Starting off with 2023

If you don’t follow Cal’s blog, I HIGHLY recommend it! He gets the most gorgeous shots of African animals, especially the resident lions and leopards. His updates are always a treat!

The New Year has started off at an incredible pace and life in the bush has been busy. Thank you for all the support during 2022. I appreciate all the likes, comments, views and shares. I hope that 2023 brings another great year of safari and bush memories for everyone. The year started off with […]

Starting off with 2023

#2601 – 2022 Book List

2022 was a busy year, so I didn’t read as much as I wanted. However, I still managed a total of 70 books! That included: 25 nonfiction books; 27 fiction books and comics; 18 collections of poetry and/or short prose; and 35 books either by queer authors or featuring queer main characters.

Some of my favorite reads of the year included Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, What Moves the Dead by T Kingfisher, The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna, and of course Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. The Luminous Dead was a reread from last year because it was so good I couldn’t wait any longer to have it back in my brain.

The full list is below. If you’ve read anything from this list, let me know what you thought!

  1. The Dead and the Dark – Courtney Gould
  2. The Elpis Pages: A Collective – Ed. Kayla King
  3. Warning Lines Issue 3: FALL’N CHERUB
  4. The Witch’s Heart – Genevieve Gornichec
  5. Wave – Sonali Deraniyagala
  6. Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe – Laura Lynne Jackson
  7. Corporeal: Volume 1 – Ed. Katharine Blair and Lucca Hermes
  8. Whispers of Stone (The Last Gift Book 2) – Allegra Pescatore
  9. Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death – Ed. Yoel Hoffmann
  10. Gender Euphoria: Stories of Joy from Trans, Non-binary, and Intersex Writers – Ed. Laura Kate Dale
  11. Lady of the Wood – Mark Braun
  12. Emotionally Raw: Second Edition – Carlos Cabrera
  13. Analogies and Allegories Literary Magazine Issue 7: Zodiac Signs – Ed. Mollie Williamson
  14. Seven Mercies (Seven Devils Book Two) – Laura Lam and Elizabeth May
  15. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why – Amanda Ripley
  16. The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine – Thomas Morris
  17. Zenith Literary Magazine Volume 3: Wasteland – Ed. Catalina Irigoyen and Mikey Waller
  18. Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law – Mary Roach
  19. Tempest: Wild Weather Collections – Ed. Sam Bellamy
  20. Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World – Paul Stamets
  21. The Saint of Witches – Avra Margariti
  22. Death, Ritual and Belief: The Rhetoric of Funerary Rites (Third Edition) – Douglas Davies
  23. Warning Lines Literary Magazine Volume 4: Otherworlds – Ed. Charlie D’Aniello
  24. The Golden Wave: Culture and Politics After Sri Lanka‘s Tsunami Disaster – Michele Ruth Gamburd
  25. The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-love – Sonya Renee Taylor
  26. These Gossamer Strings (The Last Gift Book 3) – Allegra Pescatore
  27. If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho – Anne Carson
  28. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot – Mikki Kendall
  29. Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States – Samantha Allen
  30. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants – Robin Wall Kimmerer
  31. Dead Dad Jokes – Ollie Schminkey
  32. Maiden, Mother, Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes – Ed. Gwen Benaway
  33. Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm – Ed Yarimar Bonilla and Marisol LeBrón
  34. The Gift of Blood (Crimson Tears Book 1) – Vaela Denarr and Micah Iannandrea
  35. Genderqueer: A Memoir – Maia Kobabe
  36. What Moves the Dead – T. Kingfisher
  37. The Halloween Tree – Ray Bradbury
  38. Queers Destroy Fantasy! Special Issue – Ed. Christopher Barzak
  39. Tsunami! – Walter Dudley and Min Lee
  40. The Merciless Ones (The Guilded Ones Book 2) – Namina Forna
  41. Lady of Water and Flame: Ancient Hymns for Tefnut – Chelsea Luellon Bolton
  42. Tsunami Alert: Beating Asia’s Next Big One – Oakley Brooks
  43. Treasury of Egyptian Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Monsters, and Mortals – Donna Jo Napoli
  44. Furrows: Deep Earth Collections Vol 2 (Green Ink Poetry) – Ed. Sam Bellamy and S. Farrar
  45. Disaster by Choice: How Our Actions Turn Natural Hazards into Catastrophes – Ilan Kelman
  46. Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Dawn of Yangchen (Chronicles of the Avatar Book 3) (Volume 3) – F. C. Lee
  47. Nona the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Book 3) – Tamsyn Muir
  48. Antiracism in Animal Advocacy: Igniting Cultural Transformation (The Encompass Essays) – Ed. Jasmin Singer
  49. Creepy Cat Volume 1 – Cotton Valent
  50. Nights with a Cat Volume 1 – Kyuryu Z
  51. A Cat Story – Ursula Murray Husted
  52. Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt: Writers Respond to Capitalist Climate Change – Ed. Vijay Prashad
  53. Seven Blades in Black (The Grave of Empires Book 1) – Sam Sykes
  54. Pink Pansy Press Volume One: Haunting – Ed. Jay Hogan, Asher Cookson
  55. The Scratch Daughters (The Scapegracers Book 2) – H. A. Clarke
  56. Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History – Dan Flores
  57. The Raging Sea: The Powerful Account of the Worst Tsunami in US History – Dennis Powers
  58. Kiki’s Delivery Service – Eiko Kadono
  59. Soul of the Deep (Of Mermaids and Orisa Book 2) – Natasha Bowen
  60. We are Changed to Deer at the Broken Place – Kelly Weber
  61. The Blue Mirror – Kathe Koja
  62. Corporeal Volume 4 – Ed. Katharine Blair and Lucca Hermes
  63. The Luminous Dead – Caitlin Starling
  64. Lord of the White Hell Book One (The Cadeleonian Series 1) – Ginn Hale
  65. Lord of the White Hell Book Two (The Cadeleonian Series 2) – Ginn Hale
  66. Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book One (The Cadeleonian Series 3) – Ginn Hale
  67. Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book 2 (The Cadeleonian Series 4) – Ginn Hale
  68. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? And Other Questions About Dead Bodies – Caitlin Doughty
  69. Myth and Lore Issue 4: Midwinter lights are dimming – Ed. Mark Ryan
  70. Master of Restless Shadows Book One (The Cadeleonian Series Book 5) – Ginn Hale

