Collected within this thread are poems and short works that I've written. Much of the verse struggles with topics that include love, identity, and all manner of other burdens you would expect self-proclaimed tortured artist may face. The prose generally falls into one of these labels: YA, fantasy/sci-fi, or experimental fiction.
01. Countdown (c. December 2010/January 2011)
02. Apathy, for Good Measure [M] (April 2011)
03. Ma and Pa [M] (January 2012)
04. Mira, or My Lady of the Sea [M] (October 2012)
05. The Angel, or Grey Visitor [M] (October 2012)
06. Pytor, or The Limits of Guest Rites [M] (October 2012)
01. Holden Reads (Book reviews) (December 2011 - January 2012)
02. Top 7 of '11 (Music reviews) (December 2011 - February 2012)
I’m in love with Jennifer Turner. I don’t know if it’s because of her looks or because of that time in the fourth grade when she told Greg Lawry to pick on someone his own size or because of that time I dropped my pencil in math class, and when we both bent down to pick it up, our hands grazed or just because of that feeling I get in my stomach when I look at her.
Oh boy, that feeling.
Before we were let out of school for winter vacation, I was at my locker taking my time to double, triple check I had everything. I did that everyday, even though I always knew I had everything I needed in my backpack already. I always took my time at my locker because I knew Jennifer’s locker was just up the hall. And everyday, as she walked down the hall, dressed in her mauve jacket, the backpack she’d had since the eighth grade slung over her shoulder, peppered with pins, I turned around, smiled at her, and said, “Have a stunning rest of the day, Jennifer!” And everyday, she would smile right back at me—warmly, I liked to imagine—and said, “I hope you have a swell one, Jonah!”
It was moments like that that made me smile. It was moments like that that made me feel warm and light, as if I were floating. I’m in love with Jennifer Turner. I’m in love with Jennifer Turner, and I think she loves me, too. These are the thoughts that guide me to sleep.
And so it was in that very same moment, as Jennifer walked past my locker and turned to traverse down the other hall that I realized: I wouldn’t see Jennifer for two weeks. Two weeks. Two weeks was too long. What could have possibly possessed the school board into thinking that we needed two whole weeks to celebrate the holidays? What could have possibly possessed them into thinking that I could go two weeks without missing her?
Oh boy, that feeling.
I couldn’t do it. It had only been a few moments since I’d last seen her, and I already knew I couldn’t do it. I sat there, slumped and defeated in front of my locker, feeling like shit. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. Would she miss me as much as I would miss her? Would she even think of me?
I couldn’t do it.
And as I sat there, thinking I couldn’t do it, Erica Brewer made her way over to my locker and looked down at me on the floor. I became conscious of an evident decline in the amount of light, noticed she was there, and looked up into her soft green eyes. “What are you doing down there?” she asked. “I’ve fallen,” I told her. She looked at me sadly before reaching down and holding her hand out to me. I accepted it and allowed her to help me up.
“Thank you,” I said. “It was my pleasure,” she replied. We stood there for a moment, me relishing in my depression, and her lingering. She took my hand again. I looked up at her. “Hey,” she said, “I’m throwing a party for New Year’s. Do you think you can make it?” When I heard this, my heart rose. I accepted right away, and Erica took out a black pen and wrote her address and phone number right there on my arm. “Thank you,” I said. “No problem,” she said, “I’ll be looking forward to seeing you there.” She hugged me, and then she was gone.
I stood there for a moment, basking in the warmth again. I could do it. I didn’t have to wait two weeks. You see, Erica was Jennifer’s best friend. If Erica was throwing a party, Jennifer would be there. I was going to be there. Goddamn, all I wanted was to see Jennifer there.
And maybe, maybe Jennifer would see that I was there, too.
I’m driving my car, on my way to Erica’s party, and thinking about the New Year. I already have my resolutions decided upon. I was going to be the very best person I could be, and I was going to make Jennifer happy. That’s really all I wanted. Knowing she was happy made me happy. That smile... When I see her smile, I just feel happy inside. It’s really not something I can explain adequately with words.
Oh boy, that feeling.
