New piece on Prison Notes: Sexual Assault in America’s Jails | The Public.


1L Sketch #3: (untitled)

January 18, 2014

Dirt tangled vine embrace

Ragged wounds in my house

The tree I cannot kill

mocks me with its warm growth

in my chest

You dumb heart

Fix another mimsy, why dontcha?

Talk about the talk about the

talk about the past

Give yourself a ‘fresher course in

your friends’ lives and all of your inabilities

Or trade up, date up, and never marry


There’s a bluebird that wants to get out

but I won’t let him because I’m a coward

Both life and poetry are easier when you only show the tips of

your icebergs

It’s safer to hide that which  is

made real by the attention of others

But where do you even go from there?

Back yourself into a corner

where the adrenaline flows

so you become feisty like a hobbit in a corner

instead of the palsied house-hobbit you’ve become

This nine-to-five life is driving me crazy

Too much sleep, not enough life

Hook me in a couple slugs of that brown water

clear my eyes a bit

1L Sketch #2: An Ode

January 18, 2014

O! to the girl gardening next door–
I don’t even live here;
I barely live anywhere–
please, don’t.
Don’t play “Hotel California” on your phone.
If you persist, I need to be Eric Stoltz,
we need to have started making out minutes ago,
to coincide with the first chorus.
Why do you appear
Here, with interests like mine
New in town and eighteen
So fresh with vulnerabilities
and the likelihood of collapse.
You will always be next door, I think
I should take my safety blanket off
the older, worn couch I take my best naps on
and fold it on the back of your frame
Because you are the hot girl next door,
and you, unlike my love,
will never leave or die.

Jack the Rabbit

January 18, 2014


Jack the Rabbit woke up naked on the floor of his burrow. He twitched his ears a bit, shook some dust out of his once cute nose, and surveyed the room.

My hip is killing me, he thought. Old Father Time rapping on poor Jack’s door. Oh boy. Look at this place. What did you get yourself into now, Jackie-boy?

There were whisky bottles everywhere; most empty, some broken. Beer cans and half-empty glasses used as ashtrays stood at strategic sitting-and-talking points around the room, though it was clear that at some point these were abandoned in favor of the floor. What looked like half of his record collection was splayed out in a jagged semicircular pattern from the nexus of his still-turning record player like the “Rising Sun” emblem on an old Japanese war poster.

Who the hell was over last night? Jack trudged through the thick slushy snow of his memory as he scanned the room for clues. We were all at Badger’s house after we stopped in to see how Duck was doing, then… fuck, those idiots!

He quickly hopped over and shook the gutted remains of a blunt off of his sister’s copy of “Rumors.”

I can’t remember anything, he thought. Haven’t blacked out blacked out like that since the reunion.

The reunion of the day the human family had come out to paint the forest village’s portrait had been hard on everybody. It had been a serendipitous morning, when almost all the animals had just happened to be walking or foraging in the same glen. Everyone was just milling around, saying hello’s and catching up, when suddenly two full grown humans—a buck and a doe—came blundering through the trees carrying a picnic basket and several large bags. If they’d been alone, each of the animals would have bolted. But there was a feeling of solidarity in the air, so they stood their ground, staring at the curious visitors with eyes as wide and blank as if they’d been looking at an oncoming Chevy. The humans stopped, their mouths dropped open, and pointed… and a barely audible sigh rippled through the animal crowd.

“Jesus,” everyone thought at once. “Tourists.”

But these humans seemed friendly enough, for all their stupidity, and they had plenty of food, so it was some time before Duck—ever the suspicious one—noticed the Doe-Human pulling an easel and brushes from one of the bags as the Buck quietly packed up the food… and that’s when the waistcoats and suspenders came out.

Details are fuzzy. No one seems to really remember just how many children’s portraits they all posed for that day, but after the humans disappeared and the forest dwellers were left staring at each other through the haze of their food comas, all who were there remember the gaping chasm of shame and depravity that opened up inside them from their ears to their paws—or hooves, depending on the case.

Nobody could look at one another. They mumbled good-byes and staggered off one by one, never to return to that glen again. Duck was hit the hardest. Some time around when he and Badger had been forced to pose in 19th Century cavalry uniforms holding baseball mitts, he just lost it. He *kept* the waistcoat, and spent the rest of the afternoon babbling about daguerreotypes and cotton futures. Eventually he waddled off into an unfamiliar part of the forest, moved into a cave, and saw no one but the few sympathetic visitors that would occasionally venture out, from time to time, to check on his well-being.

The rest of the animals formed a sort of loose, silent confederacy of survivors. They met in small groups off and on, never mentioning the paintings (at least, never when sober; never in groups larger than two), and once a year they gathered at Badger’s for a reunion of sorts, to check in and see who was left, who was still holding on, and these, inevitably, devolved into bouts of alcoholic nostalgia.

