"Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous." ~Anais Nin

30 March 2016

Poetry Wednesday #35

Jessie Eastland [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Silent as sunrise
Clouds form and drift,
Blurring the lines
'Tween earth and sky.

Ephemeral mists
Haunt my dreams,
Promising romance,
And whispered secrets.

A fleeting kiss between
The commonplace and rare—
Here and gone again
Before most know it's there.

26 March 2016

Fiction Friday #4: Super

Sorry this was late.  I took some time in the middle of the story to apply for a new job. ~AJ
By Original works: Vegas Bleeds Neon Derivative work: FRacco [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


No.  No, I don't think I need my lawyer right now, do you?

Okay.  So, let me get this out of the way: I don't like these so-called "heroes" running around today.  I don't.  I could say it was the way I was raised, and, truthfully, that's probably a lot of it.  I mean, my father is who he is, and you don't get raised by someone like him without it influencing your views on such things.  But I think a lot of the reason he became . . . well, you know—is because of those heroes.

They did kill my mother, however inadvertently.

Still, you should know where I stand, and it's not on the side of heroes.  Just so we're clear before we start.

It's not like I like the villains much more, despite my father.  They're all destructive bastards in the end, aren't they?  Look at Toledo—and I feel very, very bad for the few survivors left from the Destruction.  It was monstrous, what happened there.

I suppose that's another thing we should get clear: I do not support what happened there, nor did I give aid or succor to anyone involved in the Destruction.  Well, no one except for my father, but he's my dad–no matter what he's become–and I couldn't let him die.

The other one?  The one you lot practically worship?  Yeah, he's dead.  I made sure of it.

No, it's not how it sounds.  I didn't kill him.  I just didn't save him.  I watched as he breathed his last. It didn't take long.  He was mostly dead by the time I got there.  And I don't think he was in much pain, but I'm unfamiliar with his particular physiology, so I can't be sure.

Could I have saved him?  I don't see the point in answering that.  He would've ended up this way sooner or later.  And I don't know why you think I'm so obligated to save him anyway.  It's not like he was a good person.  Sure, you lot called him a hero, but what did he ever do that was truly heroic? Saved some people here or there, stopped a few robberies?  Whatever.  Who hasn't done that?  And he certainly didn't save Toledo.

No, I'm not registered.  And, no, I'm not telling you what my powers are or if I even have any.  It's not your business.  I don't care what the law is.  You're not going to see me running around in tights, having epic battles on rooftops, or anything like that.  I'm just trying to live my life with as little interference from heroes, villains, or other as possible.

No, I do not consent to being tested.

Yes, I would have tried to stop my father.  I've been trying to get him to stop for years!  He's an old man now, and he's going to get himself killed.  His quest for vengeance or whatever has gone way too far. It's transformed him into something else.  And it's not about vengeance anymore for him.  It's not about getting retribution for his wife, my mother.  It hasn't been about that for a very long time.  He may use Mama's death as an excuse for what he does, but that's not why he does it.  I couldn't tell you why.  He's not right.  He's not sane.  Maybe he never really was, and her death just pushed him over the edge.  I don't know.

What I do know is that he needs help.  I'd say he needs to be locked up in Arkham, but look at the monsters that place produces.  At his core he's a good man.  I know that.  He's just lost, in pain, angry, and maybe more than a little power-mad.

He is a good father though.  He was always there for me.  I mean, mostly before his mission took over his life, but even now if I really need him, he'll come.  He cares, you know?  He's just . . . unstable.

No, I don't know where he is now.

I'm telling you the truth!

When I got him out of Toledo he was bleeding, broken.  And he was being hunted.  By you guys, by "heroes," by whoever.  And I thought he was going to die.  I couldn't let him die!  I got him out, got him patched.  Then he ran off.

No, I didn't know what was going to happen in Toledo.

Hey! I said I didn't want to be tested.  Get the fuck away from that equipment!

Look, I didn't know what was going to happen.  I just—I just got this vague note from my dad saying something about a "final showdown" in Toledo.

Yeah, he really talks like that.

Here.  Look at the note.  It mentions Toledo, but nothing about what was going to happen.  What did happen.  I followed because I was afraid for my father.  I wanted to stop him.  Talk him out of whatever he had planned.  I was afraid he'd be killed by Captain Asswipe, you know?  And he almost was!

