“Plague of Dragons”
the world opens up as a new monster
looms on the horizon, belching fire,
slaughtering victims without thought
to gender, creed, or age: the smallest
of the small, resistant to her older
brother’s charms, no longer spared
not content to massacre millions by breath alone,
she melts crematoriums whose iron frames soften,
run from the heat of so many bodies burned
in so few hours, days, weeks of death; chimneys
crack from overuse, appalling mockery that mimics
hospital beds buckling from the influx of live bodies
they strain to save and might despite their failures.
Parks no longer host festivals but burning pyres
that brighten twilight like bonfires left behind
by the wyrms’ warm feasting
or colossal candles lit in earth’s cathedral
for each of those extinguished lives, bright enough
to catch the eyes of the gods in their heavens
or the demons down below.
the beast that plagued last year seems tame
beside his younger sibling, the serpent virulent
exhaling flame who does not deign to spare
the lives of children.
Will she leap across the waters, span
the ocean, leave that far off land
to spread her curse upon
our slowly awakened shores?
Does she await our recovery
only to make her scourge more felt?
Thanks for stopping by my blog. If you’d like to read about the crafting of “Plague of Dragons,” check out my Patreon next week for a free technical breakdown of the poem.
I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be reading selections from my book, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, at Barberton Library on Saturday, September 11th at 2pm! I will also be selling and signing copies of the book for those who are interested.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and read often!
*inspired by the Indian variant of the Covid-19 virus.
“last year’s revels” the toddler rolls from bed, a ballerina princess excited for the special day ahead, anticipates her long-awaited party. strawberry-topped chocolate cake with a grape soda chaser, she’s fueled for festivity: rainbowed streamers wave above a table piled with gifts, sunshine yellow ribbon seals each shining gold wrapper, as storm clouds gather unheaded outside her window’s thin glass. she tears a first package apart, eager, greedy for its contents, frowns at the dimestore damsel’s impossible figure and painted smile, tosses her aside for another bright box’s glinting temptation, enchanted to find inside flint enough to fire her tinder home. caffeine-fueled and sugar-dosed, she blazes pirouette on tip-toes, ecstatic homage to firenadoes swirling flame outside her door. she watches in delight, her face crimson bright as a demon risen to scorch this mortal earth with hellfire. hay-colored landscapes wither, flames kindle the world: fireworks enough to entertain her swollen all-too-childish brain. she collapses, in a fit of giggles watches murder hornets bloom across the blood red sky. her joy indisputable on a face free from the thin cotton mask she refuses to wear. she knows these days are hallowed, these endless nights will last for years to come. exhausted from her revels, quietly she tears the Barbie’s bloodless arms; the doll’s blank eyes reflect nothing, the hollow chest holds her silent scream, her frozen face beaming an eternally vacant grin. #
Today’s poem was inspired by a prompt to write a poem personifying the last year. Many thanks to Diane Kendig and Cuyahoga County Library for their Read + Write Poetry daily postings, which included this prompt!
If you’d like to know more about the craft that went into this poem, next week I will be posting a poem dissection on my Patreon–which is free during the pandemic. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, stay well, and read often!
What mask!? Oh, I have so many… Invisible.
Disposable. I Replace each time
the least uncomfortable Those eyes
I have more than I need given I rarely leave
I have different masks. One for work.
Another patriotic. I wear all at different times.
It depends on my mood hopeful
sometimes, painful other times,
but rarely removed
When customers, friends n family talk to me
about politics or the news
my face is my mask I put on when I'm depressed
I have playful ones but for my job,
disposable Funny not funny.
My private one simple and lovely.
I have so many, but mostly wear
my Edge of insanity
I have designed these masks
the ones I refuse to wear
hard to breathe
I have a lot of masks
but today it’s this one…
Standard but pretty on the front.
A smile, nod, wink that says everything’s just fine.
*Found Poem based on tweets found in this thread based on the question, “What’s your mask like?”
on the eve of my mother’s birth
and the swearing in of a new leader
last night i dreamed:
i came upon a strip mall
and stumbled upon the store
my father had built from scratch
all those years ago
i did not dare believe my eyes
though it seemed too real
not to be believed i ran
inside hoping for a glimpse
of the man that ruled my childhood
my hero who taught me chess
gave me his own bike to ride
today i thought i saw another gone
silhouette perched upon the windowsill
he died so long and yet not so long
i longed so to see his familiar face
i could not help but catch a glimpse
his bald(ing) head and bright brown eyes
today my mother opens chocolates
“her president” as her present
she says as each morsel melts washed
down with a cup of steaming Lady Grey
i couldn’t quite catch a glimpse of another
dear departed, gold fur and eyes brown
as warm caramel, i couldn’t quite help
but wonder what else dies and is born today
sometimes we need to coat our tongue with
warm sugar, sweeten our swallowed bitterness
is this a new beginning or another end?
