Naturalis Familia Memoriae

Our Winter settles in,
rests on stone park benches
In warm cups of coffee
breathing steam into the night
Our Autumn has gone
the last fires left glowing
as the coals turn cold
on another sunset Samhain

Adolescent Summer’s shrug
lumbers past winter’s chill
remembering, and waiting
for the sun again to crest the hills
Little Spring is being sheered
of mushrooms, fallen trees
wrapped in turtlenecks of
moss and snow, asleep

How many more family portraits can we take?
Before little spring will always be summer,
and our Winter & Autumn, uncared for
will fade to outdoor memories.
When they no longer rear their heads,
and we will tell our children
“This is what your family was
but your family is now dead.”

Why no Updates?

Hey! Why aren’t there any updates from the last three years? you cry, having come to my website looking for brilliance.

In part, because most of my short fiction and whatnot is in the lengthy and heart-wrenching world of S U B M I S S I O N to various magazines and publications. Since the turn around is often 6+ months, time flies waiting for a rejection letter, which I have received several of. That explains the time gap.

Meanwhile, I’ll post some poetry or flash fiction at some point soon here, especially after I get my next rejection letter am feeling pissed about it. Afterall, that’s why I created this website.

 

 

 

 

Today I Found the Bag of a Homeless Man

A dirty green blanket
In a black garbage bag.
A pair of clean white socks,
Wrapped up in a greasy rag.

A hundred tiny catsup packets
Hidden in your pocket.

A bladeless ladies razor,
a broken plastic bottle
of salad dressing gone bad,
spilling into the bottom of your bag.

An aluminum tin of tuna.
(I gave this to a wild cat.)

and amongst the stains
A bit of bright red
And the idea: You are wounded,
Or perhaps even dead.

An implication in still life
A terrifying sight.

Bag, where’s your Man?
The pride and sorrow,
blood, treasure, hunger, fear
the back on which you’re donned?

Who gives these contents meaning
Now that your owner has gone?

Scrounged from the Wayback Machine from AKPCEP, circa 2005. I was 21.

Among the Witches

A gentle wind has pulled the clouds apart like a gray curtain to reveal the peaks of the Caucasus mountains, and I am pleased because it means that we will fly tonight.

It is the evening of October 24th, 1942, a Saturday, and I am resting in the open cockpit of my flimsy plywood and canvas biplane waiting for the night. My breath causes little cloudbursts to flow from my lips, and I know from previous flights that my and my navigator Vasilisa’s feet will freeze in our boots once we take flight.

All around me, the engineers of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment rush about outside the barn that tonight serves as our hangar, laying down planks of wood in the mud that will be our runway for the night. I do not envy their labor, but I am grateful for each of their efforts. Each woman of the regiment has a role to play, and I am proud of mine. Just six months ago I could not have foreseen that I would find joy in the idea of flying into the dark night sky to drop bombs on the heads of Germans, but tonight the idea makes my heart race.

Commander Bershanskaya, our regiment’s second in command, wrapped the briefing for tonight’s mission just an hour ago. She stood before us and explained that our target was the occupied city of Armavir. Vasilisa looked back at me as though to ask whether I had ever heard of it, and I shrugged. Flying with the 588th I dropped bombs over many Soviet cities and towns occupied by the Germans, most of which I did not know existed until the evening briefing. Tonight would be no different.

Tonight does feel different, or at least I do. I am collecting my thoughts when Vasilisa walks up and catches my attention.

“Oksana, have you heard? Word from the front is that the captured Germans are talking about us.”

I look down from the open cockpit and am unsurprised to see Vasilisa is eating straight out of a can of beans. The other girls in the regiment, myself included, eat a kind of chocolate toffee to stay alert for night missions but Vasilisa swears flat tins packed with salty fish. The beans are a recent addition to our rations – shipments from our British allies. The labels were all in English still and none of the other girls wanted to guess at the contents, but Vasilisa fears nothing.