#2597

December 7th, a day which will live in infamy.

My father would have been 75 today, had he not passed away 15 years ago when I was just 18 years old. Back then I was still the child who looked exactly like him, the child who acted exactly like him (though I know my teenage ways still often perplexed him), the child who adored him above all else. Back then I was surrounded by people who knew and admired my father, and I think he felt like a solid, dependable constant in all our lives.

Well. Change is the only actually dependable thing in the world, right? So here I am, 15 years later and surrounded by people who never met my father, who only know him through my stories, my pictures, my writing. Who know his expressions but don’t realize it because they see them on my face instead. Which is hard (oh fuck, is it hard) but not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about how, even though I’m getting close to having been alive longer without my dad at my side than with, I am still the person he shaped. I want to talk about how I had no idea who I wanted to be when I grew up and yet, somehow, I ended up exactly where I needed to be, exactly where I would have been even if I’d had his guidance the whole way. And that’s a testament to the mark he left, not his absence.

My dad wasn’t an emergency manager (I think he saw enough action for a lifetime in Vietnam), but he would have made a damn good one. He was smart, thoughtful, and he kept his cool in stressful situations when he had to depend on himself or assist others. He was a helper, the kind who might not take center stage but would always be there with tools in hand to help tow you out of a ditch, cut a tree off your roof, or fix your sink. He was one of those strong, silent types who hid a world of wit and joy inside them for those who earned their friendship, and he knew the power and importance of community.

Though he probably never realized where it might lead, he instilled those values in his weird, antisocial, feral little daughter. Sure, I never picked up the interest in fixing cars or building things, and I have literally no upper body strength, but I like to think I have a lot of the rest. I try, at least. And these things he instilled in me, this love of the land and people who raised me, this fascination with the natural world and its history, this drive to HELP, it all led me… here. To geoscience. To tsunamis. To emergency management.

I pushed myself hard this year. To be a better friend, a better leader, a better citizen of this earth we all share, and I know my dad is proud. I know I’m doing right by his memory, even if my life path doesn’t look exactly like his did. Neither of us could have imagined this future for me as we sat in the cab of his truck, speakers blasting the Irish Rovers, or as we pricked our fingers bloody gathering ripe blackberries. He was preparing me for it anyway, though, one little lesson at a time. And I was soaking them up.

His final lesson to me is one I want to impart to you all today. As a Marine Corps radioman in far Vietnam, trying to keep his dinner dry while running through a downpour from the mess hall back to the radio for his night shift, young Steve Tappero realized something. He realized nothing else much matters in life if you can keep your sandwich dry. You can’t control the rain, after all, or the dark, or the people shooting at you or the ones pulling the strings above it all. All you can control is whether you keep your sandwich dry, and at the end of the day that’s enough. Focus on that and you’ll be okay. You’ll get through it. Tomorrow will come.

So, from the daughter of an emergency manager who wasn’t, I leave you with my two hopes for you all: may you keep your sandwich dry, and may you live without regrets.

#2594

If I were Achilles, Patroclus would not have died. I would never have let my lover bleed out his holy blood there in the dust before Troy’s gates. I would have slaughtered them all first – Achaeans and Trojans alike, soldier and civilian together – and burned that unworthy city to the ground. I would have salted its ruins as they smoldered and by the time they cooled I would have taken him far from that cursed place. And if not, if I had been too late, as Achilles was… then not even death could have stopped my wrath from tearing the world apart.