**In my previous post I said I was going to resume regular scheduling in February, but since this poem is topical I decided to post it today. Normally I let poems sit between edits, but obviously that would not work for a timely posting, so (although edited) this poem is more raw than what I normally share.
Happy New Year! Hopefully, 2021 will be less problematic than 2020.
In the meantime, I’ll share the books I’ve read in the past year. Due to the recent interesting times, many of them are books I’ve read before. When I want a comfort read, I’ll often reach for old favorites: Cyrano de Bergerac and The Walking Dead graphic novels are among my favorites. Since the list is pretty long (I’ll reach 100 one of these years!), I’m listing them by title. If you would like me to go into detail about any of these books, just leave a comment or contact me on social media. I love discussing books!
If you’d like to read one of these selections yourself, I’ve included links. Many of the reads were ebooks and audiobooks via various platforms, often through local libraries. I’ve always loved digital format, but in the past year it’s been more important than ever. Enjoy the list! Maybe you’ll find something you’ll like too.
BOOKS READ 2020:
1 Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters (audiobook via Librivox.org)
2 So Marvelously Far (poetry collection) by Nick Gardner
3 The Ugly Side of the Lake (poetry collection) by Jason Baldinger and John Dorsey
4 Triple Threat (poetry collection) by John Dorsey
5 The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (ebook via Overdrive)
6 Our House on the Sand by Elaine Schleiffer (chapbook)
7 The Answer Is Not Here by Lisa M. & Sean Thomas Dougherty (chapbook)
8 Jigsaw Con Life 3 via Beautiful Blasphemy (ebook/ mini chapbook)
9 Siron: a Kaiju Thriller by S.T. Hoover
10 Mothmaw by Faryl (Hoover) (ebook)
11 The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley (audiobook via Audible)
12 Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (ebook via manybooks.net)
13 Resident Evil volume 1: The Umbrella Conspiracy by S.D. Perry (ebook)
14 Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (audiobook via Overdrive)
15 ODD LOTS, SCRAPS & SECOND-HAND, LIKE NEW Poems by Will Wells (trade paperback/poetry)
16 The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (ebook via Overdrive)
17 Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Audible audiobook)
18 Paradise Lost by Milton (NOOK ebook)
19 The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (HOOPLA Digital ebook)
20 Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan (ebook)
21 ETERNALS by Neil Gaiman (graphic novel via HOOPLA)
22 The Abortion by Richard Brautigan (Audible audiobook)
23 The Walking Dead vol 1: Days Gone Bye by various
24 The Walking Dead vol 2: Miles Behind Us by various
25 The Walking Dead vol 3: Safety Behind Bars by various
26 The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart’s Desire
27 The Walking Dead vol 5: The Best Defense by various
28 Quintessence by William F. Devault (ebook)
29 Meat and Bone by Sandra Feen (paperback)
30 The Walking Dead, Vol. 6: This Sorrowful Life
31 The Walking Dead, Vol. 7: The Calm Before
32 The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer
33 The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain
34 The Walking Dead, Vol. 10: What We Become
35 A Bullet for Cinderella by John D. Macdonald (ebook read on NOOK app)
36 The Walking Dead, Vol. 11: Fear The Hunters
37 The Walking Dead, Vol. 12: Life Among Them
38 The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone
39 The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out
40 The Walking Dead, Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves
41 The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World
42 The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear
43 The Walking Dead, Vol. 18: What Comes After
44 The Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to War
45 The Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War, Part 1
46 The Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War, Part 2
47 The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning
48 The Walking Dead, Vol. 24: Life and Death
49 The Walking Dead, Vol. 25: No Turning Back
50 The Walking Dead, Vol. 26: Call to Arms
51 Appalachian Frankenstein Vol 2 by John Dorsey (paperback poetry collection)
52 The Poems of Sappho: An Interpretive Rendition into English (ebook via Manybooks.net)
53 The Walking Dead, Vol. 27: The Whisperer War
54 F**K: An Irreverent History of the F-Word by Rufus Lodge (Kindle ebook)
55 The Walking Dead, Vol. 28: A Certain Doom
56 The Walking Dead, Vol. 29: Lines We Cross
57 Ariel by Sylvia Plath (NOOK ebook)
58 A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca (ebook via Overdrive)
59 The Walking Dead, Vol. 30: New World Order
60 The Walking Dead, Vol. 31: The Rotton Core
61 The Walking Dead, Vol. 32: Rest In Peace
62 The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (ebook via Overdrive)
63 Wonder Woman volume 4: War (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)
64 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 1 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)
65 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 2 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)
66 Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search ~ Issue 3 (graphic novel via HOOPLA DIGITAL)
67 Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (ebook via Overdrive)