Oh, boo-fucking-hoo!  I'm supposed to cry over that raging narcissist?  That man has caused more destruction than my father ever did.  Hell, he's caused more destruction than my father and his colleagues combined.  He made my father the way he is.  Do you understand that?

And I'm not entirely convinced it was an accident.

No, no, no.  Think about it.  A hero's gotta fight someone.  He's gotta have an opponent.  Otherwise he's just a monster.

I wouldn't be surprised if these fucking heroes in their fucking halls and fortresses and caves had some kind of supercomputer making a database of the population.  Looking for traits, instabilities, latent powers.  People they can exploit.  People they can make their enemies just so they can stay the "good guys" in the eyes of the rest us.  They don't care about collateral damage.  They don't care about the deaths they "accidentally" cause.  We're bugs to them.  Our deaths, our suffering is too small for them to notice or care about.

Don't give me that.  Some of these guys aren't even human, did you know that?  Like, not even born on this planet—a completely different species.  Do really believe they have the same values and emotions?  How do you know you're not just projecting that?  Hm?

You know Toledo's not the first town to be destroyed.  It's just the largest.  Off the top of my head I can name at least ten towns a fraction of Toledo's size that were completely wiped out by your. Fucking. Heroes.

Solomon, KS.  Humansville, MO.  Clinton, MO.  Adair, IL.  Bone Gap, IL.  Jonesport, ME.  Milan, MN.  Canton, OK.  Prague, NE.  King Salmon, AK.  St. Paul, AK.  That's eleven.  Shall I go on?

Maybe a handful of people made it out of those towns alive.  And there were no villains anywhere near them when they went up.

I have proof.  I've been collecting data on this for years.  Just a hobby I have.

There are copies–scans of documents, recordings of interviews with survivors, etc–on my computer. You've got the computer, feel free to analyze the information there.

The originals?  Scattered, hidden, left with people I trust, or whatever.  Like I'm going to leave them around for whoever to find.  Hell, even telling you that I have what little I have puts me at risk.

I don't know what I'd do with it.  Right now I'm just sitting on all this information.  I don't think you guys will do anything constructive with it.  It's going to be buried or dismissed.  But I think history will show I'm right.

I knew when you showed up at my door that it was unlikely I'd walk away.  Not clean, at any rate.  It doesn't bother me that much.  You're not going to kill me.  You can try to imprison me, but I don't think it'll take.

You see, my father loves me.  No matter what else he is, or what he's done, he's my dad.  And he's very protective.  I don't think you'd want to make an enemy like him.  So it's just a matter of time before you let me out on my own, or he comes to get me.

Seriously, guy?  You're not gonna test me without a fight.  So far you've no call to test me anyway. I've shown no symptoms of ability.  All I've been doing is talking.  You're not compelled to believe me, are you?  I haven't dented the table with my fists.  I haven't sneezed and blown someone through the wall.  The only reason that you have to be suspicious that I might have power is because of who my father is, and everyone knows that he wasn't born with his powers, and I was born before he gained them.  So he can't have passed powers down to me genetically.  There's no cause.  And you'd be going against the Supreme Court ruling Constantine v. the NBPP, which states that a person cannot be tested for superhuman abilities without their consent unless said person shows symptoms of ability, or has an immediate relative with a genetically inherited ability.  It is to protect the privacy and sovereignty of the people who have abilities but choose not to use them.  It also prevents the person from having to choose a life of either an outlaw–hunted by government and heroes alike–or a slave–forced into government controlled heroics.  I mean, that alone is a recipe to create a villain if ever I heard.

Oh, I know.  Most heroes don't work for you.  Most work for groups that are occasionally given assignments they can't refuse from the government to keep their hero status.  They're certainly not ugly, are they?  And the more prominent the hero is the less of these jobs he has to do.  Can't have a boy scout be seen killing people in China, can we?  Not in the age of smart phones and youtube.

I know how this game is played.  I've been living it since my mom died when I was a kid.  You can hold me for helping my father escape Toledo if you want.  Or you can let me go.  But you can't test me unless you want to deal with a lawsuit.

That's better.  Thank you.

So, have you decided if you're going to charge me with obstruction or whatever?

Conspiracy?!  Well that's a hollow threat!  You'll never get that to stick.  There's no way that you can prove that I had anything to do with planning Toledo.  Sure, I got my dad out of there, but I also personally assisted emergency personnel and survivors.  I've given you my computer which is full of interesting information on at least fifteen other crime scenes, hundreds more victims, and profiles of both heroes and villains that you'll find very interesting.  My lawyer's going to eat you alive.