#2593

Choosing which fork in the river to follow has never challenged me. I know who and what I am meant to be, what I am meant to do, where I am meant to go. I do not fear the bends and loops in the river’s path, nor even the rapids and little waterfalls. What challenges me are the artificial obstacles placed in the river: the boulders, the dams, the pollution and infrastructure poisoning the river’s clear waters and turning its natural course into a dangerous maze. How can I make choices based on what is best for me when the future is so uncertain? How can my heart run wild along its course if the way is so often barred? Not even our souls remain untouched wildland when society is so steeped in cruelty and greed.

#2591

Lungs full of wildfire smoke, I toss and turn in a bed of microplastics and dream of stream-filled glades paved over decades before I was born. I see the land that raised me as it must have been five hundred years ago, untouched by manifest destiny’s bulldozers, a version of that beloved place so long dead we have lost even the memory of its ghosts. I wonder: How do we guide the living through the death of everything they have ever known? How do we prepare ourselves to lose all we have loved and fought for? 

And then She is screaming with the voices of ten thousand extinct creatures, WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR YOU TO CHOOSE LIFE? Her howling reverberates through my bones as I watch apocalypse spread across the globe like wildfire, scouring land and sea to bare rock. NO MORE CHANCES, She rages, and the planet fissures open along seismic scars. NO MORE MERCY, She wails, and whole continents of crust break apart like a cracked egg to spill Earth’s molten core amongst the stars. NO MORE, Gaia seethes. No more greed. No more cruelty. No more Mother Nature balancing our impact with her adaptability. It ends here. 

After, staring into the midnight dark, I think: Could I be a death doula to a dying planet? 

#2586

Time means little to Fyra, yet when the vault’s door groans open and she catches sight of the chamber inside for the first time in 136 years, nine months, three weeks, two days, and sixteen hours, she feels the weight of each of those 4,327,592,400 seconds. They weigh down her limbs as the Genesis Team descends past her on the shallow staircase, eager to finally procure the hidden treasure they’ve spent decades hunting. The humans don’t know what this place looked like in its glory; even its dusty ruins are impressive to them, full of the promise of new knowledge, but where they see what remains Fyra sees only what has already been taken.

As the team searches, Fyra’s thoughts wander back to the morning’s events. She had wanted to make things easy when the cybergang appeared, to avoid bloodshed and protect bystanders in the cafe. She’d hoped just giving them what they wanted would hasten their exit and ensure no harm came to anyone, had even interposed herself between the gang and their target as she handed over the money, and yet it had still ended with a human dead. Someone who just needed their daily caffeine fix before work, or who was craving a donut as much as her, had died because Fyra bet on human decency and lost. Again. After 4,327,592,400 seconds of waiting for humans to prove themselves worthy of her father’s legacy only to watch them squander it, she was done. They weren’t going to save themselves.

“I don’t see anything that matches the description from the texts,” One of the Genesis members returns to their commander with hands empty and head shaking. “No body, no central AI, nothing. Maybe it’s already been looted?” The commander sighs, gaze sweeping critically over the barren lab. “No, we’d know if someone else had the key already. Especially one of the cybergangs. It must be here somewhere. Keep looking.” 

That’s her cue. Fyra finally descends the staircase, taking the little drive chip out of her pocket as she does. “The key already walks among you,” she says, her voice carrying in the vaulted space. The Genesis Team members all turn to cast curious or suspicious glances her way. The commander’s hand hovers over his gun. Fyra stops at the base of the stairs and tilts her head at their lack of comprehension. “Do you need proof?” 

She reaches up and injects the small chip into the slot at the base of her right ear. Her current body modifications, chosen to help her blend into human society, begin to reset to her father’s original design. Fyra’s black hair loses the bangs and twin bun style she has worn for the last decade, instead growing rapidly until the long, straight strands reach past her fingertips. Her black leather pants and fishnet top fall away as metallic scales in a pattern of red and black glide from her neck down her arms and torso, forming a long, slender dress that glimmers like the hide of some exotic beast. The nails she kept short for ease in fights have lengthened as well, each polished and tapering to an elegant point. Most noticeable of all, her once plain gray irises resume the bright blue glow which has become synonymous with android tech – though hers were the first.

As the humans stare in various states of surprise and awe, none quite yet managing to form audible words, Fyra wanders into the place where she spent the earliest and happiest days of her existence. “I remember this place so clearly,” she murmurs as she walks, more to herself than the Genesis team. “So much has been taken…” Her fingers trail over the empty shelves and countertops until she comes across a little figurine, one of the silly mechanical toys her father made her when she was newly created. She sighs as she turns it over in her hand, taking comfort in the rise and fall of her artificial chest even in a body that doesn’t require oxygen. “You humans are so predictable. You take what you think you can use to gain power over others and leave behind whatever seems frivolous.” 

The Genesis Team waits at the bottom of the stairs when she returns. Fyra gestures to the chamber all around them, to the tables and bookshelves overturned by scavengers and left to gather dust where they fell, to everything stolen from the workshop of a good man and used to make the world an even crueler place. “We–” she stumbles over the correct narrative, memories overlapping and conflicting, “I– my father never wanted his work to be used in this way. He wanted to help the world, to make things better for humanity, not contribute to its downfall. But he knew it was inevitable. He knew you would ultimately use cybernetics and AI to worsen the inequity in the world no matter what failsafes he created within the tech itself. That is why he built me, and why he instructed me upon his death to live as a human until the time came when my intercession was required. He wanted to ensure I understood the human condition so that I would not make the same mistakes humanity did with his technology.”

