OVERLOOK

Caleb walked toward his car with his sight fixed on the ground, he found it fun to follow cracks in the pavement. He hoped one would, by an off chance, run the entire length to his car. Light from the parking lot lamp went on and off, making it hard for Caleb to play his game but he persisted regardless. It was something akin to a horror movie; a lonesome man walks through a parking lot in the middle of the night when suddenly the lights begin to flicker. The killer jumps out from behind a car and with one swing leaves the man a bloody mess. Caleb was used to the walk though. He’d walked through the parking lot hundreds of times under the same circumstances. There was no serial killer in the lot, at least not that he knew of. There was the occasional homeless person on a bad trip, but even that wasn’t enough to make Caleb paranoid. Caleb had been working the night shift for a long time now. Immediately after dropping out of college, working the night shift was the most profitable thing Caleb thought he could do.

He missed school, missed studying music. To Caleb the only thing scarier than the thought of getting shanked in a dark parking lot was having to make the same walk after working the same shift every day for the rest of his life.

Caleb reached his car and swung the door open. Before Caleb could get in his car, the lamp flickered again. The lighting revealed a girl sitting on the cement slab in the parking space directly across from his. She sat with her arms bent over her knees and her eyes on Caleb. His eyes met hers but their stillness and the silence in the air made the brief moment feel like an eternity of discomfort. After opening his mouth Caleb realized he hadn’t taken the time to think of something to say. The parking lot became dark again so Caleb did the only thing he could do; he got in his car and shut the door. Caleb pressed his head into the steering wheel and kept it there until the leather cover stuck to his forehead. The parking lot was still dark when he lifted his head but that changed with a flick of Caleb’s headlight switch. She was still there. Caleb didn’t have to get any closer to see that he found her attractive. She was smiling. The kind of smile that lingers after laughter. Had he made her laugh? Was she laughing at him? The former made him want to laugh but the latter made him want to push his head against the steering wheel again. Caleb did neither. Instead, he opened the door and got out of the car. The headlights still illuminated the woman in the parking space.

“Fake I.D couldn’t get you in?” Caleb said, keeping his distance.

“For all the thought that went into that, I have to say I’m a little disappointed.” Caleb, now flustered, couldn’t think of anything to say but wouldn’t have to. Before he could open his mouth, she continued,

“It wasn’t bad though. If you want, you can get back in your car and think up another opener.” She laughed.  

“Ha ha. You missed the open mic last night, you would’ve killed.” Caleb said.

“And you would’ve bombed.” A smile stretched across her lips, “I’m Charli,” she said.

Caleb mimicked her smile and in a softer tone replied, “You can come to next week’s.”

“I won’t be here,” responded Charli. “I’m actually from the East Coast, just here visiting family. I’m only at this club because my cousin dragged me here. The loud music gave me a headache, so I came outside to get away from it. The cement slab numbing my ass just seems like the better option compared to being in there.”

“I know what you mean, I can only get through this job because I’m standing outside all night,” Caleb said.

“Can I sit?”

When he asked, Charli’s eyes looked up at his. She was glad he asked. Caleb sat and wiped his palms on his pants. H was visibly nervous. He let out a soft, nervous laugh. It was like he was scared to look at Charli now. The distance between them before had worked like a safety net. He could look at her without his body urging him to look away every 3 seconds. The cool demeanor he had shown in the brief walk from his car to Charli was now a just a memory. Charli, on the other hand, hadn’t stopped looking at him and was soaking in the awkwardness.

“You’re not gonna run back to your car are you?” Charli asked in a sympathetic tone.

“I might,” Caleb responded, “Will you go with me?” He looked at her now. There was a look of surprise on her face.

“Holy shit, that was a complete 180,” She laughed. It was a big enough laugh that she tilted head back and laughed toward the sky. Caleb didn’t know how to respond. He fidgeted with his hands and raised them to his face forming a sort of prayer clasp in front of his lips. There was a smile hidden behind his hands.

“Seriously?” Charli asked recovering from her fit of laughter.

In the sincerest way possible, Caleb said, “Yes.”

“I guess sitting outside of this club all night on my last night here would be a cruddy way to end this trip.”

“A travesty,” Caleb said. “I’ll take you somewhere that’s the complete opposite of this place. It’s where I go to clear my head.” Caleb stood up and looked down at Charli. She was also on her feet shortly after.

“I really feel like I should say no, for safety reasons.”

“That’s probably the smart thing to do.” Matching grins lit up their faces.

“I’m not going with you, Caleb.” The sound of her voice saying his name gave Caleb a warm sensation that ran through his entire body.

“That’s totally fine. I understand,” Caleb said as he took a long-exaggerated step towards his car. Charli took the same long step behind him.

“I’m not leaving this dark parking lot with a person I just met. I am not doing that.”

“And I am glad you’re not doing that, Charli.”

“Are you?” Exaggerated step followed by exaggerated step got them to opposite doors of Caleb’s car. Caleb pulled the drivers side door open. “Don’t open that door,” Caleb pleaded sarcastically.

“Shut up.” Charli responded with a smile as she pulled the door open. Before long they were both in the car staring through the front windshield.

“Are you sure about this?” Caleb asked in a more serious tone, looking at Charli. Silence. He turned to look at the now empty parking space. A man, presumably one coming out of Lights Out walked into the parking space. He was in bad shape, stumbling and reaching out for an imaginary handrail to balance himself. It wasn’t long before he was hunched over, spraying his $200 dollar tab all over the parking lot gravel. His shiny black shoes and jet-black slacks fell victim to a cocktail of vodka and bile.  But in his state, he probably wasn’t too worried about it. When he was done, he let himself sink down to the ground and crawled toward the cement block that had just been occupied by Caleb and Charli. Caleb turned to Charli, who winced after seeing the man’s display.

“I’m okay with leaving now,” said Charli.


There was something nerve-racking to Caleb about being so high up on a mountain he could gaze out onto the entire city. The view from the overlook was amazing though, and he took comfort in that. The lights radiating from the small city gave it life which was strange, given the time. It was about an hour from sunrise.

The buildings were small, little mom-and-pop businesses all over the city. You could assume that’s what they were because the desert that surrounded the city reminded people it was in the middle of nowhere.

 Caleb would be fine staring out from the overlook as long as he didn’t look directly over the edge of the mountain. A school field trip when he was younger that ended in a hiking accident had haunted him ever since his childhood. The memory made him deathly afraid of heights. But Caleb kept his distance and sat with Charli on the hood of his car. Being with Charli made him feel comfortable, as did the silence at the overlook. When it wasn’t crowded it was one of the most peaceful places in the city. The moonlight gave Charli’s face a slight glow. Caleb would look at the city then turn back to Charli, unsure what he found more beautiful. He took a second to really study her. The moonlight made her dark hair glisten. Caleb was deep in thought as he took in the moment.

He turned back toward the city with an expressionless look on his face. There was a minute of silence before Charli turned to look at Caleb. She held the same admiration that Caleb did and studied him in the same way. The moonlight illuminated the serious look on his face. What could he be thinking about?, she thought to herself as she turned back to face it. In a city so small could there be so much to learn?

“Say something profound,” Charli said. The comment seemed to take Caleb by surprise. He giggled.

“About?”

“Anything. The city…”

“It really isn’t that special. I was born in that hospital over there and-” Caleb said as he pointed out into the distance. 

“But what does it even mean to have life?” Charli said, interrupting.

“That’s deep,” Caleb responded before they both started laughing. They stared into each others eyes for what felt like an eternity. The eye contact made Caleb shrink and turn back towards the city. Charli kept focused on him however, her smile still on her face.

