You claim to be the daughters of the witches they could not burn. Fine. Then we are the children of the ones they drowned, witch and falsely accused alike, weighed down with rope and stone and iron chains. The waves of brackish lake water and briny ocean which filled their lungs at the final gasp now lap at the backs of our throats, leaving crusts of dried minerals to grind between our bared teeth. Denied eternal rest, our dead progenitors float in our sepulcher sternums and drive us ever onward with their wailing and thrashing, demanding retribution. You whose ancestors died in comfortable beds and were buried in respectable churchyards, you who breathe easy through cinderless lungs, unhaunted, uninhabited, what could you possibly know of a witch hunt’s inheritance?
Category Archives: Other
Researching online degree programs like
which one of these offers a master’s in
longing like a gravity well
grief like a supercell
heart like a lodestone spinning circles
the compass needle that never stops moving
the pendulum swinging yes/no yes/no yes/no
Laying in the dark of a seaside hotel room, the wild Pacific Ocean eating away at the bluff just beyond and only thin blankets and old wood walls for protection, fear grips me without warning. I feel her like a storm front looming offshore, her presence weighing the stuffy air down around me like she’s watching, like she’s waiting, like she’s as aware of me as I am of her.
Even as I acknowledge how silly this is, that I’m anthropomorphizing the convergence of tectonic plates (even gendering it!), still I find myself praying into the darkness, Ave Cascadia, full of rage, your sisters in slumber are with thee. Sleep, Cascadia, keep sleeping, at least for one more day…
If we had known about the Cascadia Subduction Zone a thousand years ago, five thousand, ten thousand, would we have worshiped it? Would we have conjured a wrathful goddess of rock and wave as I have, burned offerings to her on the rocky shores of the Pacific Northwest to buy her mercy? And would that belief have conjured her forth? Given her life in truth?
Laying in a rented bed in an aging lodge in the heart of the inundation zone, I can believe it. I feel her out there: Cascadia, crowned in fire; Cascadia, mother of mountains; Cascadia, who swallows the earth in her wrath. Cascadia, whose waves will kill tens of thousands when next she stirs. Who could waken right now and I would be helpless, an insignificant little flea scrambling in the cold, chaotic darkness to reach high ground in time.
I am always aware of Cascadia. Here in the dark, with the waves crashing just yards away, it’s hard not to feel like she’s just as aware of me.
Sometimes I want to gather the rocky, pine-strewn mountains of northern California into my arms and croon, I do not blame you, oh land of my birth. I would hold them close like a parent aged fragile as a babe and swear, This was not your fault. You did not cause him to be taken from me, though it was in your heights the ending began. We are connected, even if this place is not the one that raised me, and our relationship should be one of love, not regret. I would sing to the scrub jays and coyotes, whisper tales to the granite boulders, lull the sun to slumber a little longer and hold off the day’s heat. Let there be peace between us, I would ask of those peaks. Your picturesque vistas will always hold as many joyful memories as painful; I will try to remember the beauty before and not the disaster which followed.
For eight thousand years and more we have served the gods wine
sweet and bitter, rich and tart
vines and variants perfected across continents and civilizations.
Yet soon we will have only wine tasting of wildfire ash to offer our most sacred divinities
will pour them smoke-tainted vintages bottled during years when we never saw the stars
and the sun rose red as blood each dawn.
Before we know it, we will not even have that to give
our millennia of legacy lost to a century’s folly;
will the gods still answer our prayers then?
I’m done. It’s time.
Call the priest.
Tell him I am a house choked by ghosts
that they fill every room and I cannot be rid of them
no matter my gnashing and wailing.
Tell him I will gladly submit
to the oil and incense
the psalms and holy water
if he can empty me once more.
If he cannot:
burn me down.
Twenty-two years it’s been and yet still each spring when the roadside ditches flood I glance to the quick flowing waters and the green grass waving within their currents and pointedly do not think about you, I do not think about how I found your limp little body stretched out in a similar water-logged ditch just steps away from the safety of home yet now forever gone, forever stolen from me, forever beyond where I can follow, and I definitely do not think about my sister recalling, decades later, how my wailing preceded me up the long walk from the road to the house, or how I didn’t even have the decency to carry you myself but waited until my parents returned, had them confirm what I already knew, and I certainly never think about how I failed you, my sweet boy barely out of kittenhood, how I failed you, how I failed you failed you failed you, I just turn my eyes away from those flooded banks and pretend I never saw a thing.
it is not enough to smell the petrichor
I must plunge my limbs into the damp earth
I must dig and writhe until black dirt coats my skin
I must chew the moldering bones of dead creatures
and grind their mineral shards between my teeth
Almost exactly 3 and a half years ago I wrote a post about how I had just landed “literally my dream job” as a Tsunami Program Coordinator for the Washington State Emergency Management Division. After 6 pretty boring years managing federal grants, I would be conducting education and outreach about Washington’s geologic hazards, tsunamis in particular, and supporting partners and stakeholders from the local to federal levels with initiatives to help mitigate the impacts of those hazards. It sounded amazing! While I was nervous to take on this new role, I was also extremely excited to be back in the field of emergency management. At my current job I’d begun to feel stifled, like I couldn’t stretch my wings, and this new opportunity felt like fate had finally steered me back to the right path.