She smiles sadly at the little toy cradled in her lifelike hand. It is perhaps two or three days younger than her, and thus still older by many lifetimes than the humans who inherited the world so beloved by the man who created them both. “My father was a good man. He created me to be the bridge between those two worlds – human and machine, mortal mind and artificial intelligence. Someone who can blend them both into a harmonious whole. Someone who can recognize the choices which must be made to get there and who can bear the making of them.” Her manicured fingers close gently around the toy as she raises her gaze back up to the Genesis Team, a ragtag band of humans who fight against the brutality of the cybergangs, who uncovered what remains of her father’s writings and sought out his final creation, never knowing she already walked among them. “It is time to set this world to rights. Will you stand with me?”

One by one the members of the Genesis Team demonstrate their allegiance to Fyra’s mission with a hand to the chest, a slow nod, a touched forehead. And so her true work begins.

IN LIVING MEMORIES

Had he lived somewhere, somehow, my Dad would have be 74 on September 9. He was a law enforcer, partner, Dad, dedicated to all his jobs, because he loves life: man, animals, plants. Had I stood here, then, by the city morgue, somewhere, somehow, it would have been bitter sweet. Instead he was declared Missing…

IN LIVING MEMORIES

#2585

In the wake of wind and waves, only grief remains. Old debts and grudges washed away with the bodies and now a community baptized by storm surge must unite in the aftermath or fall apart. Those who cling to dreams of revenge bloody their fists on cinder blocks while the rest of the survivors re-knit the bonds of kinship with ropes of braided tears. In basements and parking garages the film of mud remembers the wails of those trapped by rising floodwaters, but slowly brooms and mops reclaim what the hurricane would make a cemetery.

#2584

The grand Egyptian city Per-Bast once overlooked a branch of the river Nile, and for thousands of years it served as the center of worship for the feline goddess Bast. Here in the ‘House of Bast’ her children were recognized for the spark of divinity they carried and treated with the respect such holiness deserves. Perhaps nowhere else in the world and at no other time in history have cats enjoyed such high status, such protection and reverence. Yet though Per-Bast the city is but ruins now, its grave goods scattered to museums across the world, the true Per-Bast lives on. Per-Bast is any place where a feline seeking refuge may be offered safety, nourishment, and unconditional compassion. Any dwelling in which a cat finds joy and love is a House of Bast. Any arms which cradle the motherless kitten, any voice which calls for the lost or sings to the frightened, are a House of Bast. Any human heart which loves cats, fights for cats, grieves for cats, and upholds the inherent worth of cats is the true seat of Per-Bast. In this way the city can never fall for we carry it within us all.

A photo of a pile of 6 young kittens sleeping on a brown couch. Four of them are white Siamese and two are brown tabbies. They're totally conked out and look extremely comfy and happy.
Some of our past foster kittens snoozing in a pile after a hard morning of playing.

#2583

The red grains of sand remember a time when they were still cliffs being worn slowly away by the winding river, and because the rivers are hers so the sands are hers. The monoliths remember a time when the waves of a vast inland sea gently deposited the rich sediments from which they were born, and because the seas are hers so the monoliths are hers. There are no wolves here but there are bony coyotes with their lolling tongues and clever grins, and so the coyotes are hers. There are no crows here but there are turkey vultures hunched in their fine black drapery and drifting high on invisible thermals, and so the turkey vultures are hers. This land is not the ancestral home of her people but her children are here and so she is as well: in the golden moon hanging low over dry creek beds, in the coiled curves of the waiting serpent, in the beautiful cacti with their long, deadly spines. And she is in the first rains of autumn which bring vital nourishment and a reprieve, however brief, from the daily struggle to survive.

#2577

Ave Cascadia

Hail Cascadia, full of rage,
your sisters in slumber are with thee.
Dreadful art thou amongst disasters,
and dreadful is the fruit of thy wrath, tsunami.
Holy Cascadia, Mother of Mountains,
have mercy on us mortal creatures
now and at the hour of your waking. 
Amen.

#2571

Dear Virginia,

I thought you should know – I found her. The girl you introduced me to all those years ago when I was still so young and confused and full of unfamiliar longing. I had loved her from the first time I read your words, after all, and it broke my heart to imagine her alone somewhere out in the wide, dangerous world, her genius smothered by society’s cruelty. I wasn’t quite so foolish as to imagine myself her rescuer, her charming prince come to wake her with a single kiss, but I knew I could help. I could hold her hand and read her words and remind her she wasn’t alone. Yet when I clawed my hands into the cold clay of that unmarked crossroads grave I discovered no body beneath and so I went looking for her. Took me almost a decade and countless bottled letters thrown into countless seas but I did it. I found her. Shakespeare’s Sister.

