Before and After Everything

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“You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn’s not expanding!”
“It won’t be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy,
and we’ve got to try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here!”

Everything is what you strain to see from the car window as you’re weighed down by a bulky seat,
and the handle won’t stop taunting because you’re alone and curious and don’t know what will happen if you pull it. Continue reading Before and After Everything

100-Word Short Stories

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I participated in a “Word of the Day” storytelling challenge in 2014. Many American University students and professors were given two or three words, mine were coffee and balcony, and tasked to tell a story, using that word, in about 100 words.


All I can see is the top of dead trees. Every now and then, the top of a truck enters view and I go crazy. Trucks are the best, and trucks are a tease. How can I stay strapped down when big things are peering down and that red line by my handle won’t stop taunting me to see if the door is locked or not? I have asked what would happen; I was told not to. But I’m alone and curious and I need to know, so I slowly reach forward and—
“Shit!” Coffee burnt my step-dads tongue.
That’s not what I expected. I promise I will never try to open the door again.


The ‘70s really knew how to ugly up a place, and it doesn’t help me sell a house now, in the twenty-teens. They would install these obnoxious hanging light fixtures just low enough to hit your head, the most baffling wallpaper, and who is it that decided wasting half of the second floor with an indoor balcony was a good idea? The most interesting things you’ll see from up there are the stains soaked into your shag carpet. Each stain has its own story, but the realtor insists that they all have to be slowly quieted, killed, with chemicals and a few hard scrubs. One story refuses to die, yelling from the grave— the spot that has been rubbed cleanest, no trace remaining that there was ever a collapse. Things are starting to quiet down now, one sale, many months and too many chemicals later.


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Poppy after orange poppy after poppy the earth laces its lack of ambition into the air as if to blind it. Do spores smell like death? No. Death doesn’t smell like anything. The smell clinging to the humidity in the air is a body decaying. Three billion years ago, maybe more, just a single bacterial spore is frozen in an ambitious comet, the remnant of a collapsed cloud of gases and dust cloaked with a thick over coat, vintage permafrost. After scheming for two hundred fifty-million years of lonely adventures, the warmth of a yellow star and a chance collision plant the seed. It is a devious sort of life that thrives on death, like a crow without a beak made for tearing into flesh that circles a bloated carcass, waiting for a tire to break the skin and continue the tradition of life after decay, after death, after sloth, after solitude, after passion, after purpose after life.


Poem inspired by and first line quoted from Dawn Lonsinger’s “The Lawn Aglow,” p. 66 in The Pinch’s Fall 2009 issue.

Time Takes Care of Us

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Autumn oughta end when the leaves fall.
When flurries of amber depress into a damp carpet unpleasant under your feet.
Nature is a drag when it stalls.

His hollow bounty overflows most of all:
Limbs, dirty shades of gold and small crawlies from beneath.
Autumn oughta end when the leaves fall.

The forest, now naked and bare, reveals him frail
and surrounded by weeds, crabgrass and trash left by teens being indiscreet.
Nature is a drag when it stalls.

He wasn’t young, but he coulda been so tall.
A long way from the friendly, fertile forest he resides: incomplete.
Autumn oughta end when the leaves fall.

He sags solemnly in silence as the seasons forestall.
Winter waits patiently to pity the deserted with defeat.
Nature is a drag when it stalls.

He wasn’t even visible, after all.
No one was around to hear a fallin’ tree’s warning call.
Autumn oughta end when the leaves fall;
Nature simply lets us stall.

Note: This poem is a villanelle, a form characterized by repetition and circuity. Lines and rhymes from the first stanza are repeated throughout, very specifically, in this 19-line poem.

When viewed from space…

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it is an irregularity
that attempts to exceed its bounds.
An organic poison
disrupting the natural health of its host.
It can be easily identified
(from a distance)
as an aberration in
natural order.
Two applications of radiation have proven effective,
at stymieing aggressive growth. Sometimes
it has shoes.


This poem inspired by Bill Hicks.

The Trail of Feathers

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America can take a billion and really cut it down to size.
The British billion was a million million—
a one followed by twelve noughts.
What’s the difference?
Three nines followed by nine noughts.

a billion is big.
A billion is every cheesy wotsit filling up the back of 772 windowless white vans.
A billion is a stack of pennies reaching 963.12 miles into the sky.
A billion is two to the power of thirty, or two doubled thirty times, give or take about 74 million.
A billion is just one flock of passenger pigeons blocking out the sun as they fly over Louisville,
undiminished for three straight days.
America can take a billion and really cut it down to size.

There was a time when the air was literally filled with pigeons and onlookers suffocated
on feathers while fathers and sons stood on the river bank
and pointed their shotguns towards a feast.

On September 1, 1914, Martha, named after our first first lady, fell off her perch in Cincinnati.

Executable (short story)

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Everyone loves pizza night. Stevie gets to have stuffed crust, Mom doesn’t have to cook and, for me, Pizza Hut has some delicious wings. Stevie is already gnawing on his first piece crust-first before Mom comes to the table. She picks up her knife while taking out the Granny Smith apple hiding under her apron and quickly cuts it into pieces. She gives Stevie and I each half before he has time to finish chewing his two mouthfuls of food.

She stands up with her empty glass and puts her hands on her hips. “Now, Stevie, you have to eat that apple too, not just cheese.” He scowls and nods his head; I laugh and diligently pick the drum sticks out of the box of hot wings. They’re the best. A low hum starts to build until it covers the sound of chewing. “Ugh. The fridge is acting up again. We just had someone come look at it this afternoon and he didn’t find anything wrong with it. I think he might have taken the stuff I bought for a salad tonight, too,” Mom says while banging on the side of the fridge. “Oh, it stopped. Well, you still won’t get away without me making you eat something green, will you Stevie?” Continue reading Executable (short story)