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The Kid With the Candlestick in the Colosseum of Dreams

I have things inside my head that are bursting to come out. This has been true for as long as I can remember. Words, images, characters, scenes, cities, cave systems, forests, circuses, libraries, labyrinths, wolves, moons, stars, planets, galaxies. Memories of things that have happened. Memories of things that have never happened. Ponderings of things that could happen. Fears, desires, regrets, mysteries, wonders. Also, cats.

They’re all bursting to come out.

Sometimes the things in my head are so jumbled and mashed up, I don’t know where and how to start letting them out. And by sometimes, I mean most of the time. It doesn’t help that the stories and songs in my head are intertwined with the dusty webs of anxiety and depression and pulled down by the gravity of adulthood. Every day is a struggle between energy, enthusiasm, imagination and fear, inertia, weight.

When I was a kid, the books, the movies, the TV shows, the comics I loved overwhelmed me with joy and awe, sparking my imagination. The only way I knew how to deal with my love for them was to steal liberally from them and use what I stole, expanding and mixing them with my own dreams, to make stories of my own. What I created was a tribute, an expression of adoration for the things I loved. I wanted to share these with other people, share my enthusiasm and love.

It was all so easy when I was younger. I wasn’t self-conscious about my writing. I didn’t worry about my writing being “original” or “sophisticated.” Writing wasn’t something I felt like I had to do, it was just what I did. Creating stories was a natural extension of consuming stories. It’s something that’s generally, tragically abandoned by our schools and authority figures as we get older. By the time I got to high school, there were teachers who actively discouraged me from creating. It was a “waste of time” or it “didn’t fit with the lesson.” I laughed at their scolding and disdain. I knew they were full of shit. But as you get older, school and jobs devour your time with work. Creative play is something you have to make time for instead of something you naturally do all the time.

But that kid I was still lives inside of me and he demands I play. He gets so excited about books, comics, movies, TV shows, plays, music, poetry, games. He races around with an intense smile on his face, his hands full of words, images, characters, scenes, castles, skyscrapers, candles, masks, skulls, trains, clocks, oubliettes, thunder and rain and mist. He grabs for pencils and pens and paper, he throws himself at the computer keyboard, and he begs me to write. He wants me to create stories and poems. He doesn’t care if they’re original. He doesn’t care if they’re sophisticated or clever. He just wants to express his love, share it with people, and hope they see something they love in it. He’s armed to the teeth with dreams, he’s kicking his feet out at the kneecaps of time and work and anxiety and depression and gravity, and he’s bursting to get out.

And this, this is why I write.

America, You Know Such Glory

america, you know
i can jet plane the slate into the oh so obsidian pool
america, your flag police will shoot the lion
as the world machine is broken
& the clockwork moon shoots steam at
the electric piano rap
while you steal all the elephant tusks

america, you know
i jet plane the chalk into the ebony skin
america, your murder of crows begets more blood
the cold coal fire that smokes out
the parliament of shadows
somber melting ivory coal
somber melting transgender ghosts
people of alabaster, clay, sand, & frost
people so bloody, cold, & invisible

america, you know
this swimming pool is one hell of a shootout
america, your flag police gun will bomb the world machine
into broken clockwork lions
that rap about the elephant graveyard
to liberate our transference
when the murder of crows begets more blood

america, you know
my country ’tis of thee
sweet land of melting ivory coal
in the swimming pool hell of bloodless guns
hearts made of ice
for you & me in broken obsidian clockwork
faces painted raven-black
but forever wondering why the spotlight falls
on the champagne wonderland of freedom’s holy darkness

Summer Vacation

I woke up this morning, after a fine night’s sleep, feeling cranky, listless, and altogether unmotivated to do much of anything. Since the year began, I’ve been pretty consistently posting content here 2-3 times a week, but I only posted one poem last week, didn’t post anything yesterday, and couldn’t bring myself to care when I woke up today. I was solidly on the “meh” side of things.

Here’s a thing about brain meds: they don’t completely eliminate your wonky brain chemistry, they just even it out and make it easier to deal with. Crazy people are always crazy, we’re just not as crazy on our meds. So when I woke up feeling tired and fitful and apathetic, I quickly realized I was experiencing depression, which led to the larger realization that summer is starting, and summer is when my depression is generally at its worst. Most people I know who suffer from seasonal depression get it in the darker, colder months in winter. Not yours truly. I thrive in autumn, winter, and spring, but I lag in summer like a chemically-depressed…laggy thing. (Do sloths suffer from depression? Do sloths write fiction and poetry? Do sloths occasionally get mad at themselves for being so slothy? Is that sloth-loathing?)

So while I can’t completely stop the depression, I can at least recognize it and work with it and be kind to myself while it’s going on. Which means I’m taking a vacation from blogging this summer. I’ll still write as much as I can, but I’m not expecting that to be a lot, and I’m not going to push myself to post what I write publicly. If I really like something or am super inspired by something, I’ll blog it, but I’m not sticking to my standard schedule and I might go weeks without posting a good goddamn thing.

(Fun Josh Fact: one summer in college, long before I was medicated or thought I needed to be medicated, my summer depression was bad enough that focusing on words and following linear trains of thought were very, very difficult. The only book I was able to read all the way through from the start and make any sense of was William S. Burroughs’ The Naked Lunch.)

This is nothing for anyone to worry about. I’ll be fine. I just need to allow myself to back off from regularly writing and posting. And I’ll be back in full force when autumn comes around and my brain chemistry swings back up to fun levels.

Roll for Initiative

i will attack this day with the loving ferocity of
a drunken tiger or a dungeon dragon
so back the fuck up, comrades
& get thee behind me
because here
sliding down the outside
as we ride the persian red railway
on the way to shangri-la

let’s set the day a’fire
as we aim to end up
dancing on the tables of the night café
before we completely
lose our

i have come to howl at the wounded city
to sweep, perchance to clean off the dust
& shake off the ghosts
to bounce back to the moon & beyond
& to that end
i will glitterglue my words on
the walls of the red labyrinth
& sprinkle them with elephantine abandon
whether we are ready or not
we are here

Burning Blood Black

a snapshot
of my heart in the house of love
bruised and bloody
cradled in your hands
(vacuum cleaner running in the gloaming
like waves against the shore
drowning a string-cut puppet)

that snippet you pasted in
the notebook in the closet of your sleep
(carnelian deep)
like a spy in the dreamhouse
flames licking the sides of my ship
sailing your seven seas

a snapshot
a snippet
a magician in the house of love
the tower
like a string-cut puppet
a stranger
in your hands

Holler Valhalla

even your power can have me
or countries, rendering open their blood in me
though rose mud could amputate
landmines or flower petals open up beyond my bomb
gunpowder any of them which in your world
you are each this descending wolf of nothing

death in the eyes is power

i color myself even as your fragility
whose wolves are in me, or with
each which will never shut
myself, though closed me or with open me
though intense could always be rose
though emerald mud could amputate
landmines or flower petals as closed as a wish beyond my bomb
gunpowder any of them which perceive spring forever
they have color, each have with intensity
carefully descending wolves of nothing

these things you traveled gladly & i will unclose
with their most intense death close by
having imagined the bloody experience

your closed petals cannot perceive your power