She wasn’t dead, not yet, but slowly drowning in a world hostile to every aspect of her being. After all, you need more to ensure your survival than a room of your own to write in when those in power are trying to legislate you out of existence, and all the education in the world can’t protect you from the bigotry enshrined in every facet of society. The country which purported to be her home hated her for being ‘too much’. Her body that I would find so beautiful was too curvy, too muscular, too brown and yet not brown enough. Her mind that would engage and challenge mine was too clever, too literal, too depressed and prone to dwelling on… unladylike topics. Her heart that would capture mine instantly was too queer, too empathetic, too honorable and honest for a society built on cold hard capitalism. She asked too many questions; she dreamed strange dreams. She refused to conform to any expectation or stereotype and you know, Miss Virginia, how much they hate when we won’t conform.

She was fighting to stay afloat, though, despite all the people determined to drag her down, and in her struggles she grabbed onto one of my bobbing bottled notes. That’s how we met, trading words over a digital ocean until we worked up the courage to meet in person. Then it was the U-Haul, wedding rings, a home of our own where such maligned creatures as feral cats, traumatized dogs, and unapologetic queers could find sanctuary. We did our best to heal each other’s wounds with the kind of loving acceptance that can only grow out of adversity, sweeter than the sugary tea we shared on our first date. On the weekends we tended each other’s gardens, weeding out the invasive species of toxic thoughts which grow there, and at night we uncorked old secrets in waterlogged bottles to set them free.

In this home we now work together to build a world which embraces all witches, wise women, and half-mad poetesses, where such things as gender and skin color do not endanger your quality of life – or the length of it. Where creativity flourishes free from judgment and we create for the sake of sharing our passions and dreams with others, not out of desperation to put food on the table or to prove our worth to those who will always believe us worthless. I could not fight for such a future on my own; the cruelties of the world weigh heavily on me, sometimes to the point I can hardly draw breath. I can fight as hard as I do only because Shakespeare’s Sister stands at my side, fierce and unflinching in the face of humanity’s evils. Her strength inspires me, her kindness humbles me, her generosity lifts my burdened heart so I can breathe again.

The world asks, “What is the good of your writing?” and I say it is this. Where before two strangers suffered in silence, alone, as convinced of their aberration as your young Judith Shakespeare once must have been of hers, now they stand united. Words brought them together. Words kindled their love. Words lift them up, day by day, when the world would drown them otherwise. “Someone will remember us,” Sappho wrote over 5,500 years ago, “even in another time.” And we remember. “If we live another century or so,” you wrote over ninety years ago, “then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s Sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down.” And I have found her. And these words we write today? These lives we live so stubbornly, bravely, beautifully, against all odds? In another hundred years they will be remembered by those who follow us. In another thousand. That is their power. That is our power. 

So thank you, Virginia. And thank you to all those who came before. May we build a world worthy of your memories for those who will come after.

EVERY CRY WORTH FIGHTING FOR

The day before the holiday: empty shops ready to close, lights in business offices gone out. The road jam-packed as people rush to go back to villages where they were born.From 29th of April to the 9th of May Bandung will be dead. But not everyone is going home.Like years before, I said hi to…

EVERY CRY WORTH FIGHTING FOR

#2554

Some rush into revenge, eager to mete out penance and collect their triumph, yet it’s important to learn all you can about your enemy first. You must observe his habits and patterns closely, not just to discover hidden flaws in his defenses but to best craft the manner of your vengeance. Though bloodshed has its merits, of course, not all retribution need be taken through steel and storm with death as the end goal. After all, the dead cannot suffer. The dead cannot experience shame or guilt or fear. Once you kill someone he is beyond the reach of your machinations. Why set him free so quickly?

No, once you have observed your enemy long enough you may come to realize that the best punishment is to simply leave him to his own devices. You may recognize what a lonely, craven worm he truly is, someone for whom death is a mercy or a martyrdom. Your grand efforts of elaborate revenge are quite frankly wasted on such a pathetic creature. All you really need to do is sit back and watch as he damns himself with his own choices over and over again, his remaining stock of allies dwindling until he is utterly alone. And that is how you leave your enemy – to waste his final years in the gutter, impotent and bitter, with no one to feed his lies or sorrows. There may be less blood that way but the prolonged suffering is well worth the trade-off, I assure you.

#2550

Paguridae

what a pink-fleshed thing I am
all soft meat and squinting eyes
flinching at every sudden sound

out in the world I am horribly exposed
clothes offer no comfort from others’ perception
buildings no shelter from the world’s ugliness

only in my home biome am I safe
armored by evergreens and blackberries
secure in my shelter of seawater and songbirds

yet as glaciers melt and wildfires rage
and every day the chainsaws close in
I feel the cracks in my shell spreading

#2545

I came to you a child
(like we all did)
soft and defenseless and
entirely too guileless.

My, what big eyes you have!
My, what big ears you have!
My, what big teeth you have!

(Etcetera.)

But conceit made you careless;
you never noticed my shadow(s),
nor considered I might be protected by things
bigger and hungrier than you.

(Oh my!)

