(every death song)

There isn’t much I can say right now, only that I need to write something. Words not winding or aslant will come later. In the meantime, prose poetry.

<><><>

In the Hammer’s Wake.

I expected the ocean, the tidepool big as a cauldron full of wyrd that looked down through the earth and showed stars. I expected cobralillies, digesting mnemosynic silver in their freckled pregnant bellies, rimmed ’round the sunken place where the sea ended, rimed in blue frost. I expected that fossegrim fiddling in the briny turmoil and the steel strings wrapped ’round my neck, biting, and the cold salt in my mouth and the confusion over whether it was ocean or blood grown slow in my veins. But I never expected you.

You, terroir and terror, a sheaf of ribs in your hand, red wheat. You trod the seafloor, dense, a dying star.

When mjölnir fell, there was a song. Fiddling and fixenwhine, that golden apple wine of Iðunn, how did you forget? Mjölnir fell and you stood there laughing. I found you down in the ocean, I stood on the rim of Thor’s Well and when the waters receded, there you were, draped in dulse, rust searibbon aflap, your arms aloft, hands open. An octopus and squid had you, asquirm and wrapped ’round your legs, a starfish on your hip, your hair caught up in urchins. You smiled and smelt fled into the antigravity.

<><><>

 

How to Kill a Squirrel

From November, 2015:

Last night on campus I found a squirrel with two broken legs. I was on my bike, ready for another restless night of pacing in and out of Old Nick’s whenever I feel it’s time to head elsewhere or riverward (not that I ever make it to the river; I stop at the trees for something to climb or hold onto or sit under). But I couldn’t keep on. Have you ever seen something crawl on its belly? Not by choice, but because it had no other choice. It is not comfortable. The squirrel’s back legs were limp and splayed; it dragged itself toward the road, belly to wet cement, then gave up and turned for a corner.

My fucking conscience spoke up and I headed to the library for a box, then returned to the squirrel. It hadn’t made the corner. I put it in the box. I don’t know if this was the right thing to do, fuck my conscience, probably it was the wrong thing and anthropocentric, but if I were a squirrel with broken back legs I wouldn’t want to die underfoot near a road. In hindsight, I didn’t do a good thing.

I rode one-handed with a squirrel in a box wrapped in a towel all under one arm, praying the frat boys in their clone suits could hold off their jay walking so I could pass without braking abruptly and having to explain why I was throwing broken-legged squirrels at them. At Old Nick’s, I walked in, I walked out, waiting and winding myself up and chasing dogs off from the squirrel. Then Disemballerina, who were good and what I needed. It felt nice and cathartic and not, to sit on the floor and hide my face and get a hug and a candle from a friend who sat beside me awhile. I panicked in the way I know best (quiet) until the music was over and none of this has anything has anything to do with squirrels, but none of this really does and anyway, I write what I want.

Then the last note and I stood and things were better in the way that cresting a hill and seeing the forest is better, only it’s still far, so you smile and put your head down and keep on. Then I am Skaði. Then shots of icemelt, because that’s what the water at Old Nick’s makes me think of, every time. Then alar, because how can everything be all right and utterly not at the same time, then time dilation and Fae chronology, because in a moment there is every moment from there until another that is white and vodka and linen and birch/birch and goat hide and respite and deltoid, and then even further back (stars, trees, eyes) and then back again.

I suspected the squirrel was dead by then, but I took it up Skinner’s Butte anyway. Really muddy. At the top, I took it from the box; it didn’t move. Dead, almost there. I knew, then, I had been wrong. There is no kindness in intention. I had waited and I was cruel. I opened my knife and spoke to the squirrel. I told it I had no right, I didn’t know what else to do, I’m sorry, I’m nothing and we’re scaled and the choice was never mine. Only then it had to be, because I had gone that far.

After a point I was only talking to delay my hand. I shut the fuck up.

Stabbing is harder than it looks. I need to practice my aim.

I put my knife in the ground, then through the squirrel’s throat slantwise, and the brain was as bright a gray as winter overcast. No blood, so, dead already? I only felt something before I dropped my knife, craven; after that, nothing. Just motion, up down. I laughed, wry, when I had to pry my knife from its skull.

I didn’t bury the squirrel.

After, I watched the stars on my back in the leaves.

Arctic Salvage

Saw two of my favorite bands back-to-back in late September. Day one, I waited against El Corazon’s freshly painted walls, slightly sticky and pungent, the alternate scrape of brick and splinters catching my back. I watched the sky and the planes in it, and waited, and listened to the sound check. Not many people showed up early. More next time, maybe.