No.  No, I still don't think I need my lawyer.  I mean, our conversation's being recorded and if I end up needing her she'll have access to this interview, but I think you're going to let me go before it comes to that.  If only to avoid the trouble my father will cause.  Anyway, you start persecuting–I mean, prosecuting–mostly innocent family members and you'll find yourself in a world of trouble. There's too many of us now.  You've gone and made the world all black and white.  Maybe in the grey days you could've gotten away with it, but not now.

Yeah, mostly innocent.  We're all mostly innocent.  I mean, I did help my dad survive, and I suppose you can spin the saving of a life into a bad thing, but I don't think so.

Oh, we're done talking now?


No.  I'm not staying in town.  I don't live here, and don't see the need to waste money on a hotel for however long your investigation lasts. You can reach me on my cell if you need me.

No, I'm not going to call you if my father gets in touch.  It'd be a breach of trust, you see, and my relationship with him is more important to me than helping you put him in prison.

I'll be seeing you.

23 March 2016

Poetry Wednesday #34

Flag Map of Kansas - Darwinek 1927-1961 Flag of Kansas [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons


We are broke and broken:
Our state is hemorrhaging people
Nearly as fast as it is money.
And we're lost,
Having forgotten our past,
And been blinded to our future.
Where are the dreams that were?
Once we were home to
Abolitionists, outlaws
In a time of legal slavery.
We were founded by men
Who believed in equality,
Who fought violently to protect it,
Who shed blood—their own and others—
To defend it.
Raiders and rioters,
Bloody Kansas.
Fanatical Koch-suckers rule us, and
Work actively towards our ruin.
Double down.
Double down.
Double down.
Break the backs of the schools and
Pre-K through University.
Break the backs of the courts and
If they and the governor disagree.
Break the backs of the workers and
To bolster our growing oligarchy.
Where are our dreams that once were?
What are our dreams that will be?

16 March 2016

Poetry Wednesday #33

I've decided to start asking for donations to support my writing, mostly because it's been 3 years since I got my Master's degree and I still haven't found a full time job.  I can't support myself, sad as that may be, and I would really prefer to spend my time writing rather than applying for jobs that I keep not getting.  To that end, I set up both a Patreon account for monthly donations and a PayPal account for one time donations.  Both are linked here and in the sidebar.  Thanks! ~Amber

Ivan Bandura, Riot Police, from Flickr


Fear floats around,
Obscuring the air,
Making people crazy.
I understand.
'Cause I feel it too—
This fear of what may be.
I can feel it
Gnawing and scratching
At our collective minds.
I can feel it
Trying to trample
Our sense of being kind.
I can see it
Fogging our windows
Breaking all of our mirrors.
I can hear it
Whispering gently,
Spreading it's poison lies.

It's in the boot-stomps,
The slide of magazines into guns,
The murmuring anger of a mob.
It's in the bombs and bloody bodies.
It's in the riots waiting to form.
It's in all types of media.
It's quickly becoming the norm.

09 March 2016

Poetry Wednesday #32

ManannĂ¡n mac Lir, Gortmore, Ireland by Kenneth Allen

A prayer to ManannĂ¡n mac Lir

Ephemeral King–
As constant and as changing as the sea–
Warrior, teacher, trickster, friend,
Welcomer, truth-seeker, sage,
Guardian of the paths of death,
Creator of the gates to
Guide me through your depths
To esoteric understandings
And strange magics.
Help me find my home
Near your shores.

07 March 2016

My experiences with transgendered people

by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren (Newborn Monarch emerging)
[CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I've been thinking more and more lately about transgendered people, and not that there needs to be another article about transpeople written by a white, cisgendered woman, but I don't care I'm writing this article anyway.

Thus far in my life, I've known (or knowingly known) a few transgendered people, and I want to tell you about two of them.  The first was a girl in several of my classes my freshman year of high school.  Her name was Kay*.  At birth her parents named her Will*, but I never knew her as such.  She was always Kay, and she was always beautiful.  She displayed this "easy" femininity that I could never hope to perform.  Always made up, always perfect, you know?  When I first met her I didn't know that she was trans.  She was just this pretty, quiet girl who sat by herself in science.  A classmate who had known her from before her transition was the one to tell everyone about her, and she became an oddity.  This was the mid-90s and I'm not sure that "transgender" was even a word back then.  I know it wasn't in our vocabulary.