I am for a moment grateful for the Polikarpov biplane’s open cockpit.

“Talking about us? What do you mean?”

“They call us Nachthexen, Oksana,” she says between bites.

“I don’t speak fascist, Vasilisa.”

“It means ‘Night Witches’ in German. They say they cannot shoot us down because we are sorceresses.”

I laugh at this. “Witches? Grown men say this?”

Vasilisa finishes her can of beans and throws it on the rubbish pile. The engineers have completed the wooden runway and begin to load our biplanes with bombs, two to a plane. Vasilisa climbs into the cockpit with me.

“It’s true. They say that the Red Army gives us injections that let us see at night, like cats.”

“What superstition. Why witches? Why not demons or devils or something just as preposterous?”

Vasilisa’s face lights up and I realize she has been waiting to share this with me.

“Well, you know how we shut the engines off and glide so they won’t hear us coming? The captured Germans say that right before the bombs come down, they hear the sounds of witches flying overhead on their brooms.”

“Brooms? Germans believe witches have flying brooms?” I look out over the mountains and try to imagine such a thing. Above the jagged peaks of the Caucasus, the full moon is rising and a deep black cape is trailing behind it. Bombs are clicked under our planes wings by a pair of engineers, and I look over my shoulder at Vasilisa. She shrugs.

“I know, I always thought they flew in giant mortars while grinding their pestles.”

“Don’t be so bourgeois, Vasilisa. There’s no such thing as witches.”

She makes a shocked and playfully angry face, and strikes me lightly on the shoulder. “I know that! I mean, that is what my grandmother would say. Besides, I’ve seen you playing with fortune telling cards some nights,” she points accusingly at me, “So maybe you really are a witch.”

I laugh and twist my hands into claw-like shapes. “Maybe I am.” I begin to make cackling noises and feint lunges at Vasilisa, who in turn makes mocking sounds of helplessness. We play at this only for a moment before she suddenly stops. A serious expression haunts her brow, and I stop.

“Vasilisa, what is it? Are you alright?”

She looks at me solemnly for several seconds before speaking.

“Do you remember when we first started the night bombing? How scared we were?”

I nod, for she is right – we were petrified. She hangs her head slightly, and the moonlight glints off the goggles that rest on her aviator cap. When she looks up, any trace of humor is gone from her face.

“Perhaps we are becoming too used to this, Oksana.”

The night closes in around us and the sounds of engines being turned on fills the air. It is nearly time for us to fly. Vasilisa pulls her goggles down over her eyes and readies her compass and map.

I face forward and pull my goggles down. Perhaps that is the thing I felt different in myself. Engineers are waving at us to take off and our coven of aviatrixes takes to the sky in the light of the full moon. Tonight I will descend from darkness in silence, my broom a gliding cropduster and my curses in the shapes of bombs.

Let the fascists call us witches.

I won’t argue.

Twine Update!

Deep in the midst of working on my newest Twine game, “What Color Are You,” and reaching a point where it is finally coming together. The GUI looks like a spiderweb of interconnecting pages, but it is finally starting to work out! One of the biggest experimentations in this Twine is my use of the “New Game + ” mechanic, with content that changes with each playthrough. Will people play through a twine multiple time to see deeper content, I guess we’ll see.

On Comicon and Carnival

Comicon and Carnival

Spending time at the Phoenix Comicon the last few years has been a strange experience – the last few years I have participated less in the programming for the event and have instead made it a point to collect a crew of people in matching costumes to parade around the event. I use the word “crew” specifically because this most recent year it was used by one of my friends and it stuck with me because of its similarity in use to the word “krewe” used to describe the participants in Carnival.