That night was Pain of Salvation, of Sweden, of rich and rending and vulnerable music with unbreakable bones. The set they played was good, but cut short by twenty minutes due to…frustrating reasons. It meant they didn’t play anything from their most recent albums, which was a little disappointing; the music on Road Salt I and II makes me feel storm-wrecked and campfire-warmed. But they played well and sweaty, nonetheless, and anyway, I’ve been waiting since I was fourteen to see them, so finally watching them play not a foot from me was a relief. Sometimes release is all you need, and I got a little of that that night (and a hunger), so I’m okay.

The next night was Sonata Arctica of Finland. I’ve seen them six or seven times now, but the show they played on the twenty-fifth felt like one of the best I’ve attended. One of the better shows of my life, too. Even managed to worm my way to the stage’s front and center, despite being too poor to afford VIP tickets. And as usual, I snared my usual drum stick from Sonata’s drummer, Tommy Portimo, which makes that the…sixth? stick he’s handed to me personally, with a thank you. Super nice of him, though I’m forever paranoid of the moment he realizes he’s been handing drum sticks to the same girl every time he’s in Seattle.

The next morning, I was up by 5:30. I had orientation for my grad program five hours south. I photographed my mom’s bacon-lattice masterpieces, packed the houseplant she’d been watching, wrapped Cavan’s breakfast sandwiches, and said goodbye to her and my dad and the evergreens, and damp air that feeds me better than anywhere else.

clocks cut

Sometimes you find that something you love with all your dirt-gritty and blood-gravid heart isn’t universally loved.

Fourteen. I was fourteen when I found my music. Mine and mine and just mine (so you’d think, then, I wouldn’t give a damn about universal adoration–but you know, there’s that whole being human thing, brimming full with logicfuck). Not all the bands from that time survived the course I forged from there to here, but some have. Some I still keep with me, earside, and spine- and bellywards. Pain of Salvation is one of these roadrazers, these unknowing companions (roadrazers), as all bands are (and, somehow, ineffably, aren’t) to the listener.

They:

Viscera. Greencoil. Mosswrecked epiphytic interdependency and knee-plunge and hipclutch. Plunge and batter and rust.

I don’t know how else to verbalize their soundscapes and stories, except with wordstreams like the above. Their music, it’s like kneeling in someone’s chest, stealing their lungs and squeezing the air into your mouth. The taste is seaweed and candlefish all solar-bright and a-flair–salt and oil and ash–and it drips down thick, sick, as any other pearlescent bodily fluid.

But–but I was wondering about the universe, and love. I recently spoke to a friend about Pain of Salvation, and found she isn’t fond of their newer work. Utterly fine. However, it lead me to think–about why Road Salt One and Two rope me in probably harder than any of their previous work.

This is what I wrote, more or less incoherently:

Apparently I have lots of thoughts and feelings about these albums. While Road Salt One does spin a sex-narrative, for me it’s more intensely about the fucked up ways humans catch (fire) against each other, the pain and viciousness and just humanness that ignites when people come in contact. There’s a bonus track that I’m not whole-hardheartedly fond of, but I think its last line sums up one vein of the album:

[And I don’t know where I need to be, but it is not here inside her]

Sometimes sex is the worst answer. The most painful? The least urgent despite all its gravid thrust?

And then, beyond–I think the album is about finding the spinal, self-machinated strength to just fucking trudge on and not letting the bruising and knee-dirt and bed-bow-and-warp keep you from existing in the world, from walking the road. (The songs Road Salt–and Tell Me You Don’t Know–for context seekers.)

But more than any of it, when I listen to Road Salt One, in the context of its it sonic power and musicianship, the thing is…giant. And purgative. Like some sort of wounded animal stranglehold put to music. (Am I somehow implying that strangulation is cathartic? Dunno.)

And then, more intimately, plain, me? I think of the song She Likes to Hide, because I like to hide. And Tell Me Where it Hurts, and Mortar Grind from Road Salt Two, because–just because. (Quiet.)

So on and on.

Listening to songs like Sisters, even after having heard them too-too many times probably than is healthy, the immersion is still…too much? Part of it is just the edgy, doomy subtly of the music (especially in the Leo Margarit’s drumming–not to mention Daniel’s breathwrenching and terribly vulnerable vocal performance on that song) and then, again,

Sisters, Sisters, Sisters. I’ve never been in love with anyone’s sister, yet it. It. It, the song, is oceanic and huge and so so small. The story isn’t mine (but somehow, I don’t know how, it is, it is) chokes me, but beyond that skin, the catharsis is anatomically negating and I can’t help but just sit and sink when that song comes on. I inhabit it?

I change every single fucking time I listen to the Road Salt albums–especially the first. Like I undergo a premature and quick and bloody chrysalis. And when it’s over, though I’m not actually all that different, in the between time, the friction of middle, the heaviness that falls before beginning and after end, in those places, I’m…something else.