“I like you, Caleb,” she said.

He responded by looking into her eyes again. Her eyes were glowing green, but it was the jet black pupils that sucked him in. Who is this girl, he thought to himself. It had been a long time since anyone expressed any emotion like that toward him. He started to feel the same warmth inside of him from earlier and the corners of his lips began to raise as that warmth spread through his entire consciousness. Charli met his smile with a bigger one. She began to slide one hand toward the hand Caleb laid flat on the car hood. The night was silent, but the energy radiating off of Caleb and Charli was that of quiet riots of butterflies in stomachs and blood cells on flustered cheeks.

The moment was destroyed by the sound of a car horn interrupting the silence, beep after beep coming from a car pulling into the overlook car lot. In between beeps there were drunken yells. For a brief moment, the car held Charli and Caleb’s attention, but it wasn’t long before she looked back to Caleb and he returned the look.

“I think that’s our cue to leave,” Caleb said.

“We’ll miss the sunrise.”

“That’s okay, I think there’s one every morning.”

Charlie smiled at this. It was a half-ass smile but a smile nonetheless. She knew this obviously, but she also knew there wouldn’t be more sunrises with Caleb. She wanted to protest and stay anyway, but when she mustered enough courage to do so, she saw Caleb was already one leg into the car, no hesitation whatsoever. Charli got off the hood and joined Caleb in the car. The car pulled out of the lot as their night ended.


Caleb walked into his apartment alone. It was mostly dark with some early morning sunlight illuminating poking in through the blinds. He walked into the dimly lit kitchen alone and turned on the coffee machine. The heavy smell of coffee filled Caleb’s nostrils and almost gave him a second wind of energy. Second-hand coffee some could call it. Next, Caleb put a pan on the stove. It clinked as its metal banged against the burner.

It wasn’t long before Caleb was putting an entire breakfast on a small dining table. A clean white lace tablecloth and flowers made an effort to distinguish the dining area from the dull kitchen. This wasn’t Caleb’s doing though, he had never been much for interior decorating.  Scrambled eggs, check. Toast, check. The slightly blackened toast was nothing to brag about, but Caleb was okay with it. He placed the coffee mug on the right-hand side of the breakfast plate, turned around and walked out of the kitchen.

Feet dragging, Caleb slowly strolled down the dark hallway and entered a room at the end of it. He sat at the edge of his bed with slumped shoulders as thoughts of Charli flooded into his head. The image of her at the overlook and that specific smile she gave him right before they were interrupted refused to fade. Caleb raised his hands to his face and rested his upper body weight on his knees with his elbows. He let out a loud but muffled sigh.

“Long Day at work?” a woman’s voice asked before an arm reached out to him from the other side of the bed.

“You said you’d be home by two. I tried to wait up,” the voice continued.

“I know, I’m sorry. I ended up having to cover an entire shift instead of the half.” Caleb responded.

Caleb looked down at the hand beside him, then at the dresser next to the bed. He grabbed a wedding ring that was on the counter and slid it onto the ring finger of the hand.

“I made you breakfast; eggs and toast.” Caleb said with notable exhaustion in his voice.

There was a laugh from the other side of the bed.

“I love you,” the voice responded.

Caleb was quiet for a second before responding. He thought about Charli briefly before looking down at the hand, grabbing onto it tightly.

“I know.”   

How Do You Feel Now

PART 2 of The Sitting Series

The text read,

“How does it feel now?”

How does what feel now, I thought to myself, confused by the question. How does the acid feel now? What if she (the texter) knows that I’m on acid. I looked around the room. It was a small one bedroom that felt crowded with four people in it (Myself, Rene, Erron and Becca). I was huddled into a ball in the corner of the room not sure how to process what I was looking at. I re-read the texts that I had sent before that one but couldn’t find any reason in that response. How does it feel now? I repeated to myself in my head. She knows, I don’t know how she knows but she knows. What if I told her? What if I told her and I just can’t see the message because…because I haven’t sent it yet. At that point, I started to panic. I looked up again, this time desperate for some comfort from anyone in the room.

“He wasn’t comforting her Rene. He was her dealer.” Erron said.

“Why would her dealer just be standing there with her? That doesn’t make any sense.” Rene replied.

The argument that they were having was about a woman and a man we passed on our way to the 7-11. The woman they were arguing about was keeled over on the sidewalk, her head looking down at the ground which made her hair fall over her face. Next to her, a man was standing upright with his hands in his pockets. It was clear they were together because of how close they were to each other physically. Ignoring their closeness, it seemed like they didn’t know each other at all; him looking out at nothing and her at the ground.

“You don’t know he could have just been like a person that saw someone that needed help.”

“Rene-”

“He could have been a security guard.” Rene interrupted.

The problem with that hypothesis is that on our way back from the 7-11, the actual security guard for the building was telling both the man and woman they had to get away from the building.

I wasn’t in the headspace for an argument, so instead of joining in, I grabbed my notebook and sketched what we (I) had seen.

“This is what it looked like.” I said, flipping the notebook over so everyone could see the sketch. The sad part is, I really showed it to everyone in the room expecting that they’d look at it and say,

“Oh, well now that we saw that we all know what the truth is.”

Instead, everyone laughed, including me. That might have been a good time to mention the text from the future, but I decided against it. I was worried time travel was something that could spark another argument and with that would come unnecessary chaos. Suddenly, I became very anxious about the people in the rooms next to the one we were in hearing us and so I started shushing everyone in the room if they raised their voice mid-argument.

When the room felt settled, I returned to my notebook. This time I wrote what I really wanted to be an amazing poem. I thought the nonsense I put on the page was so important that I shushed everyone in the room again and asked them in a very loud whisper,

“Can I read you something?”

“Of course.” Rene said.

“I’d love to hear it.” Erron said.

I read it out loud, trying to do so with enough focus and intent that it would sound like the most important piece of writing in the world.

When I finished, the room was quiet. I looked up at Erron as he choked up and said to me,

            “That was beautiful.”

            Then, Rene put his hand on my back and with misty eyes said,

            “Wow, that was really powerful.”

            All I wanted to do was cry. The poem wasn’t good, it was an attempt to create a bigger feeling of importance from my trip. I realize now that the words on the paper could have been the worst thing that anyone had ever read, but even if they were, Rene and Erron would have shown the same love and support.

            I had found the comfort I was looking for earlier. That comfort drew me to a deeper reflection on not just where I was on that night, but where I had been on the days leading up to it. A week before, I was sitting on a bed in a mental health facility after having told a doctor that I wanted to end my life.

We Need Water

Part 1 of The Sitting Series

When I walked into the 7-11 on 3rd Avenue, I nodded at the homeless man standing by the front door while thinking to myself, act normal. Preoccupied with whatever was in his trash bag though, he didn’t return the nod my way. This was fine though, because I had already done my part in pretending to be a functioning human being. When we, meaning myself, my brother Rene and our closest friend Erron walked past the register, I wanted to act as casual as possible so when I nodded at the cashier, I added a tip of the hat motion to assure him I was one of the good ones. I was not wearing a hat. and neither was he. I guess it makes sense that he didn’t tip an imaginary hat back at me but instead looked at us with confusion and growing suspicion.  He had nothing to worry about. All I had to do was remind myself that everything was under control. 

Reflecting on the time of night we walked in (around 11 P.M), and the fact that we probably looked like aliens trying to be discreet about being zonked out of our minds, I don’t blame the cashier for his suspicions. We were high on acid and by the time we got to the refrigerator with all the bottles of water in it, all we could do is stare at them and laugh. I thought to myself, Wow, that one says Poland, that one says Arrowhead, that one says Fiji and that one says it’s Icelandic. There is water from all over the world right in front of me, and we’ve somehow made it to this same 7-11 at the same exact time. 

