Breaststrokes Through Apathy

Sex and Brocolli

Sitting cross legged on a sweat soaked comforter,

we became lost as we delved deeper into

intimacy that exists in warm embraces

and the exchanging of bodily fluids.

We dug deeper into one another

like we were digging through the skin of our shared

naked bodies looking for versions of ourselves

that were hiding from their sins. How intimate.

An hour before, I was on top of you

and you were asking me to cum on your pussy.

/

When you asked the first time, we had been fucking

for what felt like an eternity. I was

fighting, trying not to succumb to a cramp

that was working its way from my knee to my ass.

Meanwhile, I saw the movement of your body show

impatience instead of enthusiasm.

Naked and interlocked with one another, the

well of intimacy was running dry despite

the sweat dripping off of my skin and onto

yours. It wouldn’t be much longer until there was

no intimacy left in my flailing body.

/

We put our clothes on immediately after.

It was always that way, the love making without

the love. The ending of the exploration was

always premature. A scar on your body could

be seen, touched and tasted but when the lights came on,

it was just a scar. At least, it was until it

wasn’t. Because when we peeled the wet comforter

off of the bed and sat down on the damp bed sheet,

all the secrets we tried to fuck out of each

other started to crawl out all on their own.

/

In between bites of broccoli pizza we took

turns reintroducing ourselves to each other,

holding each other in verbal embraces,

finding comfortable vulnerability.

Why did we choose broccoli? We didn’t. You did.

And that small, insignificant decision

became intimate. Memories melted away,

puddling together like sweat off our bodies.

Heads of broccoli were crushed in between your teeth

right next to my individuality.

/

The quietness that followed was one that was earned.

The symphony of lust that preceded it

was a thing of the past. It ended just like

our meal and the conversations about

why we are the way we are, dreaming of love

while counting sheep with unrequited interest.

For every creak of the metal bed frame

there was a beat, a suspension of our minds

in which we did not welcome one another.

This was our reward for intertwining.

This One is Yours

The first time I went over,

she brought out a small wooden box.

And when she opened it,

I saw it was full of little strips of paper.

We took turns unfolding them, revealing the handwritten questions in each of them.

/

What’s your worst fear?

Probably the dark because this one time at my cousins house…

/

What do you want most in life?

I just want to be happy. Last year I went through this depressive episode and…

/

What’s your favorite food?

My mom used to make this milanesa that…

/

We took turns asking questions that

should have had simple answers but instead

were answered with stories.

Every story attached itself to the slip of paper

that prompted it, and when we were done

I’d shove those pieces of paper in my pockets.

/

Pockets full of paper,

Yours, mine, ours.

Sometimes when I pull them out now,

I can’t tell which are yours and which are mine.

Pessimistic Princess

Massive, hungry, all-consuming.

A world in need of being tamed

while masquerading as untamable.

/

Pessimistic Princess,

you feel the challenge of taming the world

thrust upon you.

You suffocate,

Never realizing that

the world is big,

but you are bigger.

/

Pessimistic Princess,

The world does it’s best

to keep you from knowing this.

When you look in the mirror,

it tells you a story of inadequacy

in which you are the main character.

This story is fiction.

/

Pessimistic Princess,

you have stared into the abyss

and the abyss has stared back.

It is scared.

Scared of your potential.

Because the world,

as big as it is,

has a beginning and an end.

/

But you,

Pessimistic Princess,

are infinite.

Whispering Vulgarities

I taste blood.

I don’t know if it’s theirs or

Mine.

Maybe I bit their lip

too hard.

Maybe I need to

take it easy.

/

I make love

with a gentleness akin

to whispering the word

Cunt.

/

I fuck.

I fuck like

a maniac.

No,

I fuck like

I’m manic.

/

It’s not pleasant

for either of us.

/

She always used to tell me

how great I was doing.

but that was when we were fucking

and in love.

When we were making love.

/

This isn’t even

Her.

/

This is someone else

who fucks in the dark

because

they can’t stand the sight of me.

/

It’s probably not that.

They like me.

They don’t love me

but they like me.

/

They know I mean well,

that I’m not a

maniac or manic.

/

They know that I’m just a guy

fucking for the first time

after years of making love.

