Exile


unfamiliar Deja vu 

reverbs like a wraith boomerang

surfacing from untapped depths 

i haven’t been here before

this time 

this place

this person

so why does recognition lurk

hesitantly by blurred borders?

why do i feel 

i have made this choice 

before? 

exiled within my own skin 

i exist like an 

unstrung Rumpelstiltskin

cursed with memory loss

certain there is something

i must recognize

to reclaim my essence

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Letters

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lines drip bald-faced

down a seemingly empty page

after a daring jailbreak

from an unfiltered unconscious

angels & angles

demons & dreams

crisscrossing

while memories insidiously

waltz their way

around the edges

masquerading as mothballs

dipping & clinging

to paper particles

how can an incurious vowel

here

a crooning consonant curve

there

possibly hope to convey the bottomless

endless spectacles everywhere unfurling

/a riot of humanity throughout history/

what scribe or scholar

could tame the beast

with the sideline stroke of a pen?

not i, said the fly.

still,

what better way

to grasp for the moon?

What I Learned From Death

A great man died last week. His name was Sir Terry Pratchett, and he was my favorite author. The man inspired me to start writing and not worry about following the style of others. He understands people better than anyone else I’ve ever come across.

He was also, in my completely unbiased opinion, the greatest philosopher of our age.

A British satirical author who wrote a bestselling fantasy series, many would look at his whimsical covers and dismiss what’s inside as fluff. And that would be a critical error– I’ve learned more about human nature between those pages than from anything else.

He sees people as we should be seen, and his words would help heal the rifts in our society if we would only heed them. He faces our ugliest reflection in the mirror and emerges undaunted, with a hilarious little anecdote to top it all off. His impact on this world is immeasurable. To me, he is a great Influencer, and his lessons transcend personal and professional to apply to all walks of life.

What can we learn from Terry? It’s nearly impossible to boil it down, as his words range from hilarious to poignant to provocative to devastating. Although he was far too clever to implicate anyone or anything by name, he used fantasy as a backdrop to highlight real-world problems, cultures and ways we’re our own worst enemy.

His mind-bogglingly brilliant book The Hogfather is a loving, brutal treatise on who we are and who we can become. The titular namesake is essentially a more primitive Santa Claus who explores the not always rosy power of humanity, and society without any sugarcoating.

On Education: “Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.”

On Fairy Tales, and How They Should Really Be Read: “And then Jack chopped down what was the world’s last beanstalk, adding murder and ecological terrorism to the theft, enticement, and trespass charges already mentioned, and all the giant’s children didn’t have a daddy anymore. But he got away with it and lived happily ever after, without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done…which proves that you can be excused for just about anything if you are a hero, because no one asks inconvenient questions.”

On our Pop Culture Portrayal of Kids: “Real children do not go hoppity skip unless they are on drugs.”

On Man vs. Machine: “Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.” 

On Changing the World: “The phrase ‘Someone ought to do something’ was not, by itself, a helpful one. People who used it never added the rider ‘and that someone is me’.” 

On the Power of Belief: (excerpt, a conversation between Death and his granddaughter)

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THENSHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.”

So why am I sharing it here, on this forum? Believe me, I thought long and hard about it. I have other accounts, other social media sites that on the surface seem more suitable. But really, I think that’s the whole point.

Dig beneath the surface. Don’t go through life basing everything on assumptions, because then you’ll lose. Rose-colored glasses are equally as dangerous as tunnel vision.

Embrace the unknown, open your arms to the unusual. Don’t just stay in the herd when you see another break away from the pack. Find the humor in life, but don’t shy away from the bad.

True evolution lies in a willingness to look at our own flaws and change. This is as true of leaders, CEOs, celebrities, influencers and all the big guns as it is of any Average Joe.

Saying “be the change you wan’t to see in the world” isn’t enough if you’re not willing to stray outside your comfort zone. So listen to Terry, look in an unexpected direction, and you may find your own muse.

UNRAVEL: The Beginning

How It All Began

Is this the world we created, we made it on our own/Is this the world we devastated, right to the bone

–Queen, “Is This The World We Created?”

Human culture at 2030 is self-destructing at a more accelerated rate than ever before. Blooded corporations and ruthless business warlord tycoons own everything. There are hardly any small businesses left, and mom-and-pop establishments, bodegas and yard sales are a thing of distant memory.

In 2020, there came The Turning Point. The worldwide economy crashed with a resultant nuclear-level destructive implosion. Apparently it is possible to buy the finances of an entire planet, because that’s exactly what a group calling themselves the Committee orchestrated in a successful, unrelenting and mostly hidden coup.

The most powerful forces in the world– the identity of some an enormous, unwelcome shock to the general public– comprised this ‘elite institution’ and it wasn’t long before they controlled the militaries, medias and governments of the world. They even rebooted the Internet, except now it’s called DigiWeave, and it’s much more heavily screened.

The ruling bodies are made up of a horrifically diverse laundry list of corrupt creatures: CEOs of the biggest corporations from all sectors, the most jagged and shark-sharp legal officials, smilingly noxious politicians, the richest and seediest pimps and human traffickers, arms dealers, drug cartel owners and influential mobsters, the most hated and feared mercenary companies, and those most terrifying of all–the quiet ones we don’t know anything about.