When I ring the doorbell, I’m let in right away. Erica greets me with a smile and waves me in. There are still a few hours left of the year, and I am early, so very few people have arrived. I find myself a seat in the living room and bunker down for the New Year. Soon, Jennifer will be here, and then I can start enjoying myself.
Erica finds herself a seat besides me and crosses on of her legs over the other. She blows a lock of her dark hair out of her face and smiles at me. “I’m really glad you’re here,” she says. “I’m glad to be here,” I tell her. “Any big plans for the New Year?” she asks me. “A few,” I reply. I smile at her. Before she can respond, the doorbell rings and she has to get up to greet the new arrivals.
Events play out similarly to that for something like an hour, me sitting here, her running back and forth from the door to speaking with me. It’s nice, and I’m delighted that I have someone I like to keep me company while I wait for Jennifer to arrive. I appreciate very much what Erica is doing for me, even if she doesn’t know it.
Finally, when Erica opens the door, Jennifer is the one to step through. She steps into the house and looks around with a delighted expression her face. I swear, she looks right at me and smiles. She turns to Erica and says a few words to her. Erica laughs and smiles at her. Then a tall male youth, someone I haven’t met before, as I don’t recognize him as someone from out school, steps inside, shakes the snow from his jacket, and joins in on the conversation. Jennifer turns to him and hands him her jacket.
It’s her brother.
She leans forward on her tiptoes and gives him a kiss on his cheek before she steps away and makes her way into the room where everyone else is waiting on the New Year to arrive.
It isn’t her brother.
Panic strikes me. She couldn’t have a boyfriend. She couldn’t. How couldn’t I have known this one thing? How did I miss something as blaringly important as this? I am feeling all kinds of emotions right now, and none of them are warm. I feel confused. I feel lost. I feel sick. The room is spinning, and I suddenly have a headache.
Oh boy, that feeling.
They’ve begun counting down, and I haven’t even noticed. I’ve been sitting here, trying to forget. It is suddenly too loud to forget, and all I can do is think about it. I look over at where they’re sitting.
10. They’re both smiling and my heart is sinking lower and lower and lower.
9. Has she ever really smiled at me like that?
8. Is this my fault? Did I do something wrong?
7. The clock is ticking and they’re starting to move, pulling each other closer. She’s looking at him and only him and also not me.
6. Not me. She’s looking at him.
5. She’ll never look at me like that. And she never has.
I can’t take it. I have to get out of here. I get out of my seat and dash for the door, my steps wavering. I need air, I need air. I can’t take any of this. I just can’t be inside here right now. Not when things are like this.
I exit and step into the frigid air. It’s silent outside, the sounds of the party muffled and lost behind the walls of the house. I take in a deep breath of cold air. This is exactly how I feel right now. Cold, empty. I take a few steps forward and find myself in the yard, standing there in the snow, looking up into the clear night sky, just breathing.
There’s the sound of the door opening and closing behind me, the sound of footsteps, the crunching of snow, and someone is behind me. I can’t help myself. I can’t help but hope it’s Jennifer. I turn around. It’s Erica, and she’s looking at me, her expression troubled. “What are you doing out here?” she asks me. “I’ve fallen,” I tell her, “and it hurts.” “Tell me about it?” she asks.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She wasn’t supposed to have a boyfriend. She wasn’t supposed to be in love with someone else. This was supposed to be our day. We were supposed to finally notice each other at the same time. Something… Something was supposed to happen. I can’t breath. It’s all just... Okay, deep breaths. Did I ever tell you what my New Year’s resolutions were? One of them was to make myself the very best person I could be, and the other one was to make her happy. Goddamn, that’s all I wanted, for her to be happy. For us to be happy. But she has a boyfriend. Oh, god, she has a boyfriend.”
Erica’s been patiently listening this whole time, concern on her face. I want to say more, but that’s really all there is to be said. Somehow, I feel better. I close my eyes and take another breath. When I open them again, Erica is watching me. Our eyes meet, she speaks. “Maybe the day doesn’t have to be ruined? Maybe there’s somebody else out there for you…” She looks at me hopefully, “Maybe there’s someone else who’d like to notice you at the same time that you notice them.”
