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Butterfly in Amber

is this the end?

perhaps just a pause as i
you & me & everything inbetween
come to realize a truth
about the situation

there is no situation

there is only what this is
a sundering
a drifting away across the ocean
sailing to other shores
sailing away to farther shores

this is not the end

this is change
after the eye of the storm has passed
& the walls between us have crumbled
& you & i
& you & i
are no longer you & i

drifting away across the ocean
washing up on other shores
we turn to sand
& sink into the undertow

perhaps just a pause as i
you & me & nothing inbetween
just the unvarnished truth

this is not the end

this is not the end of the tale

but is this the end?


i don’t mean this as a joke
i just really want to kiss you
when the moon is upside-down
& the sea is in your eyes

with my prestidigitation
& my not-so-innocent blue eyes
i want to curl up in your lap
i want to be your teddy bear

i feel like such a goon
when i’m standing next to you
jumping around like a jazzed-up raccoon

i’m not a lion or a knight
i’m not a rugged viking man
i’m just a fool with a fountain of words
working on my magic tricks
when the moon is upside-down
& the sea is in my eyes
i’m just a fool who wants to kiss you
over & over & over again

We Can Have Heroes.

I love Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and its sequels more than I can reasonably express in words. (Throw in some doodles, interpretive dance, and a mix CD and I’d probably come closer.) I haven’t read the most recent book, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, yet (it’s waiting for me on the hold shelf at my library, but I’m trying to finish at least one of the other books I’m currently reading before checking it out), but I just read her essay on writing it and she damn near brought tears in my eyes with this:

“There is more to feminism than turning the focus from boys to girls. We’ve presented so many new literary roles and places for women in the last few decades, and that’s been a huge part of my whole mission statement as an author. But boys need new roles and new places, too. We encourage girls to take on the mantle of the male hero—and I wanted to encourage boys to take on the mantle of the female hero, as well. A boy hero can be gentle and artistic and bookish and afraid of the world—and still be a hero while staying gentle and artistic and bookish and afraid of the world. He can be friends with girls without it being weird. He can wear weird clothes and his mother’s jewelry, he can have beautiful penmanship and talk to his stuffed animals well into middle school, and those can be heroic attributes just as much as punching and running and yelling and swinging a sword.”

I was a boy who was gentle and artistic and bookish and afraid of the world. I’ve always had friends who were girls. I talked to my stuffed animals well into junior high (and beyond). I had male heroes I was inspired by in fiction–mostly superheroes who were more mythic archetypes than people. Beyond that, there were very few male characters that I identified with when I was a kid. And yes, I’ve been inspired by female characters while growing up, especially when they were more like how I felt insde than male characters were.

Now she’s got me thinking about my own fiction and the protagonists I create. I want to have stories with strong women and strong men, but not “strong” in the traditional, patriarchal sense of being able to kick ass in fighting and intimidate people with fierce words (although that can be entertaining and exciting, too). There are other ways to be strong. There is strength and heroism in being gentle and artistic, and I want to help encourage that

True Imperfection

It’s somewhat painful to admit (although I suspect I’m part of a large crowd in this), but I’ve struggled most of my life with starting stories and with finishing what I start. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of my frustrations with what I wrote being an imperfect expression of what was in my head. Over the past few years, I’ve worked on getting past that. Chuck Wendig’s recent blog post on the topic is an excellent reminder to kick the idea of perfection in the junk and just get on with writing, glorifying in its imperfections. A literature professor in college once told me something to the effect of “the best writing has cracks in it,” which makes a lot of sense to me.

My big worry lately has been finding critique partners and editors who “understand what I’m trying to do with my fiction”…which seems impossible, of course, because isn’t my fiction unlike anyone else’s? At a writers panel at Planet Comicon this past weekend, an author told me, “You’re making it like finding your ‘soul mate.’ Don’t worry about it so much. You’ll find people who can help you write better.” That hit me upside the head like a brick. Writing the “perfect” fiction, finding the “perfect” help, reaching the “perfect” audience, is all like trying to find the “perfect” romantic partner. Ain’t no such thing, so just give up and embrace the messiness and uncertainty and incompleteness.

As Oscar Wilde said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Marcel Duchamp said, “I believe that the artist doesn’t know what he does.” Or from Zen Buddhism: “Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.” Or as Dory sang in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

ADDENDUM: Here’s a video of the aforementioned Planet Comicon panel.

Ceremony of Doubt

your opaline phrases & fragments are dashing
up against the cliffs of distraction
emboldened & electric blue
decided against the butterfly time

& still
your similes are so fucked up
infecting my language with catastrophic
danceable poetry for mass derangement
but nevermind
it’s forgettable
all ink & drunkenness
not tooth & claw

your jazzy attempts at sub rosa frequencies
are precious
& possibly ill-advised
when you could easily freeze a bicycle
& mount it on the top of a cathedral
like so

fluttering like pigeons
on the mad magician’s stage
turning to flame
in a clockwork eye
your castaway clauses & cascading words
will be forgotten tomorrow
i guarantee it

Geometries of the Sleepless Hotel

The memory we used to share is no longer coherent. It continues to break down and fragment, slipping away from me like a jellyfish caught in the undertow. Although memory is nothing like a jellyfish, it’s more like…I can’t remember what it’s like. This is how bad things have gotten. (Continued)