68 The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura (ebook via Overdrive)
69 The Short Stories Volume One by Philip K Dick (ebook via Overdrive)
70 Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick (ebook via Overdrive)
71 Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage (Audible audiobook)
72 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight / retold in modern prose, with prefaces and notes, by Jessie L. Weston. (NOOK ebook)
73 The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (NOOK ebook)
74 The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (audiobook via Audible)
75 Drop Jaw by Rikki Santer (Trade paperback)
76 Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (NOOK ebook)
77 Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Overdrive)
78 Unbound (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Libby)
79 The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi (ebook via Libby)
80 Revisionary (Magic Ex Libris) by Jim C. Hines (ebook via Libby)
81 Orpheus and Eurydice: A Lyric Sequence by Gregory Orr (poetry collection ebook via Hoopla Digital)
82 Fort Pitt Tunnel Blues by John Dorsey (free ebook)
83 Wonder Woman: The Circle (graphic novel via Hoopla)
84 A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen by Kari Gunter-Seymour (Trade paperback)
85 Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (ebook via Overdrive app)
86 Dearly: New Poems by Margaret Atwood (ebook via Overdrive app)
87 i saw god cooking children/ paint their bones by john compton (handcrafted chapbook via Blood Pudding Press with Sandra Feen modeling on the cover art)
88 Trekonomics by Manu Saadia by (audiobook)
89 The Circus of His Bones: Poems by Steve Brightman (Trade paperback)
90 13 Ways of Looking at Lou Reed by Steve Brightman
91 The Divine Comedy by Dante: translated by Clive James (Audible audiobook)
*Currently reading/listening to:
Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
An Introduction to Haiku with translations and commentary by Harold G. Henderson
If you’d like to hear about my favorites from this list, a free complementary post appears on my Patreon. Until next time, stay safe and well and read often!
Every December for the past couple years, I’ve posted my New Year’s resolutions. I do this as a way of holding myself publicly accountable to ensure I stick with them for the next twelve months. Since starting this tradition, this is the first time I’ve failed to accomplish them all.
That sounds bad, and it is–but it’s also understandable. Despite unforeseen complications, a worldwide pandemic, and some personal crises, I accomplished some of my goals–not all. Honestly, I may have been able to if I really pushed myself, but I decided against this for two reasons: my mental health and the quality of my work. I felt that under the hellacious circumstances of this year, if I pushed myself too hard, they both would suffer. I wasn’t willing to make that trade to meet a self-imposed deadline.
My 2020 RESOLUTIONS (and how I fared):
Submit my short story collection to a publisher.
DONE. I did this by the end of January.
Publish my short story collection.
DONE. With much trial and tribulation, after several delays due to printer disruptions and other issues, Venetian Spider Press published my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories. This was the highlight of my entire year.
Market and promote my work.
SOME. In a limited capacity, I did. Last year, I promoted my poetry book, Soul Picked Clean, by reading at bookstores and libraries across Northeast Ohio. I had several events each month, sometimes many the same week, and anticipated the same type of schedule for my newest book. Unfortunately, social distancing due to the pandemic forced a different approach.
I’ve worked hard over the past few years to become more comfortable reading and performing my work in public, but I’m really uncomfortable with a lot of the technology we’ve been forced to use the past nine months. ZOOM has had security issues, and although they are supposedly resolved, I’m reluctant to use their platform because they have not been forthcoming in the past. Unfortunately, almost all the poetry events seem to use that platform.
However, I was able to work around this issue with some help from very understanding people. Instead of attending a local author fair at the library, I recorded video of my author talks and readings. Instead of attending workshops and cons, I shared on social media. Instead of having a Book Release Party, I organized and participated in a Halloween-themed multi-author event via FaceBook Live. I was invited to read for a December event, and the host kindly let me phone in instead of using ZOOM. Instead of selling my books in person, I offered online deals via social media and PayPal.
NOT DONE. Pre-pandemic, I volunteered as an usher on a monthly basis for Ohio Shakespeare Festival, and I wanted to contribute to other things too. For example, years ago I had read for Librivox.org and thought if I reorganized my schedule I could do that as well.
I managed to volunteer this year up until the quarantine began at the end of March, but that was it. Instead, I increased my posting schedule on my Patreon (and made the posts free to view during the pandemic) as a way to contribute supplementary reading material during a difficult time. Little did I realize how long that time would be, and I was eventually forced to scale back to my previous posting schedule.