When I opened my mouth to verbalize that though, all that came out was, 

“that’s a lot of water.” 

Erron, God bless him, responded to me like a father responds to a child’s observations by saying, 

“Yes, it is a lot of water.” 

We laughed, trying to be quiet about it but really being obnoxiously loud.

When we got to the register I stood behind Rene and Erron with the goal of keeping myself as far away from the cashier as possible. For me, it was okay if he thought Rene and Erron were out of their minds but I wanted to stand out in the group as the one that was calm and collected. 

From the background I watched Rene and Erron fiddling around in their pockets to pay for everything. It did occur to me to look in my own pockets but I decided against it, still trying to keep my cool. Thinking about it now, I was the least normal in the group, standing in the background like a statue, relentlessly staring at the cashier with saucer like pupils. 

When everything was said and done, Erron and Rene walked away from the register with everything in hand. I trailed behind and thought, I did it. I kept everything under control and acting like a perfectly normal-

“Hey! Hey!” 

It was the cashier. There was an empty bottle of water on the register and he told me to get rid of it and not leave our trash behind. He looked at me like he hated me; he talked like it too.  When I picked up the bottle, unsure of what to do, we stared at each other for a while. He stared at me with nothing but contempt and I stared at him with a look that said, I am so sorry. I  have failed you and I have failed myself. 

It really wasn’t that deep at all but in that moment, I had failed to keep control. And that was the thing about it all, not just the 10 minutes in that 7-11 but also the night that would follow it; all I wanted was to be in control. I’d find out though, that control sometimes can’t be afforded to everyone, and when it isn’t all we can do is accept that. That realization wouldn’t come for another couple hours though, and the night was just starting. When we got back to our hotel room I sat down and looked at everyone, unsure of where to go from there. 

It was at that moment that it happened; my phone vibrated. I picked it up and read the text. I read it one more time, and then another time, and another time after that. I didn’t say it out loud but I was sure at that moment in time that I had just received a text from the future…

Poems From a Broken Ferris Wheel

Just Keep Talking

Tell me something I don’t know

And then, keep talking.

Silence shared is hardly uncomfortable,

but with you,

It is always the lesser of two possibilities.  

/

You with the bugs in your hair

and a head that itches with ideas.

With opinions and an outlook that is

equally cynical and optimistic.

/

Lend me some comfort.

Let me pluck the bugs from your head

and nest them in mine.

They’ll crawl in my ears

and make the inside of my head their home.

On the first of the month,

I’ll ask them to leave.  

/

Or  

/

I’ll think to myself,

Maybe they don’t have to go.

Maybe they can stay.

Stay with me and

Tell me something I don’t know

And then, keep talking.

*

I Wrote This While You Slept

The crash of a wave rings in my eardrum.

This crash wasn’t as loud as the last,

didn’t carry with it a reminder of its crushing potential.

This wave was soft.

Pleasing.

/

It was a footnote in a conversation about

living a life full of love

while still feeling empty.

/

What if you die alone?

To some extent, everyone dies alone.

/

Like a crawfish

pulled up in a net and stuffed into a drawstring bag,

we suffocate.

/

The late-night fishermen delight in that catch.

We’ll make 25 dollars on that one!

To an outsider, it looks disappointing,

but to them,

it is enough.

Enough to spend the rest of their Friday night

staring out into the void of the sea,

hoping it gives them something in return for their time.  

*

Deep Shit

My shit is a-flutter.

Not my actual shit.

What I mean to say is,

My internal shit is a-flutter.

/

Not the internal shit that runs through my intestines.

It’s in the pit of my stomach

but its not shit.

Not that shit.

/

This shit is butterflies.

Not actual butterflies.

I didn’t eat butterflies.

I had the brisket.

There is no butterflies in my shit.

/

This shit is looking at someone

For an extra second or two,

just because.

/

This shit is watching someone sleep,

but not for too long,

because then that shit’s kind of creepy.

/

This shit is writing poetry

for the first time since that poetry class last Winter.

This shit is writing shitty poems.

/

Bad poems I mean,

not poems about shit.

I don’t write poems about shit,

at least not actual shit.

/

This is about other shit.

Sweaty palm shit.

Heart skips a beat shit.

Fairy tale shit.

Prince and princess shit.

One and only shit.

Happily ever after shit.

/

Happily ever after bullshit.

That shit is shit.

Real shit.

Smelly shit.

Intestinal shit.

Heart break shit.

/

Maybe all shit is just shit.

Even that a-flutter shit.

*

A Broken Wheel

The Ferris wheel comes to a grinding halt.

In the lowest passenger car,

two silhouetted figures

sit under a façade of comfortable sadness.

/

When one smiles,

so does the other.

They take turns pouring happiness into one another

realizing but not acknowledging

they will never be full.

/

They will not reach the top.

/

The wheel’s peak

is filled with promises.

Promises from a world

waiting to be conquered.

Promises of a world that

overflows with happiness.

/

But the problem with the machine

is that even when it isn’t halted,

the promises of its peak

are only temporary.

*

Conceived in Venice

Holding a white paper cup in one hand

and a microphone in the other,

a lonely man sings power ballads on the boardwalk.

/

That could be me.

I’m not familiar with the words of the song

but I recognize the melody of melancholy.

Heartbroken and lost,

consumed by that desperation.

Hugging a speaker like its vibrations equal life,

the piano less piano man continues

singing his song to a world that isn’t listening.

/

My mind wanders.

/

You tug my arm and pull me from the rain clouds in my head.

Let’s look at this stuff.

Rings and crystals.

/

You stop at a table and stare at a white crystal that’s shaped like a monolith.

This one is pretty,

You say.

It is,

I respond,

while looking at you.

/

An old man steps in between us and

grabs the crystal with his cracked hands.

This is quartz,

He says, lifting it to eye level.

/

I look at you.

You look at me. 

This is quartz,

He repeats while raising the crystal again.

We both nod nervously.

/

Quartz,

he says, setting it down on the table.

The admiration in his voice is not lost.

To you, the crystal is pretty.

To him, it’s something else entirely.

And even though it’s not something he can hold onto forever,

every second he holds it is a second he doesn’t want to let it go.

/

I slip into myself again as we leave.

/

Let’s walk on the sand.

The words pull me from my fogged reflection.

Your voice is soft.

So soft I can barely hear it sometimes.

So soft that when I think about it days from now,

I’ll struggle to remember anything more than a whisper.

/

We lay down on the sand.

You rest your head on my stomach.

This is nice,

You say.

I close my eyes and think for a second,

This is quartz.

*

The World Sheds its Skin

Pa que es la cuna si el niño solo quiere dormir en cama?

Duerme tan augusto, pero uno de estos días,

se va a caer y se le va a reventar la cabeza.

/

A princess,

With skin that glows in the Summer

and bones that ache in the Winter

stares out into the moonlit horizon.

Beneath her feet, the worlds surface begins to blister.

/

Ten cuidado niño,

porque con las princesas,

no es la cabeza que revienta,

pero el alma.

/

A Princess shops.

She picks up a blouse.

She unfolds it and admires its beautiful lavender tone.

Then, without folding it neatly back into place,

tosses it back on the shelf,

a crumpled mess.

/

Niño,

Regrésate a tu cuna.

Escóndete en la seguridad de sus bordes.

/

Boy meets princess.

