#2486

Here we are again, back at the annual attempt to jumpstart my inert heart. Summer’s smoke scorched it dry and now I must perform an autumnal resurrection with mummy’s dust and witch’s brews, guttering candles and rattling chains. Can I be honest, though, Ray? I’m tired. Bone tired. I can’t recall when last soft rains came to wet these gargoyle lips and set free the words frozen in stone. I don’t know if I have the strength left to whistle monsters home to roost on cathedral eaves. I feel like Mars long abandoned by native civilization and colonizers alike, just fifty-six million square miles of red sand and dust-covered ruins and the trash of a thousand forgotten generations. I feel like a barren rock hurtling through space that has never known a single Halloween. Yet the full harvest moon shines a bright gold coin in the sky on this equinox eve and I’m gonna try, Ray, I really am, though what kind of jack-o’-lantern tree will grow from soil this parched I do not know. But with your words as my witness, I’ll try.

#2485

I carry the Disaster Dead with me always: Okawa’s precious children, lost to the waves; Pompeii’s huddled masses, lost to the ash; Titanic’s frozen passengers, lost to the cold. And more, so many more taken by pandemics, hurricanes, heatwaves, earthquakes, wildfires, famine. The burden of their unnecessary deaths is a reminder of the necessity of knowledge. Knowledge empowers the uninformed. Knowledge prepares the vulnerable. Knowledge saves lives that might otherwise fall to preventable, or at least mitigable, forces. There are no natural disasters, after all, only natural hazards exacerbated by human action – or inaction. Okawa’s children did not have to die within reach of high ground. Texans did not need to freeze in their homes. The west coast does not have to burn every summer for longer and longer periods until “fire season” becomes a meaningless phrase.

The Disaster Dead are also a reminder of my own self-ordained responsibility to ensure the people of my homeland do not share a similar fate, that we do not doom ourselves to repeat the past simply because we refuse to learn from its most painful lessons. What else can soothe the wailing of the Disaster Dead? What else can truly honor their memory? Never forget is a trite, passive promise when our historical knowledge stretches back thousands of years. We never forgot the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, but what good did that do us in 2020? Never again is the promise we must make and uphold as a global society. Never again should we allow greed to outweigh the common good. Never again should we ignore experience or science in favor of ignorance. And never again should we allow the loss of lives we could have saved with care, dedication, and preparation.

I carry the Disaster Dead with me always. Some speak louder than others, and some may have come to me sooner, but I carry them all. I mourn them, I honor them, and I try my best to uphold my vow to them – never again.

#2484

In the end it isn’t Cascadia who comes to me at all but her mother Gaia, she whose incandescence alchemizes stone into liquid, birthing a great fiery ring of volatile children. She watches with pride as they shape the landscape of her body through sudden cataclysms and eons-long processes deep within her crusts. Cascadia, Mariana, Tahoma, Krakatoa, Mazama, how they rend the brittle earth, how they sink cities beneath waves and raze them with mudflows! How they shake the very planet when they unleash their full energy! It has taken humanity thousands of years to determine how her children work such miracles and disasters, but Gaia does not mind. There is still much for them to discover about the tectonic mysteries of subduction, collision, and volcanism, still so many scientific revelations awaiting those who best understand and truly respect the awesome might of her geologic offspring. That respect serves mankind well, at least when they are willing to listen to something besides their own greed. And when they are not… well, her children are there to act in Gaia’s honor and remind mortals by whose grace they reside on her creation.

New Zine – “turn to geology on your deathbed”

My 8th zine is here to rock your world! “Turn to geology on your deathbed is full of poetry, prose, and hand-drawn art celebrating the nature and lamenting our role in its destruction. Topics include geology, nature, disasters, climate change, environmental justice, and the burden of being alive in such a dark time. The work here is filled with grief, rage, awe, hope, and responsibility.

As always, you can find physical and digital versions of my zines in my Kofi shop! Physical copies are just $5 plus shipping and digital versions are free/pay-what-you-want.

https://ko-fi.com/onlyfragments/shop

#2483

After a night spent tossing and turning, grieving the endless noise of humanity and the oppressive heat of summer, the pale September dawn extends a peace offering of thin fog hovering over dewy fields dotted by stands of evergreens and clusters of sleepy cows. This isn’t quite reconciliation – evening traffic will still clog the city’s arteries with exhaust fumes and once white-capped mountains are still disturbingly barren – but perhaps it can serve a noble purpose anyway. Whether it’s a true promise of approaching autumn or only the last vestiges of that dying liminal season, soon to go the way of Tahoma’s dwindling glaciers, I take the gift for what it’s worth and tuck it behind my sternum for safe keeping. Some future night when I’m half mad with mourning all we’ve ruined in the name of progress I’ll pull this memory out and wrap it ’round myself like a blanket, breathing in the scent of damp soil until I finally fall asleep.