And all I know is that I don’t. I just…don’t.

an obsessive anatomy

I made a decision at the beginning of high school that changed me forever. I have no regrets. The memory isn’t bitter. At the time, my choice made sense, and it still does–nonetheless, it was a strange decision to make.

From the near-beginning of my life until ninth grade, my foci were drumming, writing, and visual art. I think drawing was the first, it had always been, I’d always done it. Writing came not long after. (I had to learn to enjoy books first, but once my hunger for narrative started in third grade, feeding myself was a quick and natural progression.) Drumming took longer–in fifth grade I started band as a percussionist, but didn’t connect with it in that innate gut-kindling inescapable magnetism till the summer before ninth grade, when I began studying the drum set.

I can’t pinpoint the existential moment I started drawing, but I know when I stopped: high school. This goes back to the choice I began with. Two weeks before high school began, there was band camp. The day it was supposed to start I was wavering: I could continue with music and let it become my own personal, friendly parasite (I’d heard stories of high school band and its tyranny)–or, I could quit, and focus on visual art. (At the time, I had aims of going into character design.)

My mom neatly dispatched my indecision. Her solution: attend a day of band camp, test the waters, choose. I tested the water, chose the drums–and for the most part, turned my back on visual art.

I’m not sure why. It’s not that I thought my percussive center was already folding, that I was groping desperately for anything that might save it–because it wasn’t folding. On the contrary; it was lifting its head. Sniffing the air. But still. Why side with a medium I’d loved only a year, when visual art had been with me almost my whole life? The simple answer is that band was a hel of a lot of fun (probably mostly because it was actually pre-, percussionists-only, band camp). And, undoubtedly, my…interest in a certain unnamed instrumentalist (who I had no doubt would be continuing band) had something to do with it, as well.

My other answer: I’d found my musical heart (metal) a year before, and already knew I wanted a band of my own. Alas, I wasn’t a stellar drummer (still working on that, always will be), and I knew I needed help. Band, and its percussionist director, could be that help.

End-story: I gave up drawing. I kept doodling on my paper edges, but the intensity was gone. I stopped filling sketches, I stopped trying. This lasted for years–a decade, I just realized, looking at the calendar. I was fourteen at the time. I’m twenty four now.

In June, I started drawing again. Not scribbles; not copious, repetitious and embarrassingly sloppy eyeballs. I began drawing with intent. Studying anatomy and form and movement–distilling and stilling it all as I focused on the lines I was making, learning to be dissatisfied again, to see my failures once again, learning shove through them and find even more, because that’s how you get better, you know. That span of lost time has the potential to sicken and frustrate me (just think how much better I’d be now if I’d kept at it), but I won’t let it, and it just doesn’t. I did plenty during that time, and I’m glad for it, and the way I went forth. I wrote and drummed demonically, and now I have a published book, published stories and poems. I have a band (multiple bands) to call my own.

One thing I remembered vaguely about drawing, but didn’t really truly recall, was how obsessive I can get about it. I’m driven and (paradoxically) singular in all things, but with visual art, the obsession is even more innate, somehow deeper. When I’m free-playing on my drums, I can find my flow easy, but if I’m working through a new groove, or focusing on some weird foot ostinato with tricky limb independence over top I have to be awake–and while that wakefulness is sinewy, it can, on occasion, be snapped. Yet, if I sit down and tell myself ten minutes on this painting and NO MORE, I’ll typically find myself still drawing or painting, arting, whatever, three hours later. It’s a dangerous preoccupation, because drumming and writing are still my heart (rather than being a near satellite like visual art is), and lately, it’s been destructively distracting (for those of you nonexistent people who’ve wondering at the lack of blog posts that contain words, you’ve found your answer). The haze is so addictive that if I want to get anything done, I have to keep my sketchbook in a separate room, and my tablet unplugged.

I want to keep drawing. There’s so much I want to be able to do with pen and paper and paint and pencil, etc , whether it’s digital or analogue, so in these dwindling months till grad school, when time will be severely squished, I need to learn how to get things done again (I’m currently not counting making visual art in the ‘getting things done category’). Maybe teach myself to make drawing a treat. Or possibly a bribe.

But until I reign myself in, have some arts/works in progress. Including a new chapter of Skyglass.

Tattertongue

Tattertongue

This is the way of the world: you get what you want and you’re just left wanting more.  My first professionally published poem is now available through Strange Horizons.  Needless to say, I am QUITE excited.  Even so, it’s a quiet excitement.  A spontaneous black hole excitement.  At random points in the day, I’ll remember: someone gave me money for my words.  My blog is no longer the only place that publishes me.  That says something!  Justification!  I’m REAL.  And then, after the blip of joy that inevitably follows such thoughts, I think moremoremore.  Getting published is good incentive to keep trying to get published.  It’s some sort of drug, I guess.