Now my freshman year I attended an art school.  This was before my parents moved us out to the suburbs and better schools, academically speaking, though diversity-wise my inner city art school kicked my suburban school's ass.  The school I attended freshman year was full of the districts misfits: artsy kids, anti-establishment types, homosexuals, et cetera, et cetera.  It was a pretty progressive school, everybody was fairly accepting of everybody else.  Or, at least, that was my experience.  I do know that we had less violence and more communication among the different races and sexualities than then other schools in the district.  But looking back now, and thinking of Kay, I think she must have been terribly lonely.

She was isolated, you see, and though I don't think she suffered from any overt bullying, I also don't think that she had many friends.  I could be wrong.  I didn't know her well.  But I never saw her with a group.  She was always alone, sitting quietly along the wall, never raising a hand to answer a teacher's question, never gossiping with the rest of us, or acting out, or just being the goofy teenager that she was.  I look back and I think that I should have reached out, made her my friend, but the thought never occurred to me.  Kay was someone we tittered about if we thought of her at all.  "Did you know she used to be a boy?" 

Oddly enough, or not, as the case may be, I never really thought of her as anything but a girl.

A couple of years later, after our move to the Kansas suburbs, one of my brother's friends briefly dated Kay.  This caused a small scandal among my brother's other friends, and more tittering, but the relationship didn't last more than a few months, and was more about the fluidity of my brother's friend's sexuality than anything else.  He'd go on to date people of all genders before settling down with a wife and happily (as far as I know) raising a family.

But Kay . . . I don't know what became of her.  I think about her sometimes and I wonder.  I hope she's survived and is happy and successful.  In the, gods!, 18 years since I graduated high school, and 21 since my freshman year, I've lost so many friends to suicide.  If I'm counting on appendages, I'm down to my toes now.  My fingers are all used up.  And I know that suicide rates among transgendered people are astronomical.  So I hope that she's okay.

The second transgendered person that I known, I knew for several years before his transition.  In other words, I met him when he was still her.  Let's call him Mike*.

Mike and I were hired at the bookstore on the same day, back when Mike was Lisa*.  He seemed happy enough.  We became kind of friends, work friends, and saw each other four or five times a week for maybe three years before he quit and moved away to finish school.  At that point we were Facebook friends, so when he made the transition I was notified and had a couple years warning before I saw him again.  This time as a man.

Now, I don't know how Mike feels about this, but in my head there is a fairly strong delineation between Mike and Lisa—no matter that they're the same person.  For instance, I worked with Lisa not Mike.  When I tell stories about work, if the person who emerged as Mike is in them, I have to pause, because I catch myself thinking in terms of Lisa.  You know, using female-gendered pronouns and his old, misgendered name.  I have no problem with thinking of Mike in the now, or Mike in the future, but I can't quite seem to retroactively reconcile Mike with Lisa of the past.  It's all "Lisa did this.  Lisa did that (in years past)." then "Mike did this or that (recently).  Mike is doing this.  Mike will do that."  I wonder sometimes if he does the same thing, or if he has always thought of himself as Mike and now he simply matches the way he's always been?  Or maybe somewhere in-between?

I do remember the first time I saw Mike after his transition.  I was walking on campus from one of the libraries to the building that housed my next class.  I had some time to kill, and was thinking about just sitting on the floor outside my classroom to read or maybe take a nap.  I ended up going to the same school Mike did, though he graduated a few years ahead of me.  I had heard that he still did things on campus, worked or volunteered for the school in some way, but I never expected to see him.  So it was something of a shock when I ran into him that day.

I recognized him almost immediately, and yet, somehow, didn't.  Like he both was and was not the person that I once knew.  He looked good.  That boy is a handsome lad.  And it's not that I was expecting him to look bad or anything, it's just that I didn't really know what to expect.  I don't think I expected him to look quite so right.  Right in a way that Lisa never did, though I didn't realize it until just that moment.  He looked happy and comfortable and satisfied with his life in a very male sort of way.  I don't know quite how to explain it.  He just looked right.

We chatted a bit about inconsequential things, a little bit about his transition, and then went our separate ways.  Him to do whatever he was doing on campus, and me to class.  The meeting left me with the sense of the profound that I still can't really articulate, but it changed me in ways I'm sure I haven't discovered yet.