#2482

Bees bob between moss-covered statues in Gaia’s forest garden, big fat bumblebees and tiger-striped honeybees all fuzzy as dandelion puffballs. Globs of golden pollen weigh down spindly legs so they must beat their translucent wings like mad to stay aloft in the warm spring air. I hold my arms out and they gladly alight upon me by the hundreds, settling onto skin and clothing and hair; they’re light as feathers to my sturdy human frame, just ticklish as they explore this unfamiliar blossom. The bees’ droning floods my mind and vibrates down to my bones until it drowns out every dark thought, eases every tensed muscle, even soothes my aching heart. I’m one with the colony and in harmony with the secluded garden around me. I carry this precious gift from the goddess with me when I wake, the memory of bees drifting lazily through beams of sunlight like giant dust motes a balm for my weary soul when I need it most.

#2481

https://picrew.me/share?cd=crkL9nHZir

Full Name: [ REDACTED ]

Nickname(s): Mage

Alias(es): Darkelvenmage, Shatterpan, Lightbreaker, The Dark Lady, The Wanderer, Exile Queen

Rank: Captain

Ship’s Name: The Dread Ship Jolly Roger

Age: Unknown, minimum estimate 3,500+ years

Gender: Female

Pronouns: She/her

Species: High elf

Height: 6’2″

Weight: Slender build

Birthday: Unknown

Distinguishing Marks: Right hand and lower half of arm appear to be made of a substance like shadow made flesh. Fingers on that hand are shaped like long, sharp claws.

Quirks: Likes to leave graffiti around the worlds she visits.

Other Special Traits: Immortal; immune to cold and less susceptible than others to illusion magic.

Magical Abilities: Summon and control lightning; summon and control living shadows, draw down darkness, move through shadows unseen; commune with monsters and beasts; dispel illusions; minor necromancy; break wards, seals, locks, barriers, etc; most sorcery.

Fighting Style: Relies primarily on speed and agility. Takes advantage of opportunities to play dirty, loves taunting her opponent.

Preferred Weapons: Short blades, throwing knives, uncomfortable truths and mockery.

#2480

I’m woken abruptly in my dream by music blasting from a phone somewhere. I don’t recognize the song, though the band sounds like Wardruna and among the Norwegian I catch the singer saying “Loki Laufeyson” in the chorus. Stumbling through an unfamiliar house, I finally find the smartphone from which the song is erupting and shut it off. I’m so dizzy, though! Dizzy and tired like I can’t shake the sleep I was torn from so quickly. For a moment I sway where I stand, fighting to clear my head in the silence and force open heavy eyelids, then my legs give out and I fall to the floor. 

“Here,” instructs a harsh voice, “eat this.” A woman stands over me, holding out a stone on which herbs have been crushed into a paste. I recognize dandelion petals, maybe the bright yellow of turmeric. That voice isn’t one to disobey lightly so I lick the paste off without question. The drowsiness lifts a bit, allowing me to sit up and look at the speaker. Though She has never shown Herself to me in full, I recognize the Morrigan immediately – I would know that tall, thin form, those high cheekbones and proud hooked nose, anywhere. Her dark eyes bore into mine as if peering through clothing, flesh, and bone to lay bare my soul within. 

I try not to squirm under the goddess’s sharp gaze. She thrusts another stone at me, this one naturally curved like a shallow bowl. Water and the remains of the crushed herbs fill its small depression. “Save this,” she instructs. “Even if it tastes terrible, you need to finish it later.” Her tone is clipped with what seems like impatience so I jump up and hurry to find something in which to store the water. I only manage a small glass bowl, more ashtray-shaped than anything else and dusty with disuse, which I can tell when I bring it back is not deemed nice enough. The Morrigan scowls but allows it for now.