So.  The poem.  TATTERTONGUE:

Where have you been, Tattertongue?
     lying with pelvis and ribcage
     wanting want
     old. old.
     reading the mouth for
     sugared ginger for
     blood sausage

Why did you leave?

(…read more)

*** *** ***

Speaking of more, not long after this poem was released, I received another acceptance for another poem.  Won’t say much about it now, except alien vampires.

making failure phallic

I’m learning to love failure. I’m learning to eye it with hunger. I’m learning to break it into kindling-sized pieces small enough to pile in my belly for whenever I need a fire. I’m learning to thrive off of failure, I’m–

I’m learning that this thing I’ve named failure isn’t failure.

It’s a crag. An ocean. The space between planets, stars. But nothing that can stop me. Anyway, it’s not like any of my many rejection letters are telling me to stop (not that STOP would ever actually stop me). Sometimes they don’t care whether I write or not: form rejections that start with thank you for and end with no thanks. Often, they’re personalized notes that ask for more (which is good, encouraging–a little extra air in my tank so my lungs don’t starve as I thrash along towards the far end of the Milky Way). Maybe they don’t want my story, but not a single one has yet told me what shit I am (though I once thoroughly confused a slush reader at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine).

But maybe they think it. Or maybe they know I hear it from myself plenty already and don’t need the encouragement, or that they just can’t be bothered. Or, more likely, they’re just decent human beings with giant slush piles. I’m not a failure to them, or anyone else–I just didn’t fit or I wasn’t good enough.

But again–not failure. What is it, then? Pushing my limits, ignoring them. Breaking my thinking bones so they can re-grow in new illogical ways, so I can use them in new, illogical ways.

And then, after all that, sometimes I win.

Sometimes I get a poem published. Sometimes I get two.

Today, Strange Horizons is publishing Tattertongue. (Link to be posted when the poem is.)

The day before yesterday, I got good news about another poem.

Cocoa-derived celebration ensued.

Ekphrastic 24/Death Note

Ekphrastic 24/Death Note

The apple-crazed.

Name: Ryuk
Face: made of bone and a lively rigor mortis
Death: he dies in December for his apple-blossom lover

Raze.

Name: Yagami
Face: you pretty, pretty boy
Death: crushed beneath the weight of his own head

Hell.

Name: L
Face: on it you’ll find a crumb of strawberry cake and tea stains under his eyes
Death: angel

*** *** *** ***

Second to last ekphrastic poem.  Next one, the twenty fifth, will be a long one.  Inspired by what?   No idea.  Suggestions welcome.

*** *** *** ***

Previous ekphrastic: Ekphrastic 23/The Drowning Girl: A Memoir

and

What the hel is ekphrasis + Ekphrastic Poetry Archive (For poems about A Game of Thrones, Fudoki, The Hunger Games, Blood Meridian, etc–basically, just the stuff to fulfill your brain’s literary sugar-cravings.)

my brain, on a platter, for you

Sometimes I have to extricate my head from my ass.  This is how wrapped up in myself I am.  So, because (for the moment) my face is momentarily clean of shiit, a thank you is in order, to my dearest wordslaves:

FIRST.  I want to make sure this note isn’t misconstrued.  This is NOT a not-so-subtle reminder to hurry up and and knife the beast I not-so-kindly hid in your email.  This is really (truly) just a simple and public thank you.  Appreciation should be vocal.  Uh, digital.  Boldly so.  (Though, if you want, I will make a recording of this message and post it, just for you.)

Anyway.  Whether or not you read my book, whether or not you even start it, you have my gratitude.  You guys have lives far, far more important than my words will ever be. And yet–you were willing to let a monster into your inbox. (I’m sorry for the havoc.)

THANK YOU.

Really.  You guys are the best.

Ekphrastic 23/The Drowning Girl: A Memoir

I begin in winter. Me, Winter.
(I beg in winter.)
Slow veined, should have shut off the water
for the season.

An avalanche from her mouth, her singing
down my throat
bisecting me from my summer legs
my wolf legs.

Sea-wolf, the orca is called
but she’s no killer and neither are they, so none of this is true.
And her name is Trawl, urchin salmon and stipe-threaded
she approaches the cannery.

Back in summer.
Seasons on a clockface.
What mysteries he made of your esophagus.

How you try to howl as you smile.

*** *** *** ***
I just can’t stop writing about this book.  If my fingers touch my keyboard, the words I write are marked by it.  Next week, I’ll write something resembling a review for The Drowning Girl: A  Memoir and maybe try to figure out this obsession.

*** *** *** ***

Previous ekphrastic: Ekphrastic 22/The Drowning Girl

and

What the hel is ekphrasis + Ekphrastic Poetry Archive (For poems about A Game of Thrones, Fudoki, The Hunger Games, Blood Meridian, etc–basically, just the stuff to fulfill your brain’s literary sugar-cravings.)