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seasons of creature

“But there are some who declare that such creatures of two sexes are monstrosities, and coming rarely into the world as they do they have the quality of presaging the future, sometimes for evil and sometimes for good.”

― Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library, 1st century BC.

“Suppose someone were to say: ‘Imagine this butterfly exactly as it is, but ugly instead of beautiful’?!”

― Ludwig Wittgenstein, Zettel, 1889-1951

We were swallowed whole and there we were, warm and inside, with the breath of that creature reaching over everything.

Our city was captured, a crash site covered in skin. 

There was no exit or escape, every echo was an earthquake about to erupt, each exhale was a heat wave waiting for us. 

The outcome was over already, we were the creature’s city now.

We woke up to stomachfuls of wrecking balls, wet food, worn debris.  One storm after another, scattering against our shingles and gathering gray hair on the ground. 

The city called it the creature’s rain, they collected it in their cellars and their stairwells, they carved their names into the cement it made.

You watched me there, collecting what remains I could, keeping myself unkilled in the creature’s cartilage.  

Your eyes were on strings, swinging from a ceiling I couldn’t see.  Your eyes were wide as white flags, watching me.

This city here, the one we’ve been left in, it’s a residual collapse, a heavy gasp.  In the distance, the shape of it seems dimly scribbled against the inside of the creature, like the sketch of a spent explosive, it sprawls and then it shivers and then it sprawls some more.

The most of us that survived stuck to the center of the city, in small rooms in short skyscrapers, we searched for shelf lives that stayed just out reach. 

Beneath the buildings, the creature’s ground was cold, coffee-colored, full of fault lines that caught fire whenever the fevers came.     

You kept matchbooks in your pockets and I copied you.  I rubbed gunpowder on my palms to get them pale like yours.  I untrapped my hands as close to you as I could.

You told me maybe there were enough fault lines here to find us again.  You said sooner or later the motion sickness might miss us both.

We spent the first season scavenging the creature for a skeleton key.

I searched in shrapnel piles and stolen terrain, I said over and over there had to be a way out of there. 

Day after day, the creature’s rain wouldn’t stop painting us the way we truly were.  

Each time I looked at you and your hair was heavier and darker.  The build-ups in your breath came and went like birds stealing bread.  

Your skin stayed sheet-white and still hid the stage whispers from me.

I was your hang-wire, your hiding place.  I was your charade of ways to count backwards from the couple we didn’t become.

Our city stayed a knot in the creature’s stomach, a choke hold you couldn’t stop choosing over me.  If there ever was a key, it couldn’t keep me from remembering it all too well.

This was what I knew about you: you grew up without a favorite cease fire.

Your mother was a pushcart, a towel rack, your father was the same.  By the time you were five, every eavesdrop knew your name. By the time your flashback fell into mine, your face was still a fitting room you were trying to find.

We were living in a summer creature, one that had emptied out its echoes long before the leftovers fell in.  The erosion was exposed, cloth wasn’t always an obstacle.

I found you in the back fields, burning bones in an old paper bag.  They looked like black candles buried in there.  

I remember your face was ragged, bruised under the eyes and bluish on the blind sides.  I remember what you told me first, “the big wars are over, and the small ones never end.”

Continue reading “seasons of creature”

rainy day in an amphibious house / letters

Nevada / 16 May to 14 June

Dear Jillison,

There are two kinds of half-life (blood loss, sentimentality) and they can both kill you quietly. 

Me?  Myself? I still suffer from a lack of generative imagery, imaginative capabilities.

An eccentric, dreamy, half-educated recluse in an out of-the-way New England village cannot with impunity set at defiance the laws of gravitation and grammar.

Oblivion lurks in the immediate neighborhood.
Said Thomas Bailey Aldrich of Emily Dickinson, 1885. 

I’ve tried to prepare an explanation for you the best I can:

Nosebleed, ear ache, stomach cramps.  Highly derivative ways of forcing back weight.  Slow. Sluggish. Already lost more than arms and legs.   

I’m pretty much just sure we both can’t keep using exhaustion as an excuse.

Julin / 15 June to 15 July

Dear Jillison,

Consider.

Most hummingbirds are continuously hours away from starving to death and consume the human equivalent of 140,000 calories per day to compensate.

They enter an mini-hibernation mode (torpor) each night just to survive the suspension of calories.

Jillison, This is how I imagine it must be to live the way you do.

Incurable, without sleep, not dead enough.  Still scrambling to write your same zero-sum diaries.  Childless too, obviously.

This how I imagine it to be at least.

Castle /  16 November to 15 December

Dear Jillison,

OK, so what did I actually actually see? These days?  It wasn’t much.

Gray splotches, dust storms, pale clouds.  A disconnect between patchwork and puncture sites.

You told me once, every wound has to have an origin story.  Do you remember that? You said, “a cautionary tale is just culture (however you choose to to define it) designed to improve our survival rate.

Scavenger’s daughter was right.  I wasn’t going to last.  

Castle / 16 November to 15 December

Dear Jillison,

Before proper mirrors, the ocean or lake was the looking glass, the reflective world.

Lacking semantic or declarative memory.  Many of us, we still mistake this metaphor, we have a hard time remembering what lap we are on, we mistake denotation for connotation.  

Even when the differences are glaring at us right in the face.

The act of predation can be broken down into a maximum of four stages: Detection of prey, attack, capture and finally consumption.