The Night Before, The Morning After

…The night before was much like the morning after, tainted in your apathy You sat on top of me and looked down while explaining exactly why you could never fall in love with me I listened intently because that was what I would tend to do Grab and hold close the details of the story I would re-tell in my head after you left The night wasn’t going the way I’d imagine anyone would plan out for themselves but I held your words regardless, because even the stories about love that are undernourished and hope starved are stories worth being told Something about my head, I swear there’s something wrong with it because those are my favorite stories So when you said

I shouldn’t have stayed here

I regret it

I clung to all 10 syllables, knowing full well they would define not just that moment, but also invade the moments of quiet loneliness in the days that followed The night before was much like the morning after because the night before was the morning after…

Articulating the End

I write in my head because I’m driving

on Ocean Ave in Santa Monica.

What a fitting end to this story;

We held each other for the first time here.

While you were sleeping,  I sat at the desk

in our room becoming a poet.

I wrote poems about bugs in your hair

that you would read off of postcards later.

But that morning, I whispered them to you;

I whispered softly, waking you gently.

That was also when I started to wake.

/

I am writing because I’m still dreaming.

/

For breakfast, I was your Huckleberry.

For lunch, we ate hamburgers in your car.

In your car, you did nothing but miss him;

In your car, I did nothing but miss her.

How did we think this was going to work?

Secret is, neither of us thought it would.

We talked, in between bites, about how our

friends weren’t going to know anything.

In some cases, people end up happy.

In some cases, people go up in smoke.

/

I am writing because I smell the smoke.

/

After that, we held hands at the swap-meet.

Strands of hair fell like ribbons on your face

that made my mind beg my eyes, look at her.

Each look at you was greedy but

we weren’t there to look at each other.

I was looking for a car radio.

You were looking for Mexican earrings.

Isle by isle, we searched together.

That night, we didn’t feel like a secret;

We didn’t feel we belonged somewhere else.

/

I am writing because I don’t belong.

/

I remember your pain, remember it

like chocolate; I always hated it.

We did our best to numb each other.

I drove for an hour, you drove for an

hour  just so we wouldn’t sleep alone.

I would fidget and keep you up all night;

You would say mean shit and keep me up too.

One morning, you woke up and made breakfast

and I wrote letters for you in my head.

This is what those letters might have looked like.

/

I am writing because I love you.

/

I am writing because every thought

before this one tried to get in the way.

I am writing because the only way

to say this is proofread and edited.

I am writing because a part of me

hopes that you’ll never have time to read it.

I am writing because you care about

the little things, even when they’re ending.

/

I am writing this to articulate that end.

Romeo, Oh Romeo part 3

Romeo stood in a courtyard of the two-story apartment complex holding a bouquet of flowers. Scanning the rooms on the second floor, he had narrowed down the search for Valarie’s room by finding the ones with East facing windows that would allow for sunlight to shine in during the early morning.

            Romeo never felt nervous. He had made a living off of killing and even in the worst of situations that he had been placed in, he always managed to keep a clear head and do whatever was asked of him. In that moment however, all he could do was stand in the courtyard and look around frozen in place. He needed to get up to the second floor but couldn’t bring himself to do it.

When he finally worked up the nerve to make his way up the stairs and begin knocking on random doors, he saw her. Valarie walked out onto the second-floor balcony of her apartment and stared out into courtyard. For Romeo, it was like he was seeing Valarie for the first time because in a way, this was the first time. The courage he had built up to get to the second floor of the building was now gone and all he could do was stare.

When she saw him, she shouted down,

“Hey!”

“Your voice is just like I remember it.” He said back to her.

“What?” She asked.

“Your voice. I said it sounds just like I remember it. Like an angel.”

Silence. Valarie looked down at Romeo with a puzzled look. She was now leaning on the guardrail trying to get a better look at him.

“I’m sorry but, who are you?”

“Valarie!” Romeo shouted.

“Yeah, that’s me, who are you?”

“It’s me, Romeo.”

“Romeo?”

“Yes, Romeo! From the Cam website! Remember? You told me you love me, and I’m here because I love you.”

When he said this, Valarie looked around. Her neighbors we beginning to poke their heads out of their doors and windows to see what all the noise was about. Romeo looked at his watch and then back up at Valarie.

“I don’t have much time Valarie. I want you to run away with me.”

At this point, people in the complex were beginning to walk out of their rooms and shamelessly watch the spectacle occurring in the courtyard.

“I think we should have this conversation another time.” Valarie asked.