Now, 3 and a half years later, I’m here once more with a new announcement – this Tsunami Program Coordinator has been promoted to Tsunami Program Manager! That’s right, not only did my boss decide to keep me around all those years ago once he found out what a weird, neurotic nerd he hired, I now manage the entire tsunami program. (It turns out a weird, neurotic nerd is exactly what he needed because I’m an organized control freak that keeps everything running smoothly.) If the past 3 years have been me stretching my growing wings like a fledgling learning the feel of the wind from the safety of the nest, I’m definitely flying over open air now and testing my skills for real. While I don’t have official supervisory responsibility over our other 2 Tsunami Program Coordinators like my boss does (which is good; timesheets are a pain), I’m in charge of leading the program overall and that means all day-to-day programmatic decisions, grant and budget management, overseeing my teammates, and ensuring we’re on track with our many, MANY projects. Our program is quite robust and has the power to influence tsunami policy not just in Washington State but across the nation. No pressure.
We’ve been building to this promotion for a while now, which means I’ve had a lot of time to think about what makes a good leader and what kind of leader I want to be. I take lessons from those around me and try to emulate what I find admirable in the leaders who have shaped me: empathy, honesty, tenacity, humor. I look to my gods and ancestors for strength, encouragement, and direction, and I know I couldn’t have gotten to this place without them. I’m doing things I never could have imagined a decade ago – responding to disasters, presenting at national conferences, being interviewed by the media, acting as a subject matter expert on topics that have serious real-world implications. I’ve been stressed and exhausted and angry and pushed to my limits… and I wouldn’t trade away any of it (well, except maybe the covid19 activation). I’m grateful for it all, the good and the bad. I can’t grow if I stay in my comfort zone, after all, and the gods have sure been good about pushing me out of it!
So here I am, excited and nervous to embark on more adventures in Adulting. Who knows what the next 3 years hold? Or even the next 3 months? I definitely don’t, but what I do know is that I can face whatever comes my way thanks to my support network of loved ones both living and dead, human and animal, ancestor and deity.
Kneeling in the compost dirt of my future grave, I watch the decomposers at their work and weep with love and awe and fear. Rodents and birds, beetles and fungi and tiny ants who lift a thousand times their own weight – I watch them carry off bits of decaying vegetable peels and nibble discarded fruit and I weep. It’s just so beautiful, this ancient web of connection and symbiosis. Beautiful and fragile.
I am immensely afraid all the time. Afraid I am living through the last era of life on Earth, that I will witness the extinction of all these strange, lovely little creatures who hold our world together. Afraid things will only get worse from here, year after year until every nightmare scenario becomes reality. Afraid I am ultimately helpless to protect even just the ones I love from this mounting apocalypse, let alone rodents and birds and tiny, intrepid ants.
When I die and they cover me over with the dirt of this planet that birthed and raised me, will the decomposers be here to break my flesh back down to its base components? Will there be fungi left to weave their filaments around my bones and clothe me once more in their fruit? Or will it be too late to nurture my fellow organisms, to finally be part of the giving and not just the taking? Is it too late? Am I too late? Are we?
I got a new tablet for Christmas and thought I’d post some of the art I’ve done here on WordPress! If you go directly to my page, you’ll see I made some new banners for my site as well. ;)
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!