I wish we could call them thugs in suits, but they’re not. They’re efficient, calculating, hungry, dogmatic, unpredictable, brilliant and chilling. Clinically precise in every move they make, even when taking over the entire damned world they never spilled any excess blood, didn’t seem to tamper with fundamental human rights, and were very careful to always be politically correct.

“Look at us,” they seem to say beneath their smiles and hairstyles not an inch out of place, brimming with eager questions you don’t realize are all pre-recorded and rhetorical. “All we’re trying to do is help people. Didn’t we save the economy when the world thought it was the Apocalypse? Are we tyrants demanding your firstborn children, or are we heroes just looking out for the greater good?”

M.U.S.E has had to learn the hard way that it’s much harder to open the eyes of an entire world to injustice when it’s cloaked in the golden benevolence only a true predator is capable of mastering. And it’s even harder when everyone seems to have their eyes firmly shut in an infant’s temper tantrum, or more accurately like a fearful child closing their eyes in the breathless hopes of blocking out the monster under their beds.

Alpha to Omega, Genesis to Revelation/The meek shall inherit but they’re still miseducated/By the colonized mind idolized in America/New people’s era once again break the barriers/To crush, kill, destroy

–Blue Scholars ‘The Long March’

Over the past ten years the Committee has steadily warped the fabric of our society at the seams, right under our noses, without causing many blinks. M.U.S.E members don’t know exactly when our founders started to revolt under the radar, but some of the older ones hint that both M.U.S.E and the Committee both date back far beyond The Turning Point.

J’hela, our founding Council and the creators of M.U.S.E, began to actively recruit from those of us who were still awake. Often deemed outcasts or lost souls by an uncaring society, they gathered us in and showed us a better way: to battle their destruction with our creation. Since my surrogate mother/father TJ, my best friend Isis’s mother and Ash’s aunt Johanna and my occasional mentor Coyote are all Bones– cell leaders of M.U.S.E— it seems inevitable that I wound up a MUSE operative.

I came of age (they don’t allow us to fight until we turn 25) a few years after the worst had passed. For the first 5 years after their world coup, there came a time known by most as “The Gold Quarter.” Those of us who chose to fight back had a rather different moniker for it. For us, those were The Breaking Times.

Legend

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until it all fades

we shall burn our names

into the stars

history lives in us

in leaves and deeds and screams

we are part of a greater story

though we can only see

our chapter

true, sometimes the magic ebbs

twitching words slip restless +

uneasy from loose lips

obstacles lumber lock into place

when you’re the hero

there are no capes, claps or guarantees

just love, pain and bloody kneecaps

but our tiny petty thoughts

our soulstained hopes

our arrogantly beautiful yearnings

to stretch fingertips towards the moon

still count

still mean something

still join

the endless fantastical reality

of the universe

Dedicated to the memory of 9/11 and all those who suffered, never forget. 

Unravel

I am not something you can unwrap like a guilty present. Usually, words come easily to me. I mold them, shape them, and release them to do my bidding. Now, I’m struggling. Clumsily wrangling them into mocking submission. A pied piper whose flute is suddenly damp and off-key.

It’s no mystery. This is my life, my story, not some yarn I spun to entertain hyperactive children or fulfill some English lit assignment. I can’t even really call it a story, as that implies a concrete beginning, middle and end. My muse has been robbed, and I am left with uncertainty.

I do know a few things for sure. I’m not entirely a victim. I am an outsider. I’m not as jaded as I should be. I’m terrified of going back to who I was. I’m not repeatedly hitting the self-destruct button anymore. I am damaged.

Sometimes, I don’t know what scares me more: the past or the present.

Sometimes, I want to be a voice for those like me. Those whose lives may not make headlines but should not be rendered insignificant.

Sometimes, I think I must have been a tyrannical sociopath in my past life to deserve all that’s happened in this one.

Sometimes, I wonder if anyone can ever help me see all that I am.

I begin to unravel, and I don’t know if I’ll make it to the other side. Fragments slip like silk through the sieve of my memory. Bits rise to the surface, angrily rattling their displeasure at going unacknowledged. It’s time to face all the ugliness, some of it my own doing.

Before you put on your mask of judge, jury and executioner, know this: I am a survivor. As I close my eyes and try to remember, I don’t know anymore if this is for you or for me. I do know that I have never been this exposed. In this literary striptease, not even a G-string of privacy will be left.

Hopefully, when all is said and done, you’ll come to understand just how relentlessly painful it is to unravel. And the next time you see a stranger, instead of judging them, you’ll try to peel away the layers.

Fighter

*A  snapshot of one of the characters in my book, I sat down to write about something else entirely and this came out so please, be kind.

 

A collision of values

swarm around the overeager fighter

Choice, chance, fate, fiction

all become meaningless in the

endless single moments of battle

Unable to stop, breathe, reprieve

or maybe unwilling to even try.

(self-destruction implies awareness.)

Here, within,

lies only the edged purity of will

skirmishing to contain

the slow, creeping seeds planted

by forces beyond time

to sow a chaos unlike the world

has ever known.

It may yet be enough.

It may yet be our end.

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