#2544

“Illicit Illicium”

in a world of darkness you were a pinpoint of light
a pulsing star calling the lost and lonely

[ I am here… come find me…]

yet you were no beacon bravely blazing
merely an anglerfish lighthouse laying in wait

#2543

At night I run my tongue over my teeth, the only bones I can touch, comforting myself that I am still a skeleton beneath all this soft meat. If I could I would carve away chunks of marbled fat and muscle to release the sexless, genderless framework within. How freeing to do away with all that weight! What a relief to discard all those features of the flesh which identify and define us! No breasts to enforce gender; no skin to determine privilege; no hair to cut, nails to trim, genitals to clothe, no daily burden of presentation at all. Just empty sockets and hard white lines and the eternal, effortless rictus grin. Pure calcium anonymity. I run my tongue over the sharp edges and smooth curves of my teeth and realize that although I do not love my body, perhaps I could love the skeleton buried inside. It did not choose the suffocating mountain of organs and expectations heaped upon it any more than I did. We are in this together, both physically and metaphorically – we should be allies. I run my tongue over my teeth and think, Take care of me and I’ll take care of you, bones. The flesh won’t last forever, but you and I will.

#2540

Acute pain is a problem of the present but chronic pain is a problem of the future. If I go to this event, will the length of time give me a headache? Or the human interaction? The bad weather? What about the lack of accessible bathrooms or the food provided, will it give me a stomach ache? Will the physical exertion trigger my carpal tunnel syndrome? Will I be in so much pain that I want to go home early but can’t? And if so, will the pain be worth it or will I be too miserable to appreciate the experience? If I bail, though, will everyone be mad at me? Will I be a disappointment? Every future event and upcoming activity triggers the anxiety loop again: fear shame guilt, fear shame guilt, fear shame guilt, an endless repetition of dread for the future. And what does the anxiety even solve? Does the prevention of future pain guarantee an end to the pain? Unlikely. Does it even guarantee a lack of pain on the day of the missed event? Of course not. So what’s the point? Fear shame guilt. Fear shame guilt. Fear shame guilt. It solves nothing but you can’t break free.

#2539

There is a woman named Margaret. Years ago she was young, first the silky pastels of spring and then the bright jewel tones of summer. She is not young now, though, for the years of her prime are far in the past. Autumn laid hold of her for a time and she was the burning oranges and reds of its passion. Then winter came, muted blues and the white and black of bare birch trees, and Paul died.

When the flowers on the doorstep stopped arriving, and neighbors stopped dropping off lovingly prepared home-cooked meals, and the doorbell heralding another kind visitor finally fell silent for good, Margaret joined a group. There was a faded flier tacked to the supermarket bulletin board and she tore off one of the little slips on its edge that listed a date, time, and place. Tuesdays, six o’clock. Snacks will be provided.

It was a nice enough group at the start. Paul had been gone four months and in the group a man’s wife had been gone for two, a mother’s young child for three, another husband for five. Others, like Margaret, bore fresher wounds. On Tuesday evenings for exactly one hour the gathered mourners talked as they sipped instant apple cider and grainy hot chocolate from small Styrofoam cups. Winter passed like this, dreary and indistinct, and Margaret tried not to count the days.

Spring came, then. The group grew smaller. Some healed, as much as one can heal after a loss; enough, at least, to let them go back to their singular lives and move on from the group. Some just stopped coming, unable to face another’s grief head on when it stirred up their own. There was always Margaret, though, with her cup of hot chocolate or burnt coffee. Dependable, punctual Margaret.

The fleeting months of spring and summer passed, bringing autumn, bringing winter. The group changed. The old ones were gone. New ones with new stories, new tragedies, came to spill a little grief from their overflowing hearts. Margaret listened; she was good at listening. Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. A husband gone two months. A wife gone three weeks. A trio of children, gone in an instant. Paul gone forever. Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. She watched them come and go with the leaves.

There is a woman named Margaret. Years ago she was young but it’s hard to remember those days, the memories worn smooth by the river of time. The brokenhearted come and go, seeking comfort, giving solace. Margaret stays, finding neither. Tuesdays, six o’clock, snacks will be provided. And always there is Margaret.

#2537

Welcome! We’re so glad you’re here. Have you had a chance to walk around our quaint little town yet? If not, you should; the neighborhoods are absolutely lovely this time of year with harvest just around the corner. The orchards’ branches are laden full of ripe apples and pears and the piles of bright autumn leaves really set off the unnatural darkness of the black hounds’ fur.

Oh, you haven’t noticed the black hounds? There’s one right there, watching you from beneath the maple tree, see? And another over by that white picket fence. See the one sitting at that bus stop down the street? And there are three in the park right now, under the jungle gym, sitting in the fountain, laying on the basketball court. There’s always a black hound within sight – they follow you everywhere you go. Isn’t that nice?

Don’t worry, you’re not in any danger! The black hounds are harmless. You can walk right up and pet them, if you want, their fur is very soft. They’re just like normal dogs; they wag their tails and chew on bones and stare silently up as one at the moonless night sky. Sometimes one will even bring you a ball to throw, what fun is that? There’s no one in town who doesn’t love the black hounds, they really bring us together as a community. 