Like the blouse,

his life is separated into

the time before her

and the time after.

/

Beneath their feet,

the world sheds its skin.

It will never be the same again.

SKIN ON SKIN: THE TRAGIC CASE OF KATARZYNA ZOWADA

January Sixth, 1999. The nameless captain of the boat named “Los” (“Elk” when translated) was sailing in the Vistula river near in Krakow, Poland. January in the town Krakow is a cold month, the coldest of the year on average. For Krakow, January boast highs of 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit and lows of 23.2 degrees. Aside from the bitter cold, there is an average of 15 days of rain in the town that bring with it dark clouds that hang over the city even when the rain stops. On average, the days of January in Krakow bring with them just 1.4 hours of sunshine.

            That day, January sixth, did not feel special. It was an average January day that the captain of the “Los” chose to venture out into the Vistula. The Vistula, Poland’s longest river, runs through the entirety of Krakow and continues on to either end of Poland. Going north, the Vistula ends in the Baltic sea and going south, it bleeds into Slovakia. The waters of the Vistula are tame, unswimmable only in areas where contamination is an issue. It made sense then, that what caused the “Los” to port on January 6th, 1999 were not rough waters, but what the captain assumed to be something stuck in the boats screw propeller.

            The captain felt the tug of the tangled screw and with the tug, he also noticed that the odor of the air’s humidity had been overpowered by something rotten. He didn’t think much of it as they ported. Again, the Vistula did have the tendency to be filthy in some areas and that could easily have been explanation for both whatever was stuck in the boats screw and whatever was giving the air that foul smell. However, nothing could have prepared the captain for what he would find stuck under his boat.

            Contrary to the belief of the captain, what had been caught in the propeller of his boat had not been trash that had been littered in the Vistula. There, now on the deck of his boat, was a form that could only exist through the sheer hands of evil. It was headless and armless.  It had a thin pale layer of skin that seemed to have been sewn together with its insides hollowed out to make space for something else, or someone else. The skin of the torso was still attached to a lower body that ran all the way down to the feet. The captain couldn’t know at the time, but what had gotten caught on the propeller of the “Los” were the scalped remains of a student from a nearby university that had gone missing only a few months before. What he also didn’t know at the time, is that it would be speculated that the students skin had been flayed then worn of the skin of her killer. Reports would call him the “The Real-Life Buffalo Bill”, a reference to the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs.

But how could something so gruesome happen in a town like Krakow?

            Admittedly, there are some places in the world that lend themselves to acts of evil. Places like Las Vegas that dubs itself the “City of Sin” or Amsterdam with its infamous Red Light District that give them an air of modern-day Sodom or Gomorrahs. But Krakow, Poland? While researching this work I wanted to get a better sense of Krakow and what it was like so armed with google translate, I visited the webpage of a popular paper in the area, The Krakow Post. Once there, I tried to find some headlines that were untouched by global issues and focused more on the goings on of the city of Krakow. What I found were two articles from January 9th and January 10th of 2020. The first article was about a university in Krakow that was opening a new emergency room. The second article, the one I found to be more entertaining, was one of a wild boar that attacked three people (not a serious attack) at a cracovian park. The article was not focused on the actual attack however, but instead focused on informing the citizens of Krakow that the boar in question had tested negative for rabies-how reassuring. For further research, I studied a side tab of the Post’s most popular articles of which number one was an article titled “Any Idiot can find a Brother in Krakow”. I did not click this link. Seeing it trend as the website’s number one post gave me some reassurance that I was not going out on a limb in my hypothesis that Krakow was not the place people spent their days worried about a murder as horrendous as Katarzyna Zowada’s.  

            Katarzyna Zowada was a college student that had been reported missing on November 18th, 1999. That day, Katarzyna missed a doctor’s appointment she had made with her mother. After being contacted by the office concerning her absence, Katarzyna’s mother became worried. The worry became panic when she was unable to get a hold of Katarzyna. The two shared routine phone calls with one another and it was unlike Katarzyna to be so hard to find. In her maternal panic, her mother made the decision that she would go to the police and report her daughter missing. Upon arriving at police station, Katarzyna’s mother was asked to wait to file a report and so she did. Time passed she heard nothing of her missing daughter, claiming there was very little done those first months of her daughters’ disappearance and subsequent murder investigation. Because of this, she would go on to hire a private detective but even then, wasn’t able to find any answers as to the disappearance of her daughter. Then, January Sixth came, and with it, heartache along along with more questions. And again, to the dismay of Katarzyna’s mother, there was nobody with answers to those questions. All she could do was wait for a breakthrough.

*

May 1999

In the basement of a home in Brzyczyna, Poland, a town 11 miles south of Krakow, A man named only Wladyslaw W. in newspapers stood staring at a headless body hanging upside down in his cellar. Wladyslaw, unaffected was unaffected by the horror in front of him because he had been the one to put it there. The evil inside of him had manifested and made the familiar unfamiliar, the body in front of him was one he’d known his entire life, and what he wanted to do with it next is tear it apart and make it his own.

He had killed the man in his basement with a screwdriver, stabbing him 14 times before hanging and letting his blood pour out in to buckets. The body would need to be purged before he could continue with his godless fantasy. He would go on to take a shovel along with a scalpel and tear the corpses head from its body. After, he went into his bedroom with the head and a scalpel in hand; his night was far from over.

            Throughout the night, Wladyslaw worked the scalpel against the skin and try to peel it like someone would peel an orange. With precision, he pulled the mostly intact skin from the decapitated head; all he wanted was the skin. He carefully took the skin and sewed it together to make a mask, this would take him all night to complete. When he was done, he threw the skinless head out of his window. In the early hours of the morning, the head would lay in the garden waiting to be discovered. Putting the final touches to his work, Wladyslaw would tend to the mask by salting it in hopes that it would help to keep it from spoiling.

            Nobody can ever know what it must have felt like, to stand there staring at his father’s face, separated from its frame. The bulk of his father still hung from the basement ceiling and his skull still sat in the family’s garden. What a disturbing sight it must have been, a still expression on a face with no skin, lifeless but surrounded by the life of the garden. The phrase “to take a life” usually refers to the act of killing someone but it could be argued that on that day, what Wladyslaw wanted to do was take his father’s life in order to make it his. Wladyslaw walked into his father’s bedroom, searched the closet and grabbed some of his clothes. After doing this, he stuck adhesive tape to his scalp so that the mask would better mold onto his face and finally, he put the mask on and walked out the front door.

            In some unnamed, unknown park near his father’s home, Wladyslaw sat on a park bench. There was nothing noteworthy about the trip to the park, all he did was sit there in the early morning contemplating something that can only be guessed about. One must wonder how comfortable he found himself to be under his father’s skin. That morning at the park, there was no reports of a strange looking man sitting alone, no disturbances (that were reported) or any other story that could point to Wladyslaw being anything but in a state of external peace as he sat on that bench. Eventually, as easily as he had arrived, he got up and made his way back home. He kept the mask and his father’s clothes on when he got home. And after he had settled back in, there was a knock at the front door.

             Wladyslaw’s grandfather had arrived unannounced and uninvited. Under his father’s skin, Wladyslaw did his best to make small talk with his grandfather with the goal of making him feel like this was just any other day, a  day that wasn’t tainted with the morbidity of rotting corpses and rotting souls.

How are you? What about this weather? I took a stroll to the park today. It’s such a beautiful day, isn’t it, dad?

Wladyslaw grew so confident in his father’s skin that he invited his grandfather into the house for breakfast. With no reason to do otherwise, his grandfather accepted the invitation and went inside the home. He didn’t know it at the time but stepping into that home could have proved to be the most dangerous thing he’d ever done in his life.

