creature of shadow and ink, smoke and oil, slipping fluidly from jackal form to raven to snake to grasping tentacles, all the better with which to circle ’round, whisper in my ears, slip inside my mouth, my dreams, all the better with which to insinuate guilt and plant fears, I can close and lock the door but you slip like sand through the keyhole, I can demand obedience but you grin as you lay flat at my feet and I dare not turn my back, untameable beast, trickster with a subtle touch, I know not to believe you but you have been my constant companion all these years and there’s something comforting about your silken words, an old lullaby to which I can always return


Dua Anpu, Lord of the Sacred Land!
Dua Anpu, Guardian of the Dead!
I ask that You guide your kin safely through the trials to come
for their heart is lighter than any feather
and they have earned their place in the Eternal Land beyond.
[Name] is mourned and will never be forgotten;
may their soul find peace at your side.
Dua Anpu, Lord of the Sacred Land!
Dua Anpu, Guardian of the Dead!

[ I don’t work with Anpu but I’ve had need of a prayer for canines lately and I don’t think Bast wants me directing those to Her, so I tried to write up one for Anpu instead. ]


Like a sailor I should be able to learn the subtle signs that herald the approach of a major front, the faint whiff of ozone on the breeze, the almost imperceptible darkening of the sky, the half-a-degree temperature drop that would otherwise be overlooked but here warns of the storm to come, warns it’s time to hunker down because this tempest can’t be outrun, you can only fasten the sails and ride it out. As captain of this ship I should be equally attuned to my own vessel and the microscopic changes in wind and tide which on an otherwise calm, clear day precede the sudden hurricane, the darkness, the lashing rain and swelling waves. I should be able to see this coming from miles off and prepare myself; haven’t I weathered these storms before? Yet still they come crashing down upon me like freak whims of nature to leave me soaked and trembling in their wake, checking for broken bones and leaks in the hull. When will I learn to recognize the approach of these forces so I might make myself ready, to meet the storm head-on if not to beat it to port?


Get ready for some word vomit, ’cause I’m thinking about labels. About the people who say we shouldn’t use them. “Labels are for soup cans” and all of that. Um… no? Labels are descriptors. “Short hair domesticated cat” is a label. “Queer asexual” is a label. “HP Compaq LA2205wg” is a label. You don’t get to determine if labels are important because each label will be important to someone. My vet will care what kind of cat I own. My partner will care about my sexual and romantic orientations. The IT department will care what kind of computer is slowly dying on me. Labels are just words and words are kind of really important for communication and stuff. Without words, without labels, we’re left saying, “Bye honey, I’m going to that place that employs me now.” “That’s my car, the…that one over there.” “Hi, I’m a person. It’s nice to meet you, other person.” Oh, but I guess person is a label too. Well shit. Yeah. You know what count as labels? Adjectives. Occupations. Colors. Emotions. Names. Kingdom. Phylum. Genus. Species. Half of what we say every day probably falls under the label (hah!) of a label, and everything else is filler. So when someone says they don’t believe in labels, they’re not saying they disagree with language in general. That’s just stupid. Who disagrees with having words to explain stuff? No, they’re saying they don’t want to learn new words, because that takes effort, and they don’t care about other people’s labels enough to expend that effort. After all, when was the last time someone said “I don’t believe in labels, so I don’t learn anyone’s names”? “I don’t believe in labels, so I don’t pay attention to street signs”? “I don’t believe in labels, so I call every animal I see a dog”? Just admit it. When you say you don’t believe in labels, you mean you don’t believe someone’s specific label is important enough to use because it’s not directly important to you. Which, you know what? Is selfish. (That’s a label too.) Labels are words, and the more words we have to explain this weird fucking world we live in, the better. If you don’t complain about all the different names for bird species or cities or diseases or religions, you don’t get to complain about the different names for someone’s gender, sexuality, romantic orientation, or anything else that makes that person better understand who they are. 


When will the dawning break? Oh endless night
Sleepless I dream of the day when you were by my side
Guiding my path; Father, I can’t find the way

You promised you’d be there whenever I needed you
Whenever I call your name you’re not anywhere
I’m trying to hold on, j
ust waiting to hear your voice
One word, just a word will do to end this nightmare

Sometimes I feel like I’m overflowing with all the things I want to tell you. They’ve accumulated over the years, you know? Eight years of stories, questions, secrets, interesting facts and finds. I want to tell you about Rose’s Pawn Shop; I think you’d get a kick out of the fact that my favorite band is a bluegrass band. I want to tell you I ended up majoring in Geoscience and History, not English; would that surprise you, or not? I want to tell you about this Roger Zelazny short story I read – it has the Mary Celeste and the Flying Dutchman in it! I want to tell you about field work in New Mexico, climbing to the base of the Nisqually glacier, studying Japanese biological warfare, and the crazy, wonderful professors who made that all possible. I want to tell you about trying to explain recycling to immigrants from Sudan, Vietnam, Ukraine; I want to tell you about teaching emergency preparedness to children and teenagers and adults. I want to make you see Jurassic World with me, even though we both know it will be awful. I want us to go see Jaws in theaters for its 40th anniversary. I want to tell you I remember the first time we watched that movie, and every movie you ever showed me. I want to tell you I discovered the magic and power of Bradbury too late to discuss him with you, and I’ll always regret that. I want to tell you I’ve finally fallen in love, and I know you’d like her, and I know you’d be happy for us. I want to tell you I look at time differently now, and relationships, and life. I want to tell you we’re okay, but we miss you terribly, and things can’t ever be the same.

I know that the night must end
And that the sun will rise, and that the sun will rise
I know that the clouds must clear

And that the sun will shine, and that the sun will shine

I know that the night must end
I know that the sun will rise
And I’ll hear your voice deep inside


the tricky thing about invasive thoughts is what if they’re right? because their source isn’t always irrational in and of itself, it’s not irrational to worry about megaquakes when you live on the West Coast where the plates sink and melt beneath your feet, where pressure builds offshore for hundreds of years only to one day, one singular unexpected inexplicable moment just snap and send shock waves rippling through earth, water, air and reduce order to chaos, it could happen any time so you start looking for signs just in case, do earthworms on the pavement mean something’s coming, can they feel the tension in the soil about to erupt, is that why the birds are gathered in such strange patterns, the animals restless, was that a tremor just now or the dryer upstairs? and the irony, always the irony that anxiety doesn’t make you better prepared, compulsive obsession doesn’t give you any mastery over these forces, they just make you more aware of all the things that can go wrong, oh are you ever so aware of all the things that can go wrong