Category: writing craft

We the Birds

Flannery O’Connor says, “I write to discover what I know.” I love this sentiment, but I also write to discover what I don’t know. The following poem came from a freewriting session…and I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with it. I like it, and it speaks to me, but I can’t exactly articulate the feelings it stirs.

Writing for me is something mysterious. I feel truth when I write, and then I stand back and say, “What am I trying to tell myself?” I usually have an idea or two, and sometimes I just shrug and say, “Erm…okay. I guess I needed to get that out.”

We the Birds

We eat from the ground
and shake with purpose,
remembering the night
we were set free and how
the rest of the flock stayed
in the girl’s night-dark hair,
which was a nest, a memory,
all things to all people
and all things to all birds.

You overthink everything,
your mother the crow blinks
in Morse code, and a small
man with hollow knees sits
at the desk and takes down
the words, his eyes dots,
his mouth a dash, his ears
two seashells–if you listen

to them, you don’t hear the sea
but the endless drone of space,
that cold nothingness, that eternal
home of ours that calls us now,
even though we’re only birds,
even though we know nothing.

Ben the Would-Be Cannibal (story snippet)

 I came across this story snippet as I was going through some old writing, and I was struck by how often cannibalism comes up as a theme in my work. Also, for every completed story, I have perhaps fifty or so partial stories. So it goes.

No picture for this one. I’m not terribly keen on Googling “cannibalism.”

“I’m supposed to care about something, you know,” Ben said as he chewed on a face.
“What if I’m a sociopath?”

“Well,” Donovan observed, “you’re eating a human head. And just because you’re
supposed to do something doesn’t mean you should. Shit, I’m supposed to go
to church, but I don’t. Also, I’m sitting here as you demonstrate you’re a cannibal, so
what does that say about me? I’m supposed to stop you, right? Or at least protest in
some way?”

Ben sighed. “I’m not really a cannibal. This is processed.”

“Doesn’t matter. You’re eating a processed human, which they say tastes like the real deal.”

“I guess.”

“You haven’t eaten a real person, right?”

Ben sighed again. “No.” He could have, of course. There was nothing stopping him
from exploring the black market and picking a body. It would be dressed-out and
ready to cook. Instead, he was gnawing on human-flavored gelatin face. What
respectable cannibal would eat a face, anyway? Could you even cook a head and have
the features stay in place? Maybe if you closed the eyelids and simmered it in broth,
Ben reasoned. The facsimile face he was dining on had gooey, sweet-flavored eyeballs.
He imagined the real deal was a bit tougher and more salty.

“So why are you worried you’re a sociopath?” Donovan asked. “I mean, the current
activity notwithstanding?”

“Because like I said, I don’t care about anything. Not school, not girls, or cars.
Nothing, man. It’s a scary feeling.”

“Which means you’re not a sociopath. Do you think a real sociopath pauses to
reflect on his lack of empathy?”

“Maybe. Like, early in their sociopathy.”

“Have you ever tortured or killed animals?”



“That doesn’t mean anything, Donovan. The mutilation of animals is only one
indicator in a wide variety of cues that might signal someone’s a sociopath.”

“Well, for someone who doesn’t like school, you don’t seem to have a problem
learning. At least about sociopaths.”

Ben shrugged and ate.

Donovan studied the beheaded false corpse before him. Eventually, Ben would have to
remove its clothes, and Donovan didn’t want to be around for that. Ben had
ordered a male corpse, which Donovan guess was better than a female corpse, but he
really wasn’t sure why…


Random Lines

Lately, writing has taken a back-seat to other things in life. That’s the way of it. I found myself with some time today and thought, “All right, let’s get crackin’.” I wouldn’t call the writing session a complete failure because I came up with some lines that made me laugh.

  1. “You can’t reason with Nazis!” the boy screamed, and by God, he was right.
  2. He flourished, like a man named Steve flourishes in a crowd that’s dangerously low on people named Steve.
  3. She drowned in that crippled man’s pond. I mean, what the hell? Who drowns anymore?
  4. If you find a hat made of orangutan hair, keep it. Yeah, it’s illegal, but it’s worth it. You put that thing on when it’s just you and your lady, you better to hang on to something, because it will get crazy in the bedroom.

And that’s that. Maybe tomorrow will yield more substantial results. In the meantime, I’m thinking of taking one of the lines and turning into…well, something.

Ebb and Flow

I started a new journal the other day and was freewriting when this poem came. When I’m plugged into the Cosmic Signal, I never know what’s going to bubble to the surface or who’s going to speak.

Ebb and Flow

Already spinning lies, I enter you.

Outside, the world floods with tears
as you open your carefully crafted eyes,
seeing only what you want to see.

We ebb and flow, ignorant of love.