- The Dead and the Dark – Courtney Gould
- The Elpis Pages: A Collective – Ed. Kayla King
- Warning Lines Issue 3: FALL’N CHERUB
- The Witch’s Heart – Genevieve Gornichec
- Wave – Sonali Deraniyagala
- Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe – Laura Lynne Jackson
- Corporeal: Volume 1 – Ed. Katharine Blair and Lucca Hermes
- Whispers of Stone (The Last Gift Book 2) – Allegra Pescatore
- Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death – Ed. Yoel Hoffmann
- Gender Euphoria: Stories of Joy from Trans, Non-binary, and Intersex Writers – Ed. Laura Kate Dale
- Lady of the Wood – Mark Braun
- Emotionally Raw: Second Edition – Carlos Cabrera
- Analogies and Allegories Literary Magazine Issue 7: Zodiac Signs – Ed. Mollie Williamson
- Seven Mercies (Seven Devils Book Two) – Laura Lam and Elizabeth May
- The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why – Amanda Ripley
- The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine – Thomas Morris
- Zenith Literary Magazine Volume 3: Wasteland – Ed. Catalina Irigoyen and Mikey Waller
- Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law – Mary Roach
- Tempest: Wild Weather Collections – Ed. Sam Bellamy
- Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World – Paul Stamets
- The Saint of Witches – Avra Margariti
- Death, Ritual and Belief: The Rhetoric of Funerary Rites (Third Edition) – Douglas Davies
- Warning Lines Literary Magazine Volume 4: Otherworlds – Ed. Charlie D’Aniello
- The Golden Wave: Culture and Politics After Sri Lanka‘s Tsunami Disaster – Michele Ruth Gamburd
- The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-love – Sonya Renee Taylor
- These Gossamer Strings (The Last Gift Book 3) – Allegra Pescatore
- If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho – Anne Carson
- Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot – Mikki Kendall
- Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States – Samantha Allen
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants – Robin Wall Kimmerer
- Dead Dad Jokes – Ollie Schminkey
- Maiden, Mother, Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes – Ed. Gwen Benaway
- Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm – Ed Yarimar Bonilla and Marisol LeBrón
- The Gift of Blood (Crimson Tears Book 1) – Vaela Denarr and Micah Iannandrea
- Genderqueer: A Memoir – Maia Kobabe
- What Moves the Dead – T. Kingfisher
- The Halloween Tree – Ray Bradbury
- Queers Destroy Fantasy! Special Issue – Ed. Christopher Barzak
- Tsunami! – Walter Dudley and Min Lee
- The Merciless Ones (The Guilded Ones Book 2) – Namina Forna
- Lady of Water and Flame: Ancient Hymns for Tefnut – Chelsea Luellon Bolton
- Tsunami Alert: Beating Asia’s Next Big One – Oakley Brooks
- Treasury of Egyptian Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Monsters, and Mortals – Donna Jo Napoli
- Furrows: Deep Earth Collections Vol 2 (Green Ink Poetry) – Ed. Sam Bellamy and S. Farrar
- Disaster by Choice: How Our Actions Turn Natural Hazards into Catastrophes – Ilan Kelman
- Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Dawn of Yangchen (Chronicles of the Avatar Book 3) (Volume 3) – F. C. Lee
- Nona the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Book 3) – Tamsyn Muir
- Antiracism in Animal Advocacy: Igniting Cultural Transformation (The Encompass Essays) – Ed. Jasmin Singer
- Creepy Cat Volume 1 – Cotton Valent
- Nights with a Cat Volume 1 – Kyuryu Z
- A Cat Story – Ursula Murray Husted
- Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt: Writers Respond to Capitalist Climate Change – Ed. Vijay Prashad
- Seven Blades in Black (The Grave of Empires Book 1) – Sam Sykes
- Pink Pansy Press Volume One: Haunting – Ed. Jay Hogan, Asher Cookson
- The Scratch Daughters (The Scapegracers Book 2) – H. A. Clarke
- Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History – Dan Flores
- The Raging Sea: The Powerful Account of the Worst Tsunami in US History – Dennis Powers
- Kiki’s Delivery Service – Eiko Kadono
- Soul of the Deep (Of Mermaids and Orisa Book 2) – Natasha Bowen
- We are Changed to Deer at the Broken Place – Kelly Weber
- The Blue Mirror – Kathe Koja
- Corporeal Volume 4 – Ed. Katharine Blair and Lucca Hermes
- The Luminous Dead – Caitlin Starling
- Lord of the White Hell Book One (The Cadeleonian Series 1) – Ginn Hale
- Lord of the White Hell Book Two (The Cadeleonian Series 2) – Ginn Hale
- Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book One (The Cadeleonian Series 3) – Ginn Hale
- Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book 2 (The Cadeleonian Series 4) – Ginn Hale
- Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? And Other Questions About Dead Bodies – Caitlin Doughty
- Myth and Lore Issue 4: Midwinter lights are dimming – Ed. Mark Ryan
- Master of Restless Shadows Book One (The Cadeleonian Series Book 5) – Ginn Hale
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
the beast inside me isn’t dumb
it smells the burning, it knows
its forest home has been razed
and that you come for it next
at night the coyotes come creeping back
howl up the fresh ghosts of felled trees
from my bed I scream with them
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!
But conceit made you careless;
you never noticed my shadow(s),
nor considered I might be protected by things
bigger and hungrier than you.