For the uninitiated, Carnival is the festival that occurs right before the Christian season of Lent and involves parades, public celebrations and elements of masquerade and circus. Masks and dissemblance play a large role in the festivities and the social order of everyday life is often completely overturned. In many regions of the world, it was the only church sanctioned revelry permitted and was seen as a necessary release from day to day obligations. Mikhail Bakhtin quotes a letter in his seminal 1968 text “Rabelais and His World “ from a 15th century theological school that notes “Wine barrels burst if from time to time we do not open them and let in some air.” Phoenix’s Comicon occurs at the end of the school year, and for many pop-culture savvy students is a release from repetition of school and an opportunity to engage in anarchic play with friends and strangers.

Carnival’s origins are suspected to derive from the Roman festivals of Bacchanalia and Saturnalia suffused with medieval folk culture. Feasting, masks, permitted degrees of lawlessness and role play feature deeply in these traditions. Comicon is not much different – there is food, masquerade, games and a general sense of lawlessness that is barely restrained. The sacred cows of popular culture are often lampooned in a manner not dissimilar to the Spanish Holy Week tradition of insulting the figure of Christ. Irreverence towards sacred icons is often a way to intensify their sacred nature for participants, and Comicon’s sly humor regarding its icons is no different.

The Comicon practice of cosplaying as characters from our shared pop mythology bears striking similarities to the masquerade employed by Carnival krewes. In particular, one juxtaposition best illuminates these similarities – that of the Midnight Robber and Deadpool.

The intimate details of the comic book character Deadpool’s life are the subject of many lengthy wiki entries out there, and chances are if you’ve ever attended a pop-culture convention you have seen a variation on the character– Zombie Deadpool, Dragonborn Deadpool, Joker Deadpool, Mandalorian Deadpool, etc. Deadpool’s personification in cosplay takes countless and often very personal forms. A common theme in the presentation of Deadpool by cosplayers is that he is mischievous, irreverent, and prone to insane rambling. He is one of the most recognizable presences at an event like Comicon.

The Midnight Robber of Carnival is a character that is marked by several features that are common to his countless presentations. The Robber is colorful, speaks in boastful rhyme, and has a costume that is different from individual to individual but has several basic rules – The iconic Robber has a wide-brimmed hat, a cape, carries a loud whistle and is often conceptually dead or undead. Drawn from old west novels and cinema, the Midnight Robber’s “Robber Talk” is just as key a part of the presentation of the character to the crowds of Carnival as Deadpool’s iconic brand of humorous fourth-wall-breaking insanity is to the crowds of any pop-culture event.

There is no rulebook that is consulted when a Carnival participant chooses to construct his Midnight Robber persona save for the folk tradition that has come to surround the character. The same can be said of Deadpool – while there is an extensive body of lore surrounding the character, it is rarely consulted with any dogmatic approach when a con-goer chooses to construct a Deadpool cosplay. As long as the characteristic mask of Deadpool is present the cosplayer is Deadpool, or at least some variant of him. I would go so far as to guess that many a Deadpool cosplayer has chosen the character without anything more than a passing familiarity with the folklore that governs his physical presentation within the context of a convention.

It is in this juxtaposition that the act of shared theater and community building that both Comicon and Carnival personify become more clearly parallel. The act of shared theater requires a common folkloric tradition, and for many Americans pop-culture is that common folklore – One need look no further than Star Wars to see this truth. The popularity of cons suggests that there is a deep need that goes beyond simple fandom that is sated by these events.Carnival and ComicCon are both a coming together of people with similar cultural touchstones to engage in informal play. For many participants, both events are less about their ostensible themes and more about revelry and community. Krewes form with mottos, themes and even color pallettes, and cosplay groups often engage in similar behavior – choosing a specific group of characters to play as or create themed variations on, be they steampunk, gothic lolita, etc. It is the context of these events that makes the act of masquerade socially “normal” and the interactions between cosplayers are often in-character, much like the interaction between Carnival participants with one another and the crowd. Both events draw people there to view the spectacle without necessarily participating. For many, I think cosplay at cons fulfills the same cultural need as Carnival does in the many places it is celebrated.

What do you think?