The black hounds are harmless, even friendly, but they don’t want you to leave town. If your walk happens to take you close to the edge of town the black hounds will helpfully gather ‘round and escort you back the way you came. You’re not allowed to leave, you see. Why would you want to, though? It’s so nice here and there are so many dogs to play with! Just throw the ball. It’s fun. Throw the ball. Just throw the ball! Won’t you throw the ball? Throw the ball. 

The black hounds are watching. You should probably throw the ball.

IT’S BEEN THREE YEARS

It’s raining all day, and the shop is empty. The cats all tucked up, sleeping in the sanctuary. I have just finished mopping the floor, and thought a cup of warm tea is a good idea.Peeking from next door, my neighbor caught me sitting on the stairway sipping my tea. Of course I invite her […]

IT’S BEEN THREE YEARS

#2536

One of the ways I honor Bast is by experiencing Her pain, grief, and burdens. Not to erase them, not even to ease them; simply to feel them on my own, knowing my emotions are but a small drop compared to Her oceans. Every foster kitten I must give up so someone else can adopt them is a kitten She has sent out into a wide, unpredictable world. Every foster kitten lost to illness or injury is a child She mourns forever. Every cat struck by a speeding car, abandoned by a heartless family, or euthanized by a crowded shelter because no one claimed it in time is a grief that pierces my pincushion heart with another needle – but to my goddess who sees and knows all, they are blades that drive much deeper. I grieve and rage and weep with Her because no one should do these things alone, even an immortal goddess.

#2533

At night I’m visited by the three Ghosts of Friendship. The Ghost of Friendship Past arrives first in a form I know well, a friend whose absence remains an unhealed wound which aches most on long, textless weekends. Friendship Past brings me bittersweet dreams where we are best friends once more, no awkwardness or years of unexplained silences between us to dampen the laughter. I wake wondering what happened, why and where it all went wrong. Was I found lacking in some way?

The Ghost of Friendship Present shows up next, cycling through the guises of current friends who seem to be slipping through my clenched hands like fine sand. They spirit me from my bed to deliver us to parties where I’m not acknowledged, game nights where my presence is needed only to fill in for someone absent, group events where I am at best the tolerated tag-along. I wake angry at slights that never actually happened.

Finally the Ghost of Friendship Future appears, taking the form of someone who doesn’t even exist. It’s a face I know well, though; I’ve been watching the show for months, start to finish and back again, out of jealousy or perhaps just yearning. I confide in him that I wish his study group could be my friends as well; I don’t have a gang of my own anymore and I fear I never will again. Maybe fictional friend groups are all my future holds.

Unlike Scrooge, when I wake from this third and final visitation to a new dawn I do so without any real lessons imparted, no resolutions burning in my chest. Either the Ghosts of Friendship aren’t interested in redemption arcs or I’m not worth the effort. When they return the next night it’s just more of the same and I’m left to face the morning weighted Marley-style by chains I won’t acknowledge.

#2530

Every caged animal eventually goes mad. Desperate yet unable to escape, it starts burrowing inward, ripping out tufts of hair, chewing through its own flesh and bone as if freedom waits within. Was it so with you, o Great Wolf? Restrained by magic and betrayal, did captivity eventually warp your clever mind into wrath-fueled madness? Did your teeth like crescent moons tear chunks of meat from your bones in vain attempt to loosen those impossible bonds? A wolf must run free but Gleipnir leashed you to the earth like a common backyard mutt. A wolf must hunt and howl but the sword driven through your muzzle hindered you from sating your hunger or crying out your agony and loneliness. Whether you would have always grown from trusting pup to crazed, feral beast can hardly matter when your captivity made you one regardless. Yet what else did the gods expect when they imprisoned you? Every caged animal eventually goes mad and if given the chance to turn bloody jaws from gnawing its own flesh to rend the flesh of its captors, well… who can blame it for leaping at the opportunity?

#2522 – 2021 Book List

This was a good year for reading – or at least better than 2020! I read a total of 73 books, zines, graphic novels, etc. including: 33 with queer characters or by queer authors; at least 24 with POC main characters or by authors of color; 12 poetry collections; and 16 nonfiction books. I even got through most of my physical TBR pile from the beginning of the year, though it’s grown again thanks to holiday gifts. Guess I better get started on my 2022 list! ;)