During the meal, Wladyslaw did his best to keep up the façade. However, there was only so much he could do. Sitting only a table lengths away it was easier to notice the stitching of his face, the expressionless movement of the skin taped to his face and the coarseness of his voice as his vocal chords struggled to emulate a voice that wasn’t his. And it was that, his voice that ultimately gave him away. The air of the room shifted when Wladyslaw realized that his grandfather had finally noticed something was amiss. The room became quiet. Wladyslaw’s answers shorter and shorter to keep from giving himself away.

What was he going to do about this? What could he do? Wladyslaw could see that while his grandfather didn’t know who he was talking to, it had dawned on him that who he wasn’t talking to, was his son. Then, his grandfather stood up. When he began to make his was to the cellar where his sons decapitated corpse was hanging, Wladyslaw panicked, packed some belongings, and left the home in a hurry.

He wouldn’t go far however, he stayed within an eye’s view and watched as his grandfather fled to the neighbor’s home in a state of complete hysteria. Wladyslaw would also watch as police arrived before making his weigh to a bus stop where he would eventually be found and arrested.

*

            When news of the crime reached Krakow, it naturally made Wladyslaw the prime suspect in the murder of Katarzyna Zowada. After all, the skinning of both victims was done meticulously and with the goal of being able to wear the skin after it was completed. For two separate murders of such an evil nature to happen so close to one another felt too strange to be coincidence. The big question however, was why? Why would Wladyslaw murder Katarzyna, a shy and quiet college student that he had probably never met before? The wearing of the skin could have been linked to him as most people assumed it was Wladyslaw’s twisted obsession, but this did not explain the 14 stab wounds that would normally only be attributed to a crime of passion.

The specifics of the crime didn’t make sense nor connect outside of the skinning. Later, Wladyslaw’s grandfather would claim that the murder of his son was a crime of revenge but not other details regarding his claim could be found through research. This claim would create an even bigger rift between connection of the two murders. The murder of Wladyslaw’s father would become understood to be an isolated incident. Combined with the fact that there was no evidence to link Wladyslaw of the crime, he was later dismissed as a suspect and like before, Katarzyna’s case went cold.

  Even after the body was exhumed in 2012 and police were able to find information that could potentially point them in the direction of the person that committed the crime, they had no suspect that they thought fit the bill, or so they though. The body had sustained injuries before death that lined up with someone who knew martial arts. From the findings, criminal psychologist were able to make the assumption that the crimes were influenced by a sexual passion and we most likely committed by someone who probably harbored ill feelings towards woman while also maintaining an unhealthy and hostile fascination with them. What police failed to realize in 2012 however, was that they had suspected someone in 1999 that fit the bill but was ultimately cast aside because of a lack of evidence or motive. The thing is, crimes as heinous as this one are rarely rational, and almost always influenced by an otherworldly evil that doesn’t care for logic or reason.

Enter the man known only as Robert J. Robert J., at the time of his arrest was 52 years old. In the photo used for a variety of the newspaper articles detailing his arrest in 2017, he was handcuffed and walking in between two officers. He looked short, at least standing next to the officers, whose shoulders were almost level with the top of his head. When the photo was taken,  he was wearing grey sweatpants and a crewneck sweatshirt to match. He had a stocky build (a result of his bodybuilding hobby) and the hair on his head was cut into a sort of buzzcut, the kind that you can get by walking into a barber shop and pointing at a poster on the wall. In the arrest phote, nothing about Robert looked special, and actually, it can probably be argued that nothing about Robert was special. He was, before evidence came to light to prove otherwise, just a good Christian man who regularly attended church; he had been so since February of 1999.

  As mentioned earlier, Robert J. was a suspect early on in the case but there was nothing at the time that could connect him to Katarzyna. Robert’s parents denied his involvement and made note that Robert because of their belief that he was far too godly a man to commit such a crime. Robert, as stated before was a “religious” person and attended church services habitually. Also worth noting a second time is that this religious fervor had awakened inside of him the month after Katarzyna’s body was found in the Vistula. It was as if the murder of the student had for on reason or another, put a weight on his soul.

Perhaps, Robert had himself fallen victim. Victim to the symptoms of a tell-tale heart that he could not ignore. And although he had claimed to never know her, Robert became very interested in information on the case and tracked it with a curious intimacy. It’s likely that the same intimacy was what compelled him on multiple occasions to visit Katarzyna’s grave. Of course, none of this information came to light until 2017 when Robert was once again a suspect in the case. For 17 tears, Robert led a life where the only judgment he had to fear was God’s, but that time was soon coming to an end.

Eventually, police would find out that Robert was well trained in martial arts, something they didn’t know and wouldn’t care to know before the exhumation of the body in 2012. It was a loose association but something that linked him to what they were searching for when looking at potential suspects. Of course, a knowledge of martial arts didn’t make Robert a sadistic murderer. A look into his working record would change this though. And little by little, the police search would begin to narrow onto that born-again Christian; one that was born-again out of the fire and brimstone of murder.

Upon researching Robert’s work history, police could find that the firing of Robert J. left a huge crimson colored stain on his records. Robert had worked in a testing laboratory for some time. The work was short lived. He was fired from one day to the next because of an incident that could only be described as an ominous presage for what was to come. One day, a day that seemed to be like any other, Robert went into the laboratory for his scheduled shift. Before leaving, Robert would kill every rabbit in the laboratory. The next day, Robert was fired but even with the evil of his actions, no further attention was paid to him or his growing appetite for murder.

With the slew of new evidence, the police interviewed Robert’s parents once again. In the interview, Robert’s father made mention of an incident in 1999 where Robert tore apart the floor tiles of his apartment and replaced them. At the time, his father didn’t think much of it and because of this, didn’t share the information with police. As mentioned earlier, when Robert was first suspected, his father, along with his mother, was adamant that his son was innocent and that the suspicions of police were preposterous. It seemed that like Katarzyna’s mother and Wladyslaw’s grandfather, Robert J’s parents were also coming to the realization that the innocent child they raised was only a distant and bittersweet memory.

After finding out about Robert’s bathroom renovation, police investigated his apartment and did extensive work to pull apart and analyze the floor of the bathroom. Robert had always claimed he had no relationship with Katarzyna and that he had never even come into contact with her. The DNA results would prove this to be false and would serve as the final nail in the coffin for the case. Results confirmed that there was DNA belonging to Katarzyna Zawada in Robert’s bathroom and with that, police could finally do what they had wanted to do since January of 1999. Robert was arrested on October 12th of 2017.

*

As of September 2019, Robert J. continues to claim that he never had any interaction with Katarzyna Zowada and waits for his day in court where he can try to prove that despite the overwhelming amount of evidence against him. It has now been 21 years (at the time of writing this [2020]) since Katarzyna’s body was discovered on the Vistula river that gloomy day in Krakow. To put that into perspective, Katarzyna’s mother spent 23 years raising her daughter and then followed that by spending the next 21 years of her life trying to find justice for her killer. It has taken damn near a literal lifetime to bring some semblance of peace back into her mother’s life.

 While in prison, Robert J. has made complaints that he has been harassed and insulted by prison guards. The reports of harassment, like the court hearing, continue to allow Robert J. to tell his own story as he understands it, a privilege he stole from Katarzyna Zowada when he ended her life.

What little is know about Katarzyna is know because of her mother. She was shy but friendly, never had problems with anyone. Katarzyna’s mother remembers fodly long conversations the two shared about movies, plays and books. She refers to her as being an intellectual partner to her when she was alive and notes that she was very intelligent. A studious person that never had problems at school despite multiple changes in her field of study.