“You need to cut back,” She scolds instead, changing the subject. “What you consume clouds your mind, making it impossible for you to hear our messages or to channel your creativity.” She shows me a mental image of something small and triangular, like a pill. Does she mean medication is clouding my mind? Or does this symbolize something else, perhaps a detrimental habit or belief, or some player in my life whose bad influence I haven’t noticed? I think I ask the goddess if the unfamiliar force I’ve been feeling in my life lately could be a new god making themselves known to me and She says yes, perhaps. She also tells me to watch a god’s face when they speak to you, that even gods betray their emotions in their expressions and in this way you can tell if one is lying. Frustrated, I start to ask, “But what if I can’t see them?” because this new force has yet to show itself to me, but I don’t get the chance. Nor do I get the chance to ask Her who or what it was, though I’m sure She knows. The dream changes before I can say anything else and I do not see the Morrigan again.

#2479

“Olalla”

The river of time bends in its bed just north of here, leaving the Place of Many Berries nestled in the slower currents of its inner curve. The years have been kinder there, marked more by the growth of saplings into trees than the destruction of forests for cheap housing developments and box stores like everywhere else. The kingfishers still perch on telephone wires as they search for salmon fry in the estuary’s lazy waters; the stately heron still wades in the shallows and darts out his long neck to snap up a crab. The same decaying barns still gradually sink into the waiting soil and the same weathered fences still disappear bit by bit beneath encroaching blackberry vines. The beast of greed which devours this sleepy community’s larger neighbors has yet to turn its full ugly gaze on her bountiful woodlands, has yet to covet her velvety nights and clear, crisp mornings, and I pray it never has the chance. I pray society comes to its collective senses before bulldozers break the sacred ground of these fields sprinkled with wildflowers and tadpole ponds. This land grows children quick like deer, curious like crows, and generous as apple trees in autumn. Given a little more of time’s kindness it might raise enough generations of such honorable souls to slay greed’s beast for good – or if not, may it at least remain the last bastion of peace in our rapidly crumbling world. Hold on, home of my youth. We will try to keep you safe as long as possible.

#2478

Inanna comes to me as the Whore of Babylon, naked as the dawn with golden goblet of wine in hand. In her wake she leaves a trail of red footprints from the battlefield where she danced on her enemies’ corpses, men who thought her pendulous breasts and round hips were theirs to covet. Plump ruby lips pull back from grinning white teeth as she leans down to spear and hold my meek gaze with her gleaming starlight eyes. You owe them nothing, child, she pronounces in a voice which shakes all of existence from heavens to underworld, not gender, not desire, not beauty. You don’t owe them answers or obedience, please or thank you, respectability or humility. The goddess straightens, taking a long drink from the goblet, then licks wine off her lips like a lioness cleaning blood from her fur. She fixes me with her hard stare once more and points at me with her free hand as she adds, And you sure as fuck don’t owe them silence. Go loud.

#2476

The wolf managed to ignore its hunger the first night but tonight it’s ravenous, so desperate for the taste of fresh meat that when it catches the scent of blood on the wind it eagerly tracks the smell through rainy back alleys and dark city streets. It’s new to the hunt but knows enough to stick to the shadows while it discerns the metallic odor beneath layers of gasoline, cigarette smoke, and exhaust. It reaches the source, a pool of fresh blood at the end of a narrow alleyway, just as a body slumps to the wet pavement. 

“Oh. Hello there, lovely beast,” The pale man who stands over the discarded body licks blood from his fingers as he eyes the wolf. Its hackles rise under his flat black stare, growl rumbling out from between bared teeth – no human would dare hold a predator’s gaze so boldly. Instead of shrinking in fear the man smiles, revealing sharp canine teeth. “Aren’t you a fine one with your black fur and blazing blue eyes? Very scary.” He took a step back, gesturing with one hand to the still body. “You look hungry, though. I’m done here if you’d like the rest.”

The wolf hesitates, trying to decipher any lies through the man’s body language, to sift through his strangely indefinable scent for some hint of ulterior motive. Finding none, when the man backs up another step the wolf chooses hunger over wariness and falls upon the body, tearing into the still warm meat with relish. The stranger has disappeared by the time its hunger is finally sated.

Tanim tips his head up, surreptitiously scenting the chill evening air. This basement level apartment seems to be the place, though its unlabelled door and tightly shuttered windows certainly don’t suggest recent occupancy. His new senses haven’t failed him yet, however, so he knocks anyway. After a long moment the door cracks open and familiar dark eyes stare back at him out of a narrow, pale face. Tanim wets his lips; that hard gaze is just as inscrutable up close as it was the night before.

“Hey, I didn’t get a chance to thank you for dinner,” He holds up the bottle of obscenely expensive liquor held in his other hand and offers a tentative smile. “I thought maybe I could pay you back? My name’s Tanim.” 