“There is no time my love.”  

Romeo rushed up the stairs and ran to the outside of Valarie’s apartment. They argued back and forward about him going into her apartment while everyone in the complex looked on from their doorways.

“Listen dude, everyone is looking. I really think you should just go.” Said Valarie.

“Valarie, the other night was the greatest night of my life. In everything I’ve ever done, I’ve never asked for purpose. I wake up, I do whatever it is I do, and then, I fall asleep and do the same the next day. The other night though, I felt purpose. For the first time, something happened and after it happened, I had this sudden feeling that it happened because every single moment leading up to it made it happen.”

“Romeo-“

“I will give you everything. Everything that I have that I can give you I will give you.”

At this, Valarie paused. There was a moment of silence and in that moment of stillness Romeo made his way through Valarie’s doorway. Valarie looked around at all the other tenants and then looked into her apartment before reluctantly walking in.

 Before long was sitting on the couch in Valarie’s apartment, his leg was shaking, and he was checking his watch periodically.

“Valarie, we need to leave.”

“I don’t know who you are Romeo.” Valarie said as she paced back and forth in the living room.

“You told me you loved me. And I knew from the moment that I saw you that I was in love. I knew that then and I know it now.”

“That’s impossible!”

“No, it’s not, that’s true love. Or love at first sight, whichever you want to call it.” Romeo looked down at his watch again.

“Neither. I want to call it neither because those things don’t exist. I don’t even know how you found me.” Valarie trailed off and began to speak more to herself than to Romeo.

“How is this happening? Why is this happening? This is unbelievable.”

“Valarie, a random set of occurrences has brought me to this place in time-“

“Romeo, you are very kind, but you need to shut up. This is not normal. Love at first sight is not a thing. This is not something that just happens, and this is not some fantastical love story where we meet and getting married 3 days later. That’s not real life. Oh my god this is insane.”

Romeo looked at his watch again. Then up at Valarie. Then, there was a very loud knock at the door. Romeo had left a man bloodied in a gas station parking lot wit ha cashier that saw everything. He knew exactly who was at the door and knew that at that point, there was nothing else he could do. Every decision leading up to that moment was one devoid of rationality, but he made them regardless. Every moment led to that one and in that moment, Romeo only thought to say one thing before accepting what would happen when the front door opened.

“Valarie,” Romeo said calmly.

            Valarie stood with her arms crossed looking at Romeo.

            “What?”

            “I love you.”

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.”   

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.  

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.

Crimson

My father held my face in his bloodstained hands. Growing up, he never showed me much affection. He was cold, callous and always eager to explain to me that a man had best keep his emotions to himself, lest he wanted to give the impression that he was a sissy. But this night, my father radiated warmth. I felt his hands on my cheeks and looked into his glassy eyes. The thick smell of iron hung in the air, and just for a moment, I let myself soak it all in, grabbing each detail and putting them in a trunk of memories like a pirate stowing away treasure.

“Son, you don’t let another man come into your home and threaten the safety of you and yours. You understand that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“This man,” My father took one hand off my cheek to point to a bloodied body on our living room floor.

“This man said he needed my help, our help. But this man was in no real danger son, what he wanted was to come into my home, our home and take what I have worked so hard to build. You don’t let a man do that, you understand that, son?” 

“Dad-”

“I said do you understand?”

The Bloody man was slithering along the floor towards my father who had his focus entirely on me. I didn’t want to show my father I was scared so I said, “yes, sir.”

My father put his pointing hand back on my cheek and when he did, I saw that a tear was beginning to form on the lower lid of his eye. I didn’t know my dad was a sissy.

The bloody man was now closing the distance between him and my father, who was down on one knee and completely unaware of that crimson snake behind him. I like snakes. Sometimes if they’re real hungry, they’ll eat their own young to survive. Snakes aren’t sissies. Snakes aren’t weak.

Maybe my dad deserved what happened next. The bloodied man grabbed a knife beside my dad and lunged up at him. He stuck my dad once near his neck and they both went to the ground. I took a step back and watched them wrestle. At the time I thought they looked like dogs in heat, grunting every now and then as they scratched and clawed at each other.

 It wasn’t long before I couldn’t tell the difference between the two bloodied men rolling around on the ground. Eventually I saw one arm go up, knife in hand and deal the final blow. Both men went still for a second before the man I could now see was my dad rolled over and leaned against the corpse on the floor.