It’s quite evident that Katarzyna, in her youth was still trying to figure herself out at the time of her death. She had been exploring herself and her place in the world, trying to find out how the thick roots of herself would spread into her own fruitful life.

Another thing her mother makes known is her daughters love for nature. She loved mountains; thought they were beautiful. Every mountain has its own story, its own history with peaks and crevices as nuances that demand to be explored because that is the only way to learn those stories. No mountain tells its story but instead asks for its story to be discovered. And now the memory of Katarzyna Zowada, without the ability to tell its own story, waits to be discovered like a beautiful mountain landscape seeing sunlight for the first time in a gloomy Krakow January.  

An American Poet (Colorized)

Let me say what I have to say. Let me say what I think you haven’t heard but assumed and let me at least try to help you understand where I’m coming from. Give me a chance to ask some questions. Questions like, Where does a brown poet exist in the canon of American Poetry, or Why do I want so bad to be a part a voice within a country that metaphorically and even geographically, places me on its edges and away from its heart. Let me explain how I am both Mexican American and American Mexican, as much as that makes you purse your lips with bitterness like you just tried Limon7 for the first time. Let me tell you, about poetry.

Poetry is a collection of words. It’s lines, form, metaphor, similes and at the same time, it is none of those things. Poetry is an experience, a look inside of the soul that isn’t caged or weight down by plot points or a beginning, middle and end. Odd however, that even without these things, without a three-act structure and everything else you like to see, I can still tell you my story. Poetry is a tool for me to explain to you how I swim in your “melting pot”. Because I can flex, boast and even mock you with emulations of your great American authors to show you that I know what you know and that I, like you, can respect and aspire to be your heroes just as much as you can. And with the weight of my words and my work, I can show you that despite the color of my skin I can be like Walt Whitman and write about grass in a country where you think all I can do with grass is mow it.

Because they are not your American authors, are they? Because one thing poetry cannot be is owned by any one group of people; it can’t be enslaved, can’t be deported, can’t be put in cages and above all else, cannot be silenced. Poetry isn’t exclusive, it isn’t close minded but instead inspires growth. The growth of people, the growth of the poet, the growth of communities. Because communities are not broken down by poetry but instead, they are created and flourish because of it. Poetry exists because of these communities and not in spite of them.

Listen, I think we got off on the wrong foot. What I am not trying to do is draw a line between us and push you out of what I claim to be universal. Really, I mean it. Tell me about how beautiful Pacific Coast Highway is in the summer. I want to hear all about it. Tell me about what a nice piece of Americana it is, and how it represents the glitz and glamour of California. I promise I’ll say nice things like that’s interesting, I didn’t know that, and I guess I never really looked at it that way. Mostly because I’ve never driven down Pacific Coast Highway. But hey, that’s why there has to be more than one person that writes poetry. More than that two people should probably write it now that I think about it. Maybe three people should write, or four, or five, or actually, I think everyone should write poetry. It’s how we’ll move forward. It’s how I can begin to understand you and you can begin to understand me. And together, we can begin to make sense of current American chaos that begins with division.

Make poetry, not tweets.

Make poetry, not Facebook comments.

Because online, all people ever want to talk about is other people. They want to get angry and fight with each other and express not who they are but who they are not. So why not use poetry to fill in the blanks? How about this, how about everyone get offline for just a week, and instead of posting comments, they write a poem. Write a poem about their childhood, about the people that raised them, about their teachers, their influences, their news anchors, their hopes, their dreams and their tragedies. Too much? I’m sorry, I thought you liked John Lennon. He wasn’t “American” by the way, just looked the part.

            But at the same time, aren’t you a little curious about the people you’ve made to feel so unwelcome? Don’t you care even a little bit about how much they respect your “American Dream”? You really don’t care? About the dreamers, the disenfranchised, the murdered, the caged, the poor, the other? Poetry will make you care. Poetry will show you why you should care. Poetry will make you feel what it’s like to be the other. Poetry is a teacher. It’ll teach you like it taught me. Here I was, thinking that America’s problems were centuries ago when really, they are still just an arm’s reach away. But it will also arm you, motivate you and inspire you to bring upon change.

            Learn with me, learn that the heart of America needs ventricles of color to keep it beating. Read poems and discover that the pieces of the American puzzle that you’ve been chucking in the trash, convinced they didn’t fit, did fit, but you were looking at the puzzle all wrong. Now you can see the bigger picture. A picture that’s only going to continue to grow and expand in the face of bigotry.

            Let me invite you to Lady Liberty’s Quinceañera. The invitation says ANYONE can speak when it’s time to give a toast. Because contemporary poetry, especially in America, is going to become poetry for anyone by everyone. And if you have something to say you better say it because everyone needs to hear it. Everyone needs to hear why American Poetry doesn’t just belong to “Americans” anymore, but instead belongs to Mexican Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and every other person that doesn’t even get a chance to exist on your government forms.

            I want so bad for these words to be true. I want poetry and publishers to less exclusive and more open and accepting. In an ideal world, I imagine Mexican poets being published without having to jump through hoops and cross their fingers to be at the right place at the right time. I hope that eventually, there are more right places and right times. I want for people like me to be able to find open doors and not doors that they have to break down just to make a living. I hope that the great American Puzzle is solved and that every piece is seen and admired for its own unique beauty and contribution.

            And that’s where we are. We want to be heard. I want to be heard. Because if you can hear us, if everyone can hear us, then all the people that look like me can hear me. Kids that write in journals but don’t think their work is worth a damn can hear me and realize that yes, it actually is worth more than they could ever realize. I hope for more poets. So, with these final words in this manifesto I plead with readers to keep on reading and for writers to keep on writing.

            I recognize that this isn’t the ideal ending for a manifesto. It might even feel slightly underwhelming. But what I will say is that much like fight to break out of the fringes and into the world of American poetry and literature, this manifesto is not an end but a beginning.

AMERICA IN ONE POST

The following is a paper I wrote for a course at the University of California Riverside. The Course centered around the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, and more specifically, his magnum opus, The Canterbury Tales. For this paper, we were asked to either do a straightforward analytical essay or were also given the option to write a creative piece that did its best to emulate The Canterbury Tales and after writing, explain what it’s connection to the story was. As you ‘ll find if you choose to continue reading, I chose the second option.

America in One Paper

It was a modern-day pilgrimage. One that started on computer screens in homes across the country via online surveys that asked questions like, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you with the way the president is running the country?”. From there, NORC at the University of Chicago gathered Americans filling those online surveys out and invited them to “America in One Room”. The New York Times Writers Emily Badger and Kevin Quealy wrote an article on the event, saying NORC hoped to bring Americans from all over the country to form a group “representative of registered voters by age, race, gender, educational attainment and geography” (Badger, Quealy). All those people, physical manifestations of America’s melting pot, were flown to Dallas Fort Worth, Texas and given all expense paid stays at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center for four days. From Thursday to Sunday Afternoon, the 527 guests would be broken into small groups and asked to have a discourse on issues they voted (in the before mentioned surveys) to be the biggest issues facing the country heading into the 2020 presidential election. Among the topics discussed were foreign relations, climate change, higher education, healthcare and the economy/taxes. Groups were encouraged by the moderators that led discussions, to be as open and honest as they could be when discussing these issues while maintaining a level of respect and open-mindedness in listening to everyone else in their group.  With recorders sitting across conference room tables, the groups of representatives for different parts of the country and different rungs of social and economic ladders, began their civil discourse.  In deluxe suite 9125 of the Gaylord Texan, the outspoken members of group 39 would practice “civil discourse” and  amongst them, a student would listen actively and attempt to understand in a deeper way, the people of Group 39 and who they were on this pilgrimage to Texas.