Submit another poetry collection to a publisher.
NOT DONE. I attempted to compile my second poetry collection earlier in the year. I picked out the poems, printed and gathered them into a folder to experiment with physically rearranging them, and made some progress before the proverbial feces hit the fan. I tried to get back on track a couple times throughout the year, but each time other things came up which took priority.
Publish my poetry collection.
NOT DONE. See above.
Do things that frighten me.
SOME. I am very nervous doing online video, especially live video, but in lieu of a book launch or author events, I participated in several live video and/or audio programs, including some new (to me) such as SpoFest Poetry & Prose and (online) Second Sunday Poets. My anxiety soared before each one, but I was able to disregard this while they were in progress by focusing on what I read and on the other participants.
I did not do any events using the ZOOM app, which I’m afraid to use because of their security issues and lack of transparency. However, I was able to participate in events where other people used ZOOM while I phoned in.
MY 2021 RESOLUTIONS (and my plans to accomplish them):
Finish compiling my second poetry collection.
I’m already partway to this goal, but I need to regain the momentum I lost this past year. But to do that, I need to regain my peace of mind first, which 2020 has shaken, so I’m giving myself a hiatus in January. Then starting February 1st (at the latest) I will start fresh on my already printed poems. I’ll create a schedule with a firm deadline which I’ll stick to religiously. Pacing is important, so the schedule will be light but strict, that way I can always work ahead as I’m inspired.
Submit my second poetry collection to a publisher.
I’m fond of indie presses, for obvious reasons: both my books have been published by them. Also, I know and respect a lot of people who run their own small presses, so I plan to submit to an indie press.
Regain my former schedule.
I’ve lost a lot of steam this year, as well as many of my traditional outlets. With the vaccine on the horizon for the general population, I’m hoping things will slowly get back to normal. When social distancing restrictions relax so libraries, bookstores, and other venues resume their former hours, I will return to my previous monthly activities: volunteering at Ohio Shakespeare Festival and attending poetry events. Obviously, this one depends on forces beyond my control, so I’ll have to see what happens.
Do things that scare me.
I promise to be open to opportunities and not resist them simply because I’m afraid. I started this one when I honestly looked at myself and realized the main thing holding me back from my goals was my own fear. Since I first made this resolution several years ago, I’ve never regretted it.
This year has been hellish for a lot of people, myself included, and while I don’t think the New Year will magically make everything better, I do think things will get better. Although I did not accomplish all my goals, I did the best I could under the circumstances. Venetian Spider Press published my second book, and although I wasn’t able to promote it in person, I did promote it and made some sales. Despite social distancing, I kept in touch with my friends and family.
I know this is a dark time for a lot of people. I really want to end this post on a high note, but I also think it’s important to recognize that; even though you try to focus on the positive, sometimes things just suck. It’s okay to feel bad, and if everything gets too much, it’s okay to seek help.
I’m not ashamed to say I needed help this year. What tipped me off was when I lost interest in books, in reading poetry, and in writing. I’ve loved books since before I could read. I remember annoying the hell out of my mother by asking her to read every sign on the highway, instructions on boxes, and anything else that would help me learn. So when I lost interest in books, I knew I needed professional help.
If you notice yourself having symptoms of depression (such as loss of interest in things that normally give you joy), please seek help. You’re worth it.
Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you’ll return in January. I’ll start 2021 with a post about the books I read in 2020, so maybe you’ll find your next great read! In the meantime, stay safe and well, and Happy New Year!
“Diana Prince for President“
No Blue No Matter Who
but someone brave and true
an Independent candidate
her only mandate:
to heal the world.
Instead of quick fixes, cures
Instead of ignorance,truth
Instead of violence, peace
Instead of hatred, love
No need of accoutrements:
lasso, bracelet, or tiara.
Her character’s unimpeachable.
Steve Trevor could be her VP.
The call to act with love
against the hate that spills into our streets
Not follow the same drummer’s beat, beat, beat
while others are simply beaten
Fighting hate with hate increases
the blaze across our states
Fighting hate with love abates outbreaks
soothes the aching wounds of history
Kindness is not complacency
Shake this world gently
Shake this world with love
Shake this world with peaceful protest
Shake this world with words
Words have power
Happy Fourth of July weekend!
I know this poem seems especially written for the current circumstances, but I actually wrote it June of 2018 as a response to a tweet I read on twitter about the usefulness of nonviolent protests. I was also inspired by this quote from Ghandi: “Where there is love there is life. In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
Another special thing I’d like to do this weekend is offer my poetry collection, Soul Picked Clean, on sale at a discounted price to celebrate both the Fourth of July (Saturday) and my birthday (Friday)!