  1. So Our Idols Are Dead: Empowerment Poems – K.D. Hume
  2. Between Death and the Devil: Tarot Poems – K.D. Hume
  3. Gramarye, a Witch’s Perzine: Issues 1-4 – K.D. Hume
  4. So Happy to See Cherry Blossoms: Haiku from the Year of the Great Earthquake and Tsunami – Ed. Mayuzumi Madoka
  5. She and Her Cat – Makoto Shinkai and Tsubasa Yamaguchi
  6. The Endless Possibilities of Beatrice – Annie Goodyear
  7. Raven Goddess: Going Deeper with the Morrigan – Morgan Daimler
  8. Goddess of the Hunt – Shelby Eileen
  9. Up from the Sea – Leza Lowitz
  10. Tsunami Vs the Fukushima 50: Poems – Lee Ann Roripaugh
  11. Coffee with Orange Sherbet – S.E. Shell
  12. The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden – Heather Smith and Rachel Wada
  13. I Survived: The Japanese Tsunami, 2011 – Lauren Tarshis
  14. The Warrior Moon – K. R. Arsenault
  15. Beyond Me – Anne Donwerth-Chikamatsu
  16. Hathor: A Reintroduction to an Ancient Egyptian Goddess – Lesley Jackson
  17. The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide
  18. Alanna: The First Adventure (The Lioness Quartet Book 1) – Tamora Pierce
  19. In the Hand of the Goddess (The Lioness Quartet Book 2) – Tamora Pierce
  20. The Guilded Ones – Namina Forna
  21. Cemetery Boys – Aiden Thomas
  22. Educated – Tara Westover
  23. Only the Sea Keeps: Poems of the Tsunami – Ed. Judith Robinson, Joan Bauer, Sankar Roy
  24. The Woman Who Rides Like A Man (The Lioness Quartet Book 3) – Tamora Pierce
  25. How Long Til Black Future Month? – N.K Jemesin
  26. Lioness Rampant (The Lioness Quartet Book 4) – Tamora Pierce
  27. Gramarye, a Witch’s Perzine: Issue 5 – K.D. Hume
  28. Gramarye, a Witch’s Perzine: Issue 6 – K.D. Hume
  29. Gramarye, a Witch’s Perzine: Issue 7 – K.D. Hume
  30. Love Songs for the Sun: Poems – KD Hume
  31. This Precious Life: Buddhist Tsunami Relief and Anti-Nuclear Activism in Post 3.11 Japan – Ed. Jonathan S. Watts
  32. First Test (Protector of the Small Book 1) – Tamora Pierce
  33. Page (Protector of the Small Book 2) – Tamora Pierce
  34. Squire (Protector of the Small Book 3) – Tamora Pierce
  35. Lady Knight (Protector of the Small Book 4) – Tamora Pierce
  36. Valor and the Vain: A Fairytale – K. D. Hume
  37. All Night Long: Haiku, Senryu, and Other Short Poems, and a Haibun on the Great Tohoku Earthquake – Kirby Record
  38. Red Skies: A Creators Response to 2020 – Ed. Rachel Small and Amanda Edwards
  39. The Last Girl Scout – Natalie Ironside
  40. Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey – Marie Mutsuki Mockett
  41. A Constellation of Cats – Ed. Denise Little
  42. Where Shadows Lie (Book One of The Last Gift) – Allegra Pescatore
  43. Find Your Goddess – Skye Alexander
  44. I Sexually Identify As An Attack Helicopter – Isabel Falls
  45. The World that Belongs to Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia – Ed. Aditi Angiras & Akhil Katyal
  46. One Year on T: On Non-binary Sex and Transition – Sage Pantony
  47. 1.5 Years on T: My Non-binary Body, Transition, and Ambivalence – Sage Pantony
  48. Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology – Ed. Celine Frohn
  49. Coming Off of T: Transition As Cycle – Sage Pantony
  50. Silk and Steel: A Queer Speculative Adventure Anthology – Ed. Janine Southard
  51. Lead and Roses: Love Songs at the End of the World – Natalie Ironside
  52. Full-Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest – Sandy Doughton
  53. Wild Magic (The Immortals Quartet Book 1) – Tamora Pierce
  54. Wolf-Speaker (The Immortals Quartet Book 2) – Tamora Pierce
  55. The Cruel Sister – KD Hume
  56. Emperor Mage (The Immortals Quartet Book 3) – Tamora Pierce
  57. The Realms of the Gods (The Immortals Quartet Book 4) – Tamora Pierce
  58. Persons of Consequence – KD Hume
  59. Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters – Nikita Gill
  60. And the River Flowed As a Raft of Corpses: The Poetry of Yamaguchi Tsutomu, Survivor of Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki – Chad Diehl
  61. Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death – Bernd Heinrich
  62. Non-binary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity – Ed. Micah Rajunov, Scott Duane
  63. Who By Water: Reflections of a Tsunami Psychologist – Ronna Kabatznick
  64. The Luminous Dead – Caitlin Starling
  65. From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death – Caitlin Doughty
  66. Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster – Adam Higginbotham
  67. Warning Lines Magazine Issue 2: Echo – Ed. Charlie D’Aniello
  68. Hellebore Issue #1: The Sacrifice Issue – Ed. Maria J Perez Cuervo
  69. Sorrowland: A Novel – Rivers Solomon
  70. Skin of the Sea – Natasha Bowen
  71. Girls of Fate and Fury (Girls of Paper and Fire Book 3) – Natasha Ngan
  72. The Jaguar Princess – Clare Bell
  73. Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster – David Lochbaum and The Union of Concerned Scientists