It finally hits me. This is new. I gulp.
“Well, the day’s over,” I say, “It’s probably already ended.” “Oh,” she says, “then happy New Year.” “Happy New Year,” I say. “I guess it’s a new year now. A time for a new beginning, the start of something new?” she asks. “I guess everything’s in the past now,” I say.
We both start leaning forward. “Happy New Year,” I say again. “Happy New Year,” she says. And then I feel warm. I feel elated. I feel infinite.
Mentally, I revise my New Year’s resolutions. I would very much like to be the very best person I can be, and I would very much like to make Erica happy. It’s only now in the lingering moments after our kiss that I finally realize how absolutely wonderful her smile is.
Disclaimer: This story contains mature language and/or themes.
Apathy, for Good Measure
Your cell hadn’t been built with comfort in mind. It is bleak, gray, and small. The bunk is hard, the sheets thin and scratchy. The only light pours in from a little, barred window. The cell is a very depressing accommodation overall.
But it’s not like you notice.
You’re lying down in your bunk thinking about what they’ve been saying. They think you don’t understand. But you understand even more than they do.
They call you a murderer.
They call you a monster.
But what they don’t realize is that they’re the monsters. They’re trying to contain you. What have you done? Were you not simply subsiding to your true feelings? What they don’t realize is that deep down they are all just like you.
They don’t care.
But that’s okay. You don’t either.
The night I returned from my family’s trip to Mexico, I felt ill. We had barely made it into the house when I dropped my bags, ran to the restroom, and vomited all over the sink our help had cleaned earlier that day in anticipation of our arrival. If I had held it in for a moment longer, I might have made it to the toilet. I remember thinking, Jess is going to kill me. She’s been cleaning all day and when she gets here tomorrow morning she’s going to kill me.
“John, are you all right?” called my mother, having just gotten into the house herself.
I stayed where I was, hovering over the sink, breathing heavily. I had no idea whether I was going to throw up again, but I couldn’t be sure.
My little sister Mary appeared in the doorway. She surveyed the scene. Her little nose wrinkled at the smell. “John’s sick!” she shouted down the hall, her nose clenched between two fingers.
“What?” said my mother, concerned. Mary scurried away and my mother took her place. She glanced in, her nose wrinkled, etc. “Oh, my poor baby,” she cooed, “Are you all right? Try and throw up again, it’ll make you feel better.”
“No, I think I’m fine now.”
“All right then. Go wash up and lay down in your room. I’ll call Jess and have her clean this up.”
“No, it’s fine. We don’t need to bother her right now.”
“John, it’s her job. She’d be more than happy to come here and clean.” And that was the end of that. She walked off.
I took a towel and wiped at my face. I left it on the floor and left for another restroom so I could wash up. When I got there, I swished some water around in my mouth for a bit and spit it back out. The water was an ugly color. I tried not to think too much about it.
I splash some cold water onto my face and dried off with a clean towel. I sighed and let myself hang there for a moment, examining my face in the mirror. I was tired, obviously. There were bags under my eyes. The color seemed to have just begun returning to my face.
I set the towel away and went back into the courtyard to help put our luggage away. When I got there however, most of it had already been taken in. My father was the only one left outside.
He closed the car’s trunk. “How you holding up, champ? I heard you were sick.”
“Ah well, all you need is some rest. It’ll fix right up. You probably just ate something funky down there. Dirty people, those Mexicans.”
“Oh, you’d be shocked to hear some of those stories out there.”
“Well, if you say so.” I’d found that agreeing with my father was the best way to get him to shut up. “I think I’m just going to go to bed now.”
“All right then, bud. We’ll see you in the morning.”
They come in when they think you’re sleeping. Two dressed in armored vests and one watching from afar. They think they can contain you. They think they can control all of the variables. They don’t understand any of it at all. You’re not sure if you do either, but you find it difficult to see that as a problem. The vital part is that you know more than they do, and you can use that.