He was out of breath and struggling to get a hold of himself.

“Come here son.”

I walked over to him. In all my life, even to this day I’ve never seen victory look so miserable. He put his hands on my shoulders and pulled me in for a hug. He whispered into my ear, “I love you son.”

It was the only time my father ever told me he loved me. The warmth was unlike anything else I’ve ever known. I think I could sit on the sun and it wouldn’t feel as warm. I wanted to say it back to him, I really did, but I didn’t want my dad to think his son was a sissy, so I didn’t. My dad died that night.

The Deadman Rises Again…And Again

The Deadman. The Phenom. The American Badass. While most people are quick to scoff at the validity of The Undertaker’s history, there is science to back up some of The Undertaker’s astonishing feats throughout his career with World Wrestling Entertainment (Formerly known as World Wrestling Federation). One of those feats, performed not only once, but an incredible variety of times was that of his own resurrection from the dead. Again, save your dismissal for whoever doubts you after you’ve begun to believe in the magic of Ol’ Mark Calaway. Because even though it might just be smoke and mirrors, there are some explanations grounded in reality that will have you saying, “It’s still real to me, damnit!”

  • Lighting Struck the Same Place Multiple Times

Lightning struck his grave. In the 1940’s the USSR conducted experiments using electric currents on a decapitated dog to animate the animal. Experiments were a success and scientist found that the head did not only animate but seemed to respond to stimuli around it. Because the Undertaker was buried alive, there was no distinguishable or serious damage done to his body. Now, with the information gathered by USSR scientist, it makes it entirely possible that the grave of the Undertaker was struck by lightning. This would, in turn run currents strong enough through his dead body to revive the Deadman who would after this, be not so dead. Keeping also in mind that cold dirt would also help keep his deceased body intact. And Speaking of the cold…

  • Cryogenic Freezing Followed by Time Travel

The Undertaker, as great as he is, can only get lucky with lightning so many times. However, there is more than one way to bring someone back to life. Advances in technology have made it possible for someone (Like Paul Bearer) to have the body of a loved one cryogenically frozen with the hopes that advances in technology in medicine will be made that will allow for the deceased to be brought back to life in the future. With Undertaker’s most recent death being in 2010 at the hands of Kane (Who may or may not have had him cryogenically frozen in a fit of guilt or eagerness to reunite as The Brothers of Destruction), it is very possible that cryogenic freezing was an option at the time. So, theoretically what happened was that the Undertaker was frozen and then revived at some point in the future where the wealthy can also own time machines. Following the revival of the Undertaker (who would be wealthy enough to own a time machine) would use said time machine to return in time and once again step foot in a WWE ring again a short while after his burial in 2010. And I know what you’re thinking “But how can cryogenic freezing work if you’ve also been set on fire like The Undertaker was (Also at the hands of Kane) in 1998? This one is a little harder to explain but it isn’t impossible, especially when you know the right people. Enter reason number 3.

  • Papa Shango – The Voodoo Priest

For centuries, there has been folklore, mythologies and urban legends surrounding voodoo magic. When talking specifically of Haitian voodoo, there has been stories told of the zombification and resurrection of people through voodoo magic. This is interesting because when the Undertaker first perished in 1994, there was a voodoo priest on the WWE (then WWF) roster. Enter Papa Shango. It is possible that Paul Bearer, famous manager of the Undertaker made a deal with Papa Shango in order for him to bring the Undertaker back from the dead. It could be that Papa Shango revived The Undertaker and, in the process, used so much of his magic up that he had to leave Voodoo behind. This claim holds some weight considering that in the late 90’s, after The Undertakers Revival, Papa Shango would go on to become a pimp and founder of the world-famous Ho Train.

So, there it is. Next time your friends try to laugh in your face about the credibility of World Wrestling Entertainment you can school them by going Old School (That is the name of a signature move of The Undertaker) and body slam them with facts and history.

If you want to know more about USSR experiments on a decapitated head, go here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5042285/Chilling-video-shows-scientists-bringing-dead-dog-life.html

If you want to know more about Cryogenic freezing, go here: https://www.wired.com/2014/07/revive-the-dead/

If you want to know more about Haitian Voodoo, go here: https://www.ranker.com/list/history-and-stories-from-haitian-zombie-voodoo-mythology/christopher-myers