The last reunion was the last time Jack had seen everybody from the old glen, though he could barely remember much more of the night than a game of strip poker with a couple of suburban cottontails on vacation. He’d drawn them all-in with a King-high straight and then—well, he did what jackrabbits do.

Lately, though, Jack had been running with a different crowd. They all lived in the forest, to be sure, but they weren’t faces you saw more than maybe once a year and from far away, or perhaps if you’d ventured a bit too far from home a bit too late at night. There were possums and feral cats, owls, raccoons, and even a few lizards, though these only hung out for a few hours after dusk before slumping into a dark corner to sleep off the sun-hangover. And there were coyotes now, too, showing up late and drunk from the hunt, peddling booze and pills they’d scavenged from the suburbs and half-jokingly challenging some of the smaller animals to a footrace.

“We’ll give you a head start!” Har har har.

Jack put on a pot of coffee and began shifting some of the least offensive rubble towards the door. His coffee table had been reduced to a mockery of splinters in the center of the room. At first glance, he assumed Big Bear had come by last night, gotten severely twisted on clover mead, and belly-flopped right through the thing. Which would actually be a relief, because it meant Big Bear—a master carpenter—would owe him another, better table. Again. But then he saw the bite-marks.

“Ah, Christ,” he muttered.

Surrounding the remnants of the table were a number of gnawed-through branches with green, recently-living flesh, interspersed with what appeared to be fuzzy red berries. These formed a wine-colored trail that lead away from the wreckage to a dark alcove towards the rear of the burrow: Jack’s bedroom. Jack followed the berry trail to the edge of the alcove and listened to the hissed, nasal breath he knew he would find when he got there.

“Dude, Beav,” he said. No answer. “Beav!”

There was a sound of flustered snuffling and scurrying, then two distinct paw stomps, THUMP-THUMP—the sounds of a rodent that knows it is trapped and cornered. A quiet, tense voice came out of the shadows, lisping.

“ ‘the fuck wants to know?”

“Beaver, man,” Jack tried to remain calm. “Beaver, are you chewing sumac again? You know I can’t have you doing that shit here.”

No answer.

“Beav, we’ve all tried to be understanding about this, but man, you gotta—“

“I said, who—the fuck—wants to know?”

“Beaver, it’s fucking Jack! You’re in my house!”


“Jack RABBIT, dude, what are you gonna do? What’s next? You’re gonna fight me now?


Jack sighed; they had been here before. The only way to get a sumac-addled Beaver out of his fighting stance was to slowly back away to the other side of the room and feign disinterest. Jack crouched and began lazily sniffing the ground, pretending to aimlessly look for food among the mess of his own living room, as he slowly backstepped into the opposite corner—with one eye cocked toward the alcove at all times.

“Bedroom’s probably covered in vomit right now,” he muttered as he chewed someone else’s leftover lettuce leaf and tried to look as though he was doing it idly.

After a few minutes of snuffling and pretending to be asleep, Jack finally saw Beaver poke his head out of the alcove, sniff the air, the slink the rest of the way out. Jack sat back, folded his paws, and waited for Beaver’s traditionally sheepish apology.

“Ah, dude, er…” Beaver began as he approached Jack’s corner. “Dude, I mean, I’m sorry, y’know? You know how we get.”

“Yeah, Beav, I do. Listen, just tell me—did you puke in there?”

“Ah, jeez there Jack…” Beaver looked at the ground. “I mean, I don’t think so, but ah… I mean, I could check.”

Jack put a paw over his eyes.

“No, dude, don’t worry about it, just—I’ll just do it—man, listen, I’m sorry, but I gotta ask you to take off. I’m still so fucked up and I gotta clean this place.”

Beaver looked a little dazed himself.

“Ah, you sure you don’t wanna hang out or something? I mean, I could just stay, and help or whatever.”

“No, dude, it’s fine, you’ve done enough—no, I didn’t mean it that way, just—I’ll be fine, okay, I just have a long day ahead of me; I think my parents are coming over later, I just wanna—yeah, no, they’re fine, I just—yeah, I’ll see you later, alright? Alright, later, Beav.”

Jack sat back, closed his eyes, listened as his friend Beaver made his way up the tunnel towards the surface, and let out a long sigh as he heard the leaf-hatch close far above.


What a dumb little game I played today

No more conscious than the leaf

that claps back and forth in the wind

in the alley between my neighbor’s yard and the firehouse


(the leaf)

I took advantage of myself in a weakened state

I took off my pants

I knew

I slept

She lay there asleep

I woke her up

I told her I would avoid her for the next several weeks because of how depressed I would be at my lack of self-control and forethought. That it wouldn’t be awkward, it just wouldn’t be anything. And the thought of how utterly dead and blasé I would be about the entire thing would plunge me further into a kind of despair that I still wouldn’t feel, not really, because I just don’t feel things anymore, really. She didn’t say anything for awhile. Mostly because I  didn’t say any of that. I didn’t even know it at the time. So she sat there and it galled me that she could be so robotic at a time like this, when there was so much we weren’t saying, so much we didn’t know.