When they’re close, your eyes snap open and you’re upon one of them before they can react. You bite into his neck. Armored vests are useful for covering one’s chest, yet they leave rather blaring vulnerabilities.
You like the taste, certainly, but you can’t enjoy it for too long because the others are still in the cell. They’re shouting. Not at you, but at each other. The one outside of the cell is yelling orders. The one nearest to you is shouting at him to calm the fuck down so he can think.
They only realize that shouting is useless when it’s too late. You jump the last armored vest and end him quickly. By this time the one outside the cell has regained his some of wits and begins to run. He’s still dull enough to think that shouting will help. You rise and begin after him.
It doesn’t take him very long to realize how fast you are.
The first time we had sex, I took Janice up the coast to our summer house. It was built right along the beach, and the whole thing was really scenic and beautiful. I knew Janice would like it, and as she stepped out of the car, I told her to open her eyes and I swear, she was speechless. I was so proud of myself right then.
It was our anniversary. Eight months, nine months, something like that. We made dinner together. She prepared some kind of pasta and I warmed some breadsticks I’d picked up ready-made at the story. We dined by candlelight, and when we were done I complimented her pasta and she thanked me and told me I looked nice.
She guided me to the bedroom, holding my hand gingerly. We sat down on the bed and kissed. Before it got too far, I whispered for her to wait and stepped out of the room for a moment. When I returned, I sat down next to her again and presented a jewelry case to her.
The look on her face as I opened that jewel case and helped her put it on is one of those memories that I still get a little sappy about whenever I think about it. She looked down at the necklace as it rested on her chest, and then she looked up at me and started kissing me again with a renewed ferocity.
When we made love, that necklace was the only thing she wore.
In the hushed moments afterwards, I whispered, “Hey.”
And she smiled at me and said, “Hey yourself.”
“I love you,” I said.
“I love you, too.”
First, you go to your parent’s home. It’s bordered off with yellow police tape, but you manage to duck under it and enter through the cellar door. No one is guarding it, and as it is, only the front door is being watched.
You enter the cellar, stepping on the broken shards of the pane of glass you broke so you could enter, and make your way past your father’s wine collection. You walk up the stairs and enter the first floor.
You wade your way around, the scene unrecognizable. Everything is a mess, from the furniture to the drapes to the kitchen cupboards. You stare at it for a moment and then make your way upstairs. Normally the silence of it all would unnerve you, but you hardly notice it now. All you notice is that they’ve moved the bodies, though you can still tell where they are because of the stained hardwood flooring in the hall and the generous splashes of blood on your little sister’s sheets.
You enter your old room and glance about for a moment. You take steps towards your luggage, which lies in the corner of the room unopened. Jess must have not wanted to put it away, not after the mess you made. You suppose she won’t have a chance to now.
I woke up the next morning with a dull headache. My mind was dull, save for a rhythmic pounding. I rolled out of bed and made my way into the shower. The feel of the water helped to make it all a little more bearable. I finished in the shower, dried myself up, and dressed for the day.
Jess was cooking when I entered the kitchen. “Good afternoon, Mr. John,” she greeted, a light accent to her voice.
I glanced at the clock. It really was the afternoon. It dawned on me that I was late to pick up Janice. I had promised her that we would spend some time together when I returned home.
“Oh shit,” I said. Jess pretended not to hear. She went back to her cooking. It dawned on me that she was probably upset about being called from home to clean my vomit last night.
“I’m really sorry about the vomit, Jess.” I started backing out of the room, “If anyone asks, I’m out.” I pulled on a light coat and was in my car and out of the driveway just a moment later.
Janice, as to be expected, was unhappy when I finally made it to her house. She got into my car and put on her seatbelt without looking at me.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” I told her, “I must have slept in.”
“Obviously,” was all that she said.
I sighed and put the car back in drive.
She lightened up a little bit when we got some lunch at the drive-thru. I passed the bags of food over to her and started driving on toward the park. She ate fries on the way there. When we made it to the park, I told her, One second, let me get the door for you, and got out of the car and hurried to the passenger’s side, but she was already out of the car and nibbling on her fries when I got there.
“I don’t need anyone to hold the door open for me, John,” was what she said.