Those dark eyes bore into him a few agonizing seconds longer before one side of the stranger’s thin mouth lifts in the shadow of a wry smile. He opens the door wider, stepping aside and gesturing for Tanim to enter. “Daren,” he replies. “Come on in.”

#2475

This is what it means to love the Three of Swords: no matter what choices you make, what mistakes you try to avoid this time around, still you will always come to the blood and the begging. All roads lead here, to this moment when his hands tremble and his eyes glaze with panic and his chest jerks as he sucks in each staccato breath, only to choke up blood on exhalation. Even if you do nothing to hasten this end you will still wind up on your knees beside him one day, your fingers brushing back his tangled hair and wiping at his tears while you plead, “Stay, darling, please, hold on, you can’t go yet.” But he has no choice; his heart was pierced long ago and that unhealed wound bleeds eternally just like yours. He too must have a failsafe in case the time comes when you cannot bear to take up the knife and commit the deed yourself. Did you really think he would be exempt from your shared fate?

Did you really want him to be?

#2474

Sometimes it really is this simple: a pile of tangled blankets on the floor, his arm laid across your chest, pale morning light filtering through the half closed curtains. See how gently the dawn limns his strong hands and washes over a brow smoothed by restful sleep. Even you who love to ruin good things are loath to break this fleeting peace and so you lay still, your only movement the slow gliding of your fingers through his sable hair. There will be time later to dwell on the past, to dread the future, to define yourselves by mistakes instead of the good intentions with which they were made. In this finite fragment of your infinite existence you are simply two men, together and in love, and it is enough. May it last.

#2473

In my dream I crush spell ingredients against my palms, selenite and lavender and something gritty like sand or charcoal, while behind me a friend whispers sacred words and rubs herbs into the skin at the base of my neck. I look up into the blue dome of the sky where a bright full moon hangs and begin to pray. As I do, a woman appears in the sky beneath the moon, her voluptuous body and flowing robes all rich shades of green; at the same time, above the moon appears the planet Saturn, as close and vibrant as the moon itself. I raise my hands, palms pressed together, and cry out to this glorious vision of Gaia who smiles down at me: Please, give me control of my dreams again, take away my fear, help me be strong! The goddess spreads her arms wide and I’m enveloped in a violet aura of holy energy, the music of birdsong filling my ears as the blessing swirls around me. When it dissipates I’m left shaking with adrenaline and awe.

#2472

Ah, the divine duality of man:
that he may bend himself so studiously 
to the lifelong search for enlightenment
yet still pass wind and pull his wedged robes from his bottom
and in doing so find the very enlightenment he pursues!

[ An eccentric Buddhist monk told me this in a dream and I swear it was very important despite the toilet humor. ]

#2471

I am above all things the scribe. That is my gender, my religion, my morality and creed. See these? They are the scribe’s bones. And these? The scribe’s breasts. Cut open my organs and watch them bleed ink. Uncoil the long strands of my DNA and see how words build its base pairs, not polymers: scribe, sesh, scrība, scríobhaí, grammateús, dubsar. The gods claimed me for their own at my spiritual conception, pressing their fingerprints into the soft surface of my newborn soul so I would carry their whorls and ridges forever. I do not know who I am outside of this role because I do not exist as a complete being apart from it. I am the scribe before every name I have ever borne and beneath every face I have ever worn. And I will be the scribe in every life, in every universe, unto the end of all existence.

#2470

Awake or asleep? I bite down and an upper tooth crumbles, filling my mouth with shards and blood. I spit them out but my mouth just floods again.

Awake or asleep? The new apartment is full of earwigs. Did they even bother fumigating before we moved in? I hate it here. I hate this city. Why did we move here? I’ll take any job, even one at that shitty factory, if it means making enough money to move away one day. I have to get out of here.

Awake or asleep? Everything is blurry; I can’t quite see the road past my heavy eyelids. I try to turn the steering wheel but it won’t move, so I just close my eyes as my car jumps the pavement and hurtles into oncoming traffic.

Awake or asleep? As the bus rolls beneath me I stare at the curved scar in the center of my palm. When did I get this? I don’t remember it. Has it always been there? Its mirror twin rests on my other palm. They begin to hurt, a sharp, urgent pain like something is trying to burst through my skin.