If you’d like a copy of my poetry collection, Soul Picked Clean, for only $10, please credit my paypal at this link, and don’t forget to include your address so I know where to mail the book!
Stay safe, stay well, and read often!
“The Great Pause”
our world holds its breath
as Mother Nature exhales
sighs of relief recede
clouds of carbon dioxide
from towering cityscapes
over brilliant barren avenues
satellite images clear like
a slate wiped suddenly clean
wildlife boldly ventures out
exploring storefront windows
from sunlit asphalt lanes
goats nibble untamed hedges
wolves play in lush backyards
occupy empty park benches
pink flamingos stroll across
pristine snow-white beaches
stags sport oak and maple racks
high and wide as their forest homes
mounting marble cathedral steps
beneath brilliant sun stained glass
as grey-skinned dolphins swim
unmolested in blue-green waters
while for once we are the ones
trapped behind translucent glass
looking out at the world
Since we are midway through National Poetry Month, I thought I’d take a moment to review. As you know, all in-person poetry events have been cancelled or postponed due to the current pandemic, but the poetry community has come together in other ways. I was honored to have my poem, “Poet,” featured on April 5th for Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Read + Write: 30 Days of Poetry!
April 23rd is Shakespeare’s birthday, so be sure to honor the Bard by reading a book, watching a play (online), or sharing poetry! I’ve linked a few free resources, in case you don’t know where to start, and many libraries offer free online materials as well through their own websites, as well as apps like Hoopla and Overdrive. Local theatres are struggling now (for obvious reasons), so you could make a donation to your local playhouse or attend a local online event (like Ohio Shakespeare Festival). You could also do some silly celebrations, such as Talk-Like-Shakespeare Day!
Also, since this blog is mostly poetry, you may not be aware that I’ve written quite a bit of prose over the years, mostly flash fiction. Lately I have been featuring a weekly free flash fiction post and podcast on my Patreon. This is my way of providing some free reading material for people currently stuck at home, as well as generating excitement for my upcoming book, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories!
I hope you enjoyed my poem! Remember, if you are quarantined at home, you are helping to save lives. If you need to venture out to work to keep everyone else going during these difficult times, thank you. Your efforts are appreciated, and my heart goes out to you all.
Take solace in the good things, and try to get through the bad. Stay safe, stay well, and read often!
Socially distant, virtually inseparable
the links between us:
the ways we touch others,
not warm fingers interlaced
but swept across cool keyboards,
music shared across balconies,
tasting notes like a crisp wind
crossing borders and boundaries,
not the comforting embrace
but the smiling face miles away,
countries or continents or
six full feet apart
so long as we’re not six feet under
we can bridge any distance.
smoothly typed texts, raised
voices spanning gaps, our words
heard by ears, read by wide eyes,
felt by drumming heartbeats:
emotion’s rising tide.
in this new world of isolation,
We all pull together.
April is National Poetry Month, and although many poetry and writing events have been cancelled due to the current world crisis, we have also come together in other ways through technology. Many open mics, book launches, and other meetups have switched to virtual venues, and people are searching for new ways to come together, support each other, and consume art.
So in the spirit of this unity, I’d love to share some online venues to help get through these trying times. My favorite poetry magazine, Rattle, has a podcast and a virtual open mic called Rattlecast that meets/posts weekly. The FaceBook group for Latitudes Poetry Night has switched from monthly (in person) meetups to weekly Wednesday night (online) Open Mics as a way to support others during quarantine. Different libraries have switched to online meetups for book clubs such as Barberton Library’s monthly Hooks and Books.
There are also free downloadable ebooks from ManyBooks.Net, Project Gutenberg, and (for audiobooks) Librivox. And, last but not least, many libraries have online resources as well for checkouts–as well as other events. My favorite of these is the annual Read + Write: 30 Days of Poetry via Cuyahoga County Public Library; just sign up on the site for April emails with poems from Ohio poets as well as writing prompts.
This year, on April 5th, one of my poems from Soul Picked Clean will be the featured poem for Read + Write. I’m so honored to be part of this event and beyond thrilled!
So, I hope you enjoyed my poem! If you can, I urge you to take advantage of some of these online resources. If you are quarantined at home, you are helping to save lives. If you need to venture out to work to keep everyone else going during these difficult times, thank you. Your efforts are appreciated, and my heart goes out to you all.
Take solace in the good things, and try to get through the bad. Stay safe, stay well, and read often!