We made out way over to a picnic table and ate our burgers in silence. When we finished those up, we tossed fries into the pond for the ducks, and for that moment, we were happy.
Back in the car, as we sped away from the park I asked her, “So, what do you want to do now?”
But she wanted nothing to do with me. She’d had her fun. “I want to go home now, John.”
“We could drive over to my place, if you want.”
“No, just take me home.”
“I could show you what we got in Mexico.”
“John,” she said, “are you even listening to me? I said that I wanted to go back home.”
So I did. We didn’t speak for the rest of the drive. Then, when we pulled into her driveway, I leaned down to give her a kiss. When she didn’t kiss me back, I stopped and sat back up.
She was eyeing me cautiously. “John,” she began, “I don’t think we should do this anymore.”
“I think it would be better if we stopped dating.”
My features remained static. “What did you say?” I asked.
“I think we should stop dating.”
“Why?” I asked.
She looked out the window. “We’re just different now. We’re growing up. There’s someone out there for you, and it’s not me.”
She glanced back at me. “Okay?”
She started getting out of the car. “Are you sure…?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I kept on staring straight ahead.
And yet, as I watched her walking away, I wished that for once I’d put up a fight.
You unzip the baggage and stare at its contents. Folded shirts. You paw at the Polos and toss them behind you until you’ve reached a small velvet box that sits in the middle of the case. You pick it up gingerly and open it. You stare at the earrings inside for a moment before setting it back down in the case and standing back up.
You exit the way you came in and start walking. You’re hardly even conscious of where you’re lumbering. You just know that you have to move. But the route is hardwired, and though it takes longer without a vehicle, it is undeniable that you are moving towards Janice’s house.
You step off the curb and onto her driveway. You stare at the house for a moment. No windows are lit. Everything is quiet. You begin walking to the back yard. You put your hand onto the trellis that hugs the wall of the home and begin to climb. You used to enter and exit her room via this method.
Her window, as always, is slightly open. You shove your fingers under it and pry it open. You slide inside. The sound of your feet hitting the carpeted floor wakes Janice, who was, until that moment, slumbering peacefully in her bed.
She at rubs her eyes for a moment before taking the scene in. Then, “John?”
Her eyes widen as you begin stumbling towards her. She’s crawling back, pushing her sheets off the bed and at the floor in front of you. She’s screaming. You are unfazed.
She had stolen your heart; now it was your turn to steal hers.
I'm not quite sure how this part of ZU works, I'm not here very much D:
If we are encouraged to make comments, I'd love to make a few right now and maybe get a bit more in detail later with your longer stories.
I'm sort of natural when it comes to writing, but I don't quite tickle that talent enough to make me any better than those who place enough time in the art. That said I do love reading and like to think I know a bit about what makes a piece of writing good.
Your poetry, my friend! You have certain sensibilities in your poetry the likes of which I've not found in many poets. I'm rather impressed with them. The style of them is very attractive. Each one is concise, but dense. They leave a lot of room for interpretation and analysis (which is in some cases, a pain ).
I particularly liked "Home #2" and "Closet #1". Keep it up man.
and i’m dead inside
i haunt these halls
where you once flew
about in your nightgown
and as i blank
and stare at walls
on which you’d painted
cries and screams
i don’t feel any bigger
i don’t feel as if
i know a thing
it’s all passing by
and i don’t know where i am
letters (home #6)
he picked her flowers and sent the petals in the mail
their perfume caught the air and was lifted
it brought the birds lower, and sagged their songs
soon, she receives them, with words now astray,
and shakes the petals right out
straight into the trash bin
(a sea of dead petals
and no one to admire)
so, the birds haven’t
learned a new song.
please, don’t blame them;
they’ve done nothing wrong
she asked to dance
and he thought, No
but took her hand
and they swayed
to music he had not heard before
to music he did not like
so he looked away
he looked at people
he had not seen before
people he did not like
and when he looked back
her eyes were on him
like the world wasn't there
like he was her world
and he felt shame
of some degree
he had liked the rain
until it had uprooted his home
flooded his basement
and ruined his books