Awake or asleep? Above me lightning and meteors illuminate a stormy night sky. The meteors crisscross in a hatchwork, hundreds, then thousands, tens of thousands, and then suddenly – they freeze. Grow brighter. Brighter. Brighter. Their light blazes, burns! Around me people begin to scream and flee, but it’s too late. We’re already infected.

Awake or asleep? This room doesn’t feel quite right. The windows, were there always two? The bed, is it smaller than usual? Does the hallway look correct? Awake or asleep, why doesn’t this feel right? Am I awake or asleep? I’m awake. I’m awake, right? I’m awake, but then I wake up. I wake up, but the room doesn’t feel quite right. The window is wrong. I’m awake, but then I wake up. Something about the bed is strange. Alien. Am I awake? I wake up.

I’m awake. Right?

#2468

you rise from the earth like some radiant Lord Vishnu, your sable locks and sun-kissed skin dusted in a rainbow of flower pollen like vibrant Holi powder, but those who watch your ascent in awe don’t know you’ve covered yourself in this floral beauty to hide the bloodstains beneath, nor what godly corpse may lay hidden in the blooms at your feet

#2467

everything I write that is not about you is a stop-gap measure to stave off starvation, I finished the last of the spoiled canned goods and am resorting now to gnawing the tough leather of my boot soles, and if this continues much longer all they will find of me are scattered white bones, the smooth calcium marred by the serrations of my knife

Othawa lion cubs show off

Waking up to the sound of a lion’s roar, echoed by a few other roars, is one of the best ways to get your day started. A few nights back the three Tumbela male lions and the Othawa lion pride came to visit the lodge. The stillness of the night was constantly interrupted with the […]

Othawa lion cubs show off

I get so excited when I see this blog has updated! Cal takes the most amazing photos and shares stories behind the animals featured. There are often photos of big cats, especially lions, and sometimes BABIES. 😍

#2466

I am as much a woman as the unicorn was, imprisoned in a fragile little cage of moon-white flesh she felt rotting around her every second, the last untamed wild thing turned meek and helpless with her dainty woman fingers and her pale brow smooth over wide doe’s eyes, no gleaming horn sharp enough to cut the night, only a face made for poetry and princes, and perhaps I too would choose to throw myself into the foaming ocean or let the bull’s flames roast me to ashes over the slow descent from madness to apathy of the erratic mortal mind subsuming the immortal’s vast complexity into its narrow tedium. Tell me, magic, what is safety over freedom?

#2465

I dream that I have failed. The tiny, struggling cat rescue I’ve spent years trying to help keep afloat has finally gone under. Where will all the cats go? I think. Where will they go, who will feed them, who will bind their wounds and shelter them against the cruelty of the world? As I walk numbly through a grassy field toward rows of kennels, perhaps to say goodbye to the cats inside for the last time, I whisper the names of those already lost so that I won’t forget them. Yet when I reach the kennels I find their doors all open and the cats streaming through the grass past me. They run eagerly, all in the same direction, as if toward some destination I cannot see. Even the littlest day-old kittens with their ears still buttoned down and their eyes still squeezed shut try to stumble through the tall grass after mothers and older siblings. I have to stop walking or I’ll step on someone by accident, so I kneel down in the grass and begin gathering babies up in my arms to keep them safe. Some older kittens climb into my lap as well, or up onto my shoulders, and soon I’m weighed down in a blanket of warm, squirming bodies. Their purring vibrates through me so loudly it drowns out my thoughts, my frantic heartbeat, a glorious pean washing over me in a crescendo of wordless voices. Within its embrace I finally break; I bury my face into sweet silken fur and add my own wordless, animal howling to the hymn-turned-lament. I let grief wrack my body in violent sobs as if I am a bean sí crying out the world’s doom. By the time my exhausted body has no tears left to shed nor sound to utter and I lift my head once more, everything around me has burned to ash and I am alone.

#2464

“Ancestors”

you who were judged and found wanting
for whom and how you loved
for what you believed and why
I claim you as my own

you who were cast out unfairly
for the state of your body or how you embraced it
for refusing to keep silent or to yield your power
I claim you as my own

you who were forgotten by history
for not fitting your oppressors’ narrative
for being an inconvenient and incontrovertible truth
I claim you as my own

#2463

I dream about you often enough now that my heart lives in a perpetual state of confusion, convinced this surreal oroboros of childhood homes and reinvented memories is somehow the correct reality until the moment I wake and the narrative fragments. Yet even fifteen years later I still haven’t the nerve to scold my heart too sternly for its naivety; what if by breaking it just that much more it loses the ability to dream of you at all?