The Nuclear Scientist

“Well if I’m being frank, that’s Bullshit.”

It was Thursday night, and amid introductions, the Nuclear Scientist said this, announcing himself without having to do so, as outspoken and unafraid of any conflict that might arise over the course of the weekend. The Scientist had a habit of looking someone in the eyes whenever he felt the need to be bold in his argument. His piercing blue eyes peered through the lenses of his glasses, lenses that would sit above his red cheeks and below his white hair. When he wasn’t arguing with someone directly, he would stare blankly at the table in front of him and cross his short but large arms in front of his barrel shaped torso. When he did this, The Student across the table would watch and imagine The Scientist doing mental mathematics or placing imaginary weight on either side of Lady Justice’s scales as he formulated arguments and responses anchored in fact and legal precedent. The group would go off on a tangent and very subtly, he’d let out a sigh, uncross his arms and say in one specific situation, “Well, does anyone know exactly what the DACA policy actually says and what the loopholes are? Because to my understanding this is legal and that is not if we’re going by what’s actually written in the policy”. He’d scan the room and wait for anyone to respond and when they did, he’d point that piercing stare at them and smack pathos-based arguments away like flies, he’d reiterating after, that what he was there to discuss, was policy and law and not how those things could be manipulated to make people happy, but to make policies effective and beneficial for the biggest portion of the country possible. All in all, it was evident that The Scientist was a man or rules and law, focusing and being well educated on the specifics of what these national issues are and how they present themselves on paper.

The Mother

            The Mother was the antithesis to The Scientist. While he was confident in his assertions, she would almost always begin her comments with a statement like “Well, I’m clueless and don’t know anything about anything but…”. And for every carefully calculated argument The Scientist made, The Mother would go on an impulsive rant that seldom answered any question about the chaos that was (and is) American politics. In the heat of a discussion about immigration she raised her hand timidly and talked about how one thing she could be sure of, was that the president was an honest man, and that he was a real go getter who said and did things the way he wanted to do them. She respected him for that. The Mother would then admit to not knowing anything about policy, but that in her heart and soul she felt she had to say what she had just said. After that, she’d continue and talk about how she was Mexican, a stay at home mom who where she was from (Idaho) people would look at her like a psychopath for admitting her admiration of the president. The room would go silent after such remarks before the moderator would pull the conversation back to the topic at hand and this would happen plenty times over the course of the weekend. The Mother was a wide built woman with a round face. She wore beautiful floral dresses that popped with color like the red of her lipstick and turquoise of her jewelry. The colors of her clothes and accessories did well to draw attention away from the gray of her curly hair. The grey of her hair suited her however, and it even brought comfort to The Student, who she’d talk to during breakfast and dinners like he was of her own kin. “So, you’re going to school?” she’d ask, and when he’d say yes, she’d follow with “Oh, that’s very good mijo, it’s that you go to school and get a good job”. In all her tangents, it became clear that above all, she wanted to show everyone that what she valued most was family, love, and God.

The Wife of Preacher

            The Mother did have an ally in Faith though, and that ally was The Wife of Preacher from Colorado. In all the ramblings of The Mother, there was one that really struck a chord with The Wife of Preacher. While discussing climate change, The Mother questioned the role of God in the deterioration of the planet. To this, the Wife of Preacher, who had for the most part been quiet up until this point, raised her hand and looked and everyone around the conference table as if to make a non-verbal agreement with each and every one of them that it was her turn to speak. She did this because in her old age and frail state, to raise her voice and demand the attention of the room seemed like a monumental task. And when everyone stopped to give her their attention she began to speak about the possibility of just accepting the fact that the world was going to do whatever it was going to do, not because of its own will or even that of its inhabitants but because of the will of God. “If this is a decision made by God, the end times that is talked about in the bible, there is nothing that we can do in order to prevent that and people need to respect that,” she said, the room becoming quiet. Everyone did their best to process what had just been said and The Mother even nodded her head and whispered “Amen”. With that one statement, The Wife of Preacher made one thing evident, that with all the political noise that existed in the room, conversations about tariffs and taxes, that for her, the only true opinion that mattered was not an opinion at all, but a fact of religion. Her gray curly hair and the walker behind her chair made it so that everyone in the room did not contest, believing that her words were the words of an elder who had no intentions of budging on her devout faith.

The Tax Professional  

            Equal parts well versed in taxes as he was overindulgent with his late-night festivities, the Tax Professional was one person in the meeting room and another out of it. When he spoke amongst the group, he would give detailed explanations about tax percentages and what they meant for the rich, how they’d affect the poor and vise-versa. In group sessions he wore a button up shirt and tie that screamed business but rolled up his sleeves in a footnote that said casual. His hair and beard were kempt and well maintained and although he did his best to keep a respectable demeanor, you’d be hard-pressed to find him doing anything but having a good time when he wasn’t talking about tax brackets and the wealth distribution of the nation’s economy. At night, he would linger around the resort’s bars and outdoor areas and invite familiar faces to sit down and have a drink with him. For The Tax Professional, who American’s were while enjoying a beer or eating hot wings was just as important as who they were in a boardroom or in a voter’s box. That amnesty and search for fun however, was possibly overstretched when on the final night of the convention, The Tax Professional found himself drunk and getting into bed at 4 A.M in the morning, with Group 39’s final meeting being only four hours later at 8 A.M. He would sleep through most of that final meeting but still manage to give his final thoughts on the economy and the country’s overwhelming debt.  

The Student

            After the Tax Professional’s final words, The Student, gave one final speech to his group on Sunday morning that summed up who he was as a voice that weekend. It seemed to the student that everybody in the room, despite where they were from or how old they were, could all agree that there were very real problems that were beyond anybody in the room to fix and tried to express that in the most literary way he knew how. He used metaphors like one where the country was a house that was on fire, and that the coordinators of the event were in a sense, asking bystanders what it is they should do about a fire that was all but doomed and impossible to extinguish. Regardless, he praised the group for being so welcoming to one another and went on to continue his metaphors of black, white, and all the gray space in between in which he believed a majority of Americans lived in; although majority was falsely presented otherwise on evening news. He wanted everyone to be friends, regardless of their political views and tried to argued as eloquently as he could. He’d hoped to gain some respect if only for his believed intelligence. The Student’s youth made it hard for him to demand respect from the room. Ripped jeans and casual t-shirts did nothing to help his cause and when he spoke, he could feel the older people in the room stare as if he was a child masquerading as an adult. He was afraid of conflict and didn’t do very well when challenged. Growing up and living amongst the lower class, he felt everyone else the room had an upper hand and because of this, his cowardice showed through his pleas for common ground where at times there didn’t seem to be any. At the end of the weekend he came to the conclusion that to be an active and contributing member of this country, what Americans could do, is be well informed and literate when it came to political issues. From Thursday to Sunday he remained in his “gray area” but grew through a deeper understanding of the different shades of American gray.

The Modern Pilgrims

Coming from all over the country, this story is like the Canterbury tales because of the difference in lives led by the people in Group 39. The issues being discussed offer a look at America in 2020 in the same way The Canterbury Tales aimed to put Medieval England on display. Group 39 members then, take on adapted roles of Chaucer’s Pilgrims.

