties off!” To the nurse: “You! Black girl! I’ll kill your baby!” The nurse takes a step backward and sideways, trying to shield herself behind some wall or counter or piece of furniture she wishes were there, letting her hands flutter like birds around her distended belly in their search for the most protective place to alight.

“We need you to walk into Investment.”

The girl has become rigid, barely moving. Her breath is an ursine growl. The last thing she says is “You’ll have to take me. And I promise it will be Prob. Lems.” She punctuates each syllable of that final word with another around-the-world sway of her neck. Her eyes lose their focus, and a roar, guttural and startling, emanates from between her clenched teeth and angrily parted lips.

“Ok, let's get the other girls out of here.”

The other girls leave their desks, their pens, everything. They funnel through the door in an ovine panic, following the staff to safety. They get jammed in the doorway, rammed into each other in their attempts to simultaneously leave quickly to escape harm and linger to witness the melee. A wispy girl, Rachel, is pushed, misses the doorway, and gets hit in her clean teeth by the wall-mounted pencil sharpener. She is swallowed up by the stampede, bleeding slightly from the corner of her mouth, led down the hall, and into a new classroom. The nurse looks sternly at all of them as she pauses pregnantly, then closes the door and gives them new pens. They strain to hear, quiet for the first time all day. The first sentence they can make out is:

“You have until the count of three to walk on your own. You are going either way.”

The men of the staff close the circle on the animal, hands forward, shuffling apprehensively. It bares its teeth, growls and screams.


Its painted claws clatter dangerously on the desktop.


Saliva pools on its lips.


The boss signals, and two men advance, each grabbing a wrist and a shoulder. The moment it is touched, the animal begins to thrash truculently, kicking, gnashing, jerking its strong arms in an attempt to knock the men off balance. They pull it off of the desk, away from the wall, and two of the women grasp at the flailing legs. It bends at the knees, the hips, the neck, trying to free itself. In a surprising move, it yanks its hand inward instead of out toward the attackers, and is able to catch the back of a man’s manacling hand in its teeth.

“She’s biting me!” he caterwauls madly. Several pairs of hands grasp at its nappy head, its strong jaws. The man doesn’t let go of its arm, though fangs are piercing his skin. Blood vessels are mashed between gnashing teeth and the bones in the back of the hand, causing an instant black and purple ring to shine through. He finally manages to pull the hand away, leaving a bite-sized roll of scraped skin in its mouth. It continues to spasm and scream, shaking its head from side to side in order to drench them all in its slobber. They rustle it into Investment, down to the cold pavement floor, and nimble fingers remove its shoes and belt. The nurse reappears with a hypodermic and doctor’s orders. Heavy hands hold its hips and thighs and head. A flash of brown fleshy buttocks lasts just long enough for the injection. They wait.

After a few minutes, the struggling has stopped. The man with the bloody hand has gone to watch the other girls, a wad of paper towels pressed to the wound. The thin girl, Rachel, shaken and jealous, raises a malnourished arm like a tentative twig growing in time lapse. “May I break chair structure and come ask you a question?” she asks sheepishly. He nods his assent, eyes still on the smashed plum that is the back of his hand. The closeness of her small voice seconds later startles him. “I need to isolate. I feel like I’m going to explode.”

“Sit there in the chair in the hallway, facing the wall, and stay where I can see you,” he instructs impassively. Every other hand in the classroom erupts into the air, each straining to peak above the others. A few girls blurt out. “But!” “Me too!” “I can’t!” The man’s glare successfully conveys his unwillingness to tolerate nonsense this day. Most of the hands have sagged back down even before he says, “We’ve all just been through something stressful. Nobody is in trouble here. Please stay on task. You can’t all isolate at once. Rachel, write me a Feelings Paper and come back to your desk.” They settle back into the work of eavesdropping on whatever might be happening in Investment.

“I think we’re okay to let her go and back out of the room.”

They stand up and start slowly for the door. Without warning, it wheels up and around, punches the heavy-set woman in the face, aims a clumsy kick at the new guy’s knees. The woman throws her hands to her face. The new guy pulls the knee to his chest, swearing on one leg. There are still enough of them to grab it again and get it into a submissive position. This time they let it go and bolt for the door, which they close. They can hear it growling and panting, slamming its bulk against the other side of the heavy door. The long string of invective resumes. They exchange glances, wishing they could be anywhere else. Anywhere calmer.

Elsewhere: “Rachel. It’s been five minutes. You need to rejoin these girls or face a Natural Consequence.” His voice carries out to her in the hallway, but she pretends not to hear. “Rachel!” he says, not more loudly, but more emphatically. She turns her head, and he sees the wet tears on her face and in the chopped bangs that she parts by pushing them to either side of her plastic-rimmed glasses.

“I did it again,” she bleats.

“What did you do?” he asks, as he cautiously stands up.

“I self-harmed,” comes the pathetic response. As he comes around, he sees the electrical outlet on the wall. She has ripped the face off of it, and a shard of the hard plastic is clutched in her slender right fist. He sees the red viscous droplets on the edge of the weapon, continues around her and sees the bright poison red spreading all across her left forearm, seeping out of a six-inch cherry-pie gash in her pale skin, soaking darkly into the leg of her sweat pants, making sticky scarlet elbow prints on the chair. He cries out in alarm, then grabs for his radio. “Code Nine in Classroom Four!”

The ensuing commotion of staff members and radios and paramedics and craning girls is enough to drown out the commotion the beast is making a few rooms down by banging its head against the door until it tires itself out. “I hope you know what you are responsible for today,” comes the bitter voice of the fat staff lady through the little hole in the door of the animal’s cage. Her voice is muffled a bit by the bag of ice she is holding up to one side of her face. “A lot of good people have been hurt trying to help you, but do you care? No. I hope they press charges. I don’t get paid enough to deal with you.” But the animal doesn’t hear her, and really doesn’t care, and sleeps through the rest of the afternoon’s events.

It sleeps through the fat lady’s attempts to sting it with guilt, in order to assuage her own guilt about her size. It sleeps through a man’s testimony to the police as he gingerly favors one knee. Through the police officers’ assurances that the school won’t have to deal with this one anymore, because she’ll spend some time in Juvie and then she’ll be back to her mother’s, if mom’s out of prison herself by then; after all, no other school is going to take her after this one. Through the bosses assurances to the new guy that he'll get used to it, and not to care too much or you go crazy. It sleeps through a frail girl getting stitches up her arm, and a reward (all the attention she has been craving today). It sleeps through a nurse’s phone call to her supervisor, saying that she just had to get away, and that she might not come back at all, at least not until the baby comes. It sleeps through the gossip that spreads through the school, and its own elevated status as another rebel who showed the staff what was what. “Oh, I bit a staff member once,” they brag and lie. It sleeps through that, too.

It sleeps through a man’s sobs. The man has pulled over to the side of the road, just as the clouds mockingly burst. He wipes the tears off his glasses on his tee shirt with a bandaged hand, amazed by the catharsis that begins to spread through him. But still he sobs and sobs, for himself, for that girl, for ALL the girls, for the world, forehead on forearms on the steering wheel. The hail bangs unfeelingly against the roof of his battered old car.

Soon, the animal will be returned to the wild. “Untameable,” they’ll say.

God damn the bastards who raped that little girl.

What I Did in Church on Sunday

People are always asking me why I'm afraid of midgets. Well, here's the definitive answer, in children's storybook form. It's a definite departure from my norm, to say the least.

Man, I don't know what's wrong with me. The last thing I need is to be haunted by a midget ghost. I hope you enjoyed this.