I don't know that I'm really articulating this right, and I don't know that there's really a point to this story.  But both these people in different ways affected me, affect me still.  And maybe not because of them, I am and always have been socially progressive after all, but I think it's important to see transgendered people as, well, people.  Too often I think we boil down people to concepts and boogeymen, and that only hurts us all.  I don't want to get political here, that's just not my style, I just wanted to share some stories of some people I once knew.  That's all.

*All names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people I'm writing about.

04 March 2016

Amber's Birth 3-4-81

Recently I discovered (or rediscovered, because I think I found it the first time when I was in middle school) a journal that my mother kept in the 80s.  In it are the stories of the births of her children.  I thought it'd be interesting to post her words here to celebrate my 35th birthday.  Everything below and not in italics was written by my mother, Gloria, sometime after my birth.

It all starts on Wednesday, March 4, 1981 . . . 

After several months of total exhaustion, I awoke with a feeling of renewed energy.  All of the signs that the baby would be born soon were there, but I was not in tune with my body and couldn't read them.

Although I had leaked clear fluid in little gushes the previous day and it continued on this day, I went to work anyway.  This was amniotic fluid—my water had broken, but I didn't know it.  At lunch I bought enchiladas, but couldn't eat.  (The previous day Lana and I had gone to the Chinese restaurant, but I couldn't eat then either.  In the afternoon I called Cederlind's office to ask about the little gushes of fluid.  The nurse said that if there were no contractions not to worry.

Driving home from work I felt my first contractions.  What is this?  What's happening?  Still I failed to listen to my body and to realize that my baby was ready to be born.

At home I woke Dan, who got up to take a bath while I timed contractions.  Four minutes between the first two and then three minutes apart from then on.  Still I crawled into bed thinking this bus be false labor.  Dan called Labor & Delivery at SMMC [Shawnee Mission Medical Center] who advised that we call the doctor.  Cederlind advised that we go to the hospital.

When we arrived at SMMC it was nearing 8 o'clock and I was dilated to 8.  At the hospital Dan helped me undress then he went to scrub up.  The baby would be born in the birthing room with no drugs, no prep, no stirrups, and I hoped no episiotomy.

Within an hour I was dilated to 10.  But now I was in a bad mood, impatient, tired, and wanting sleep.  I had convinced myself that if I could just go to sleep, progress would stop and we could have the baby the next day.  So I tried to sleep between contractions.

The baby would be three months old before I would remember some of the things that might have helped speed things up.  If I had been on my feet, gravity would have helped.  Ironing the perineum might have prevented the need for episiotomy.  But these things were far from my mind as I played at pushing.

One of the nurses said I pushed for 2 1/2 hours.  The hospital's records says it was 1 1/2 hours.  In any event, Amber was born at 11:26 PM.  To think that many doctors would have pulled her out with forceps frightens me.

When I felt the baby's head descend and recede again Cederlind did a "small" episiotomy.  The baby's head was born.  It was such a thrill to look between my legs and to see my half born child.  She cried when he suctioned her nose & mouth, then she was quiet.  With the next push the doctor said, "You have a girl."

And I remember Dan jumping up and down saying, "Honey, did you hear?  We have a girl."

I was handed the baby still attached to me by the cord.  She lay in my arms and looked all around, her eyes wide with wonder.  She didn't cry at all, but seemed so calm.

The afterbirth was born and the doctor showed it to Dan & explained it's function, but I just held my little daughter in my arms.

02 March 2016

Poetry Wednesday #31

View of Cliffs of Moher by Clethbridge8 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Risk Assessment

I stand upon a precipice,
The road behind me stretches far,
Before me is the sky above
And rocks below.
Back home, the door is left ajar
For my return.
This I know.
This I know:
A decision must be made.
To take a chance,
To spread my wings and try to fly,
Or to turn around and walk back
Down the road I just came by.
I am afraid.
For though I long to soar the skies,
I see the broken bodies of those
Who tried and failed,
Who fell upon the rocks
Because their wings would not bear
Their weight.
I wait.
I wait and watch and feel the wind
As it flows over my skin.
I hear the laughing cries of those who fly
So high in the clear, blue sky.
I yearn to join in their flight,
To dance upon the stars at night,
But I fear the other fate:
That my wings can't bear my weight.
Because I hear, also, the pleas and moans
Of those who crashed
And were left alone to die in pain.
I CAN go back
To the life I know.
Return defeated to my home
Without having taken a blow
(Except to my own ego),
And live knowing I lost my chance
To step into the sky and dance
Because I was too afraid of
Crashing to leave the ground.
What life is that?
To fail,
To fall
Before I even try to fly.