The Nuclear Scientist like The Man of Law, finds himself grounded in the knowledge of written documents and what they mean for the issues at hand. In The General Prologue, Chaucer writes of The Man of Law, “So that no one could find a flaw in his writing; And he knew every statute by heart” (326-327). In the same way, The Nuclear Scientist calls back to the written word of law when formulating his arguments which he aims to craft without flaw.

As confused as The Squire seems to be in telling his tell, so was The Mother when in conversation with her group. She bounces around idea to idea and fails to add to the productive discourse. The Squire is the same in the Canterbury tales, saying he will share the story of Cambyuskan (Squires Tale,661), then of Algarsif (663), and finally before being interrupted, he also says he will speak of Cambalo (667). The Franklin, like the Moderator of Group 39, interrupts and pulls the conversation back and away from The Squire.

Like the Wife of Preacher, The Prioress makes it very clear to those around her that she is a woman of God. Spending her entire prologue in a dialogue that heaps praise unto God, she draws on her religion to guide her through her story as The Wife of Preacher uses her faith to formulate her argument on what can be done about climate change.

The Tax Professional is just as well versed in taxes as the Franklin (GP, 359) and is just as indulgent. Chaucer writes of The Franklin, “He well loved a bit of bread dipped in wine in the morning; / His custom was always to live in delight,”. The Tax Professional skips the bread and goes straight to the wine but all in the same he does so out of a search for joy in the fine things of life. They both exist in a constant back and forth of profession and indulgent camaraderie.

Lost in a daze of scholarly virtue and knowledge, both The Student and The Franklin value their every word, as well as the philosophy that gives shape to their arguments. The Student, in a similar financial situation as The Clerk, finds himself above all else, glad to learn and glad to teach (GP, 308).


Information gather for, and cited in this post (paper) came from:

Chaucer, Geoffrey, et al. The Norton Chaucer: the Canterbury Tales. W.W. Norton & Company, 2020.

https://www.uscis.gov/archive/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca

and

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/02/upshot/these-526-voters-represent-america.html.

Broadstew Website Update

It’s me again. Since my last post, I’d like to say that I’ve been working hard and that my posting this is only the first of many that I’ve banked over the past weeks, months? But reality is, I haven’t done much of anything except for school work which actually will play into this update because I am going into the month of April 2020 with hopes that new ways to present my writing will make it easier for me to share it on this website.

            You know, for a while now the reason I haven’t written anything is because when I sit down to write, I set a very unrealistic expectation of myself that leaves no wiggle room for anything less than producing the best piece of writing in the world. This obviously is not going to happen. I am very much a beginner. And because of that, I urge whoever is reading this to have patience with my work until I get to a better place in my writing and as I figure out exactly who I am as a writer. So, in the meantime, back to this update.

            My goal moving forward is to provide primarily two forms of post on a weekly basis:

            1: A public journal (A la Mike Birbiglia) where I essentially just talk about things I’m thinking while trying not to sound like a pretentious douchebag or a know it all. Because another thing about these pieces, is that I want to begin to express a little bit more about my opinions (that are just opinions) but also just my viewpoints on certain things that I’ve long kept to myself mostly because I am very afraid of conflict. This of course, is constantly part of my internal struggle because while I am afraid of conflict, I sometimes really enjoy hearing myself talk. I’m not full of myself, I swear, I think. I just want to add some perspective and also encourage anybody that takes the time to read my posts to give feedback and open discussions from different viewpoints. Or you can just help me fix any grammatical errors that show up in my writing. Which brings me to the second kind of post I want to be doing moving forward…

            2: My Creative writing. Snippets of work that I am working on or trying to iron out with hopes of figuring out exactly what the stories I want to tell are. They won’t be in standard prose format though, at least I don’t think so, because in this past quarter at school I took 2 creative writing poetry classes that changed the way I look at the early stages of my writing process. I’ll write more about those classes later but for now, what I am trying to say is that my stories will be written in a poetic format with lines and stanzas with the idea that this way, each sentence is forced to stand alone and be put up to the test of whether it is or isn’t important or something along those lines. I’m trying to figure this stuff out, have patience. An example would be: Jon ran to the store. Jon didn’t make it to the store before they closed. Jon was mugged. So taking those and writing them like:

            Jon ran to the store

            Jon didn’t make it to the store before they closed.

            Jon was mugged.

And so on. I’ll try my best to number lines to make it easier to give feedback or point out errors. But anyways, that’s the update and I hope you’ll find yourself on this page again real soon. And if you don’t, and it’s my fault, I’m sorry.

See you soon!

Uncut Gems and My Inability to Write

(SPOILER WARNING FOR UNCUT GEMS)

            “That was a terrible movie.” Someone said behind me when the end credits rolled. Then, when the mob of moviegoers walked out of Uncut Gems and into the halls of the Regal Cinema, I heard a voice from in front of me say “It wasn’t bad but, that ending, I don’t know.” Which I understand; but in a movie about deadly cycles of self-sabotage the consequences of a character’s actions can be, well, deadly. One time, I had a conversation with my friend about the film White Boy Rick (2018).

 When she asked me if I was excited to see it, I responded by saying

“I am and I’m not. Crime movies rarely end well for the protagonist of those movies.”

She laughed and said “Well the protagonist are criminals so it those endings makes sense. And also, just because they’re the main characters that doesn’t mean they’re the good guy.”

It seems like something I should’ve been able to figure out myself, but I have to be honest an say that the thought never crossed my mind. And because of that, like my fellow moviegoer(s) on Christmas, I hated the movies that ended on sour notes or anything short of a wedding and some good old fashioned deus ex machina intervention. Growing up, my mom would always plead with us that when we picked movies, she wanted to watch only the ones with happy endings because the sad ones estaban muy feas and for the longest time, I felt the same way. It’s the reason I first thought of the Bitter Lemons sections of some of my film reflections here on Broadstew.com.

            But Anyways, why does any of this matter and why is this at all relevant to my writing rate of one blogpost every 6 months? Because Howard, the protagonist of Uncut Gems, although completely different to me, is also very much like me in some way. In the movie Howard constantly falls back into a self-sabotaging cycle of fixing everything, only to go back and mess everything up even worse than it was before. Like a lot of people, Howard is incapable of seeing the real dangers of not being able to break his cycle because he always seems to weasel himself out of things. Eventually though, the well runs dry, just like it can for anybody else who finds themselves stuck in patterns of self-destructive behavior. And when you think about this, it’s the reason why Uncut Gems ended the way it did. Howard is a symbol for a destructive cycle that is never broken or is broken too late when damage has already been dealt and is irreversible.

            And back to me, although my cycle won’t end as harshly as Howard’s, there are parallels to how I constantly find myself in a hole of writer’s block as I struggle to break through my self-destructive habits. Usually I’ll feel inspired and sporadically write out a couple hundred words only to fall back into hours of binge watching youtube videos or gaming and my writing sits on the backburner. In Uncut Gems, Howard owes A LOT of people money, but in my life, I owe myself all the time I’m stealing from myself and my creative work. Again, I am not Howard and my situation is not one of life and death, but watching Uncut Gems did make me think about what the tragedy in my story is if I continue to put off and neglect my dreams. What happens when my end credits roll and it’s too late to turn back? I don’t intend on finding out.

            Back to Uncut Gems, I don’t think anyone that hasn’t watched and plans to is still here but if you are or if you’re someone who didn’t plan to watch I will say this:

Go watch. The cast is incredible with Adam Sandler doing what I think is the best work he has ever done. I will say though, the movie is long, just about over two hours and for those two hours you will be stressed and will feel emotionally attacked and battered (in the best way possible, if that’s a thing). In short, the movie is fantastic but, es una pelicula muy fea.