Some Thoughts (free writing/poetry)

I’ve taken several extended breaks from writing lately, and I’m having a hard time getting back into the swing of things. More specifically, I’m not able to sit down and write poems with the same flow and rhythm that I’ve become accustomed to.  Freewriting has also been my go-to solution in such times, though I’ll admit the results are usually more coherent than this. No matter. I’m doing my best to show up at the blank page, inspiration or not.

I edited the following poem (despite appearances). I enjoy the strangeness of it, and perhaps you will, too

Some Thoughts

Several months ago, I stood
beside your voice, which said,
“The veterinary meat of pork
builds the unstable foundation
of the Prufrock-sized hole in me.”

The visible bone of the city snakes
through the cement of my mind
and makes my secret life like a sun
spy and the type of person who returns
gifts and shoots the mall Santa for this hell.

I cannot remember what I was saying,
except I’m responsible for the hive mind
and the untimely separation of your soup.
Last week, I was kidnapped, but color
lights were beaten, and I got fish to bite.

As You Slept

I’ve become reacquainted with the pen and paper lately, and this poem emerged as I wrote in my journal the other day.

As You Slept

I drank your pain as you
slept last night, your face
tight and tortured by nightmares
I couldn’t see but I could feel.
I cupped my hands under
your eyes, catching the blackness
and raising it to my bruised lips.
When you woke, the sun
was hidden, like me, lingering
in shadows, afraid to touch you.

Things That Happened Since You Left

A lot of my writing deals with the difficulty of authentically communicating with another person. Even as I type these words, they fall short of conveying what I wish to convey, and so the problem is compounded.

On a related note, I believe I would make a terrible interview subject. I can imagine it going something like this:

Interviewer: Your poems are dark and absurd but seem to hint at the gulfs and chasms between people and the challenge of bridging those gulfs and chasms. Can you speak to this?

Me: Uh…not really. I just like words and the process of putting them together.

Interviewer: Oh. 

Me: Yeah.


Things That Happened Since You Left

“What’s been happening?” you asked. So I told you:

A famous man huffed and puffed and shrank himself to the size of a blade of grass. His glasses fell off and he died, blind and alone.

A horse in a nearby town decided bathtubs were smarter it was.

The mayonnaise rebelled and said it would never be a part of a sandwich again.

Various microbes learned French and moved to Canada.

The soil disagreed on whether or not it was nutrient-rich and voted itself out of reality.

A march was held for the veterans of inconsequential wars. No one attended, and the veterans cut themselves with glass flowers.

You blinked.

I suppose it was a lot to take in.

You went away again. I watch for you through the window, but I don’t expect you’ll return.


Along with trickster figures, featured in the last poem I posted, I also tend to write about creation myths. I was raised with the Genesis story and still find it fascinating. 

I didn’t have access to my computer the other night when this poem drifted into my mind, so I tapped it out on my phone. It’s not my preferred method of writing, but any port in a storm.


Do you aspire to greatness?
the serpent curled near the
base of the flowering tree
asked me, as if I could speak.

I watched the sun bleed into
the clouds and made my choice.
Somewhere in the undergrowth,
creation itself groaned, and I with it.


This year marks the two hundredth anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, which remains one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. I’ve only read it once but will soon rectify that, thanks to Arizona State University’s Frankenbook project (there’s also a host of interesting, Frankenstein-related things here and here).

All of this Frankenstein talk might explain the following poem which came to be, more or less intact, two nights ago.


I’m known for my beautiful butchery,
she told me. That night, I found a
severed hand, still gripping a snapshot
of her. Later, I stumbled over a grinning
head with her name still on its bruised lips.
The moon shone down on other body
parts, each speaking to me, so I gathered
them and stitched together a forsaken
Frankenstein’s creature. I never returned to her.
My new friend and I moved in together and
had quiet discussions about every subject but love.

The Good Not Done, The Love Not Given (Classic Poem Series #6)

I was digging through some old poems (by old, I mean written when I was in college, some twenty years ago) and came across this one. This, and the others I’ve posted in the series, are classic only to me, and I’ll admit calling this the “classic poem series” makes me laugh. 

I remember the context of this piece quite well; it was during a painful breakup. The girl about whom it’s written never read the piece (and is highly unlikely to read this post), which is for the best. I also remember a poetry mentor being critical of the poem, suggesting that I revise it more closely with Larken’s work in mind. I didn’t agree with her then…and I still don’t. The line was a jumping-off point and therefore served its purpose.

The Good Not Done, The Love Not Given*

If I counted the times
I blackened others
with my presence,
you would curse the sky
and dig for solace in the earth
you love so well.

You don’t know defilement like I do,
when it becomes a second skin.

I have fought our extinction
for long enough, but I remember
touching you in the right places
at the right times, and your manic
screams that told me I would live forever.

Sex is broken origami now,
paper-thin and disabled.

I could be a Zen master,
so controlled is my breath
when you walk by.

I break into your room later
and place pennies on your sleep-locked eyes.
Outside the night gathers on dark legs,
and I love everything except you.

*from Philip Larken’s “Aubade”