I walked out her front door when we both knew.

Well, after I did. But she’s smart.

I didn’t remember her hallway being so long.

I didn’t even remember she had a hallway.

I looked around for some reason, focused on details the way you do when you know you’re doing something for the last time.

I grabbed the door knob.

I couldn’t remember if I’d locked her door behind me. She was asleep again now, and hadn’t moved much since.

I had a pen on me; maybe there was something I’d forgotten not to say. I looked down the yawning brownish tunnel of her average Buffalo three-unit vestibule, straining my eyes past the eight or so feet of floral carpet and radiators I’d definitely forgotten she had, to see what type of doorknob I’d just closed, and tried to remember what things I knew to be true about doorknobs. I reached a satisfactory conclusion that regardless of what I knew or saw I would tell myself she had a doorknob that locked automatically as you shut it.

Except I didn’t even say that.

I just left.

42 and Shades of Green

November 16, 2013

Here’s a wonderful video I found via Numberphile:

The actual, legit facts in this video blow my mind far more than any mystical connection to a number that Douglas Adams has said time and again meant nothing to him other than comic value. (Sort-Of Alert: If you haven’t read the books, you should.) The amazing literary/historical truth to the multitude of theories about this number is that he created – in the real world – an evolving group of people who will do what one of his characters did: wear yourself out on a mystery, and at the end of the night, check a bizarre, personal, and probably foolish hunch on the off-chance that it might reveal the answer. For the people with the theories mentioned in the video, that hunch is now “42”, whatever that means. For Douglas Adams’s Zaphod Beeblebrox, it was the color green. (Read the books.)

For some reason, I love that he was able to (albeit unintentionally) write onto life in such a large and meaningful way. His writing was meaningful to everyone who read it, but I never realized how cool it was that it meant that much to the 42-theorists I’d half-believed at the time I first read the books and who, had I not read the books, I might find too easy to pass off as loonies, so much that they brought his art to life in as literal a way as he probably never, ever hoped for.

Who can say no to this man?

November 7, 2013

This is yet another (see earlier posts) booking email from Sid Selleck, manager of the Fucking Hotlights, to a band in Milwaukee. Again, asking for a gig. Again, real and unsolicited. P.S. It seriously starts this way, cold-call:

Have you ever seen the scene in Speed where Dennis Hopper is in a standoff with Keanu Reeves, but they still can’t see each other, and Dennis Hopper is holding this weird detonator thing in his hand, and they keep doing these close-up shots of his hands to provide suspense by showing the detonator and also set up the importance of his watch later in the film, and even though you sort of know why they’re doing it it’s still super awkward because Hopper’s hands are so old and crinkled and kind of liver-spotted already, and the way he’s holding the detonator kind of makes it looks like he’s holding a squat silver penis in his hands, just rubbin’ one out on the high of having the stoner kid from the River’s Edge just where he wants him, all over again, but now it’s the ’90s and maybe a person could get into something like that without it hurting his career too much (although this is still Hollywood, we’re talking about, and Hollywood has always been about 8 steps less forgiving or radical than it’s national impression – which seriously, how much sense does that make: treating one of the most middle-of-the-road, skim-milk, patsy crap centers of status quo thought as though it’s a den of sin – or worse, that puddle of milk treating itself as though it were the national vanguard) and he also figures ‘hey, I’m in an elevator… fuck it, right?’ ’cause he always probably (if he’s like me, definitely) got that weird feeling in his balls when the elevator went down real fast or somebody drove a car too quickly over a sharp hill, and he wants to bring out that extra danger-sex aspect of it, to just create this total face-melting Keanu-Neo gravity-hibitionism ball blast to end his shitty life and shitty career – because honestly, cops get fucked over in situations like this – and so he’s just sort of going at it with this detonator and you’re watching like ‘what the fuck even IS this movie’ and then finally Sandra Bullock shows up in her one good role ever to keep you from feeling so gay about everything?


One of my faves, dude. Wildcat scene was pretty tits, too.


Anyways, you wanna play a show with the Hotlights in Milwaukee on September 30th? Preferably not in that tin can money pit you booked for them last time (not a deal breaker)? I mean, they’re coming through on tour so they’ll be there anyways. Might as well find some excuse to get fucked up and pet the cat, right? Let them know.


Seriously, do NOT attempt to contact me. Just talk to those kids. Or fuck it, you can e-mail me, but if I hear a know on my door I’m shootin’, and I’m a dead shot.




Sid Selleck

Manager, The Fucking Hotlights