What I mean is? We have been adapting to the afterlife as if it were a normal error.  Everything has slowed down. Completely.

Jillison, have you considered?  There are many that hereafters that may not belong to humans at all. 

This should come as no surprise to you by now.

Plowshare / 16 January to 12 or 13 February

Dear Jillison,

I said I was going to stop writing you these letters.  I should have.

We often fail to appreciate this critical aspect of the natural world: it’s brutal.  Even apex predators are very often constantly on the edge of starvation.

Emily Dickinson’s complete refusal to sit for a photographer.  In the end, unwilling to leave her bedroom, hiding from all visitors, even in her own home.

What is here since you left?  

Some days are like hummingbirds in plastic bags and some have some have been so long and flat they may as well have been laid out on a stretcher.  

Every one I thought of you at some point or another.  

Why are there so many myths and folklore where humans are punished for wanting better than their present lot in life?

It’s because you can’t have it.  Ultimately.

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scavenger’s daughter

It was a scar chart stacked into a skyline, it was shipwrecks of soot and shipwrecks of skin and shipwrecks of everything after.  I called it a home, I called it the shadow of a scavenger’s daughter.

The entirety was risen to scale.  A city of replaced components, perfect complements, a test of compressions to become. 

If we knew each other at all, you knew it as a torture device too.

We crashed there in halves. Shallow-breathed and splinter-limbed and salvage remaining. 

Underwater was what was left, most of us had sunk by then.

We tried to make an echo of who to remember or how. 

Every face was a capsized float, swollen closed from the vocal cords on down.  They followed as clouds of flesh, hungry ghosts, decomposing fish.

Today, the human food supply contains a plethora of fresh, farmed, cured and processed meats. But we’ve not always been the competent herdsman or capable hunter.

At dawn of the Pleistocene epoch, approximately 2.5 millions years ago, humans  practiced confrontational scavenging, a from of kleptoparasitism in which one creature drives off or distracts another predator from its kill.

As humans developed a taste for the meat of fallen vertebrates, we also discovered the taste of our own flesh.  

It is likely our ancestors turned to cannibalism due to lack of resources and competition at critical points in their ascension.

”My purpose is to tell of bodies which have been transformed into shapes of a different kind.”  

– Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1st century AD.

Here is most of what I felt: 

I was terrified.  Completely.

Make a fraud of yourself long enough and the fault lines do what they want to you.   

Often leaving you without an afterlife to fulfill.

The economy of cannibalism speaks for itself, which is why the practice is prevalent throughout the animal kingdom, including among human and non-human primates.

A widespread presence of genes protecting against prion disease suggest that human endocannibalism was common for thousands of years.  

This practice may often take on supernatural and ritual dimensions.

They hid in small circles, with teeth behind teeth.  True predators who knew the trauma well.

Born again by drowning wrong, they were becoming natives there.  

Soon, you said, they would be hunting us on their own.

“A scavenger’s daughter does not age.  A scavenger’s daughter survives by starving a corpse in its place.”

One crushed orbital bone.  Or a couple overriding things to know.

You told me there was drowning and there was dissolving, stretching and compressing, the only difference was the distance to tell.

You told me even blind spots could be living things, and still, I wanted to believe you.

The towers of Scavenger’s Daughter were built of interlocking shipwrecks, which made the underwater city “earthquake-proof.

Using reinforced skeletons, the hulls of hundred of vessels could be notched and stacked on top of each other to create structures of enormous height and complexity.  

Together these structures form the city of Scavenger’s Daughter.  A skyline of shipwrecks rising from the ocean floor.

There are times we all fail.  We salvage ourselves just long enough to explore the wreckage of a warmer person.  We dig out the hidden teeth in each other.

By the anniversary of our attack, I was back to six bones missing again.  Two orbital, two nasal, and two made of hunger and need.

You told me there were ways to trust it would end, a scavenger may pray to surviving gods too.

Jillison, we should leave here.  Now.

Jillison. We should leave here. 

Now.  Now. Now.  Now.

Now.

The Scavenger’s Daughter worked by strapping the head of the victim to an A-frame shaped metal rack at the top point of A. The hands were then tied at the midpoint and the legs at the lower spread end of A

The body was then compressed from both sides, pushing the knees up in a sitting position and the head in the opposite direction. This resulted in blood running from the nose and ears of the victim other than damage to muscles.

The Scavenger’s Daughter was among those torture devices that were rarely used and yet relatively easy to make. 

Shipwrecker’s Paradox.

Whether a shipwreck which is restored by replacing each and every one of its wooden parts is still the same shipwreck?

And yes, I said yes.  Pick your shipwreck, any shipwreck.  Pick your carcass, any carcass. Pick your angles, pick your shape.  Pick your predators, pick your prey.

I survived as a scavenger’s daughter, I could only keep circling yes.

empty hell theory / hospital 2

Once, there were rumors in hell that human beings were happy. So Lucifer sent some minor demon or other up to see if these rumors were true. 

They weren’t.  Yes. We can zero in on that a little bit.

Children think their imaginary friends know more than flesh and blood people do. It seems ingrained in our mental programming that a mind without a body will know more than a mind within a body.

Dreaming up gods that don’t exist yet (but maybe should soon?). This is how the afterlife comes to devour actual life.

December.  Dotted lines across the eyelids.  Hair and teeth gives the illusion that there is more body there.

A tenth less atoms.  Many times our memories are very low resolution and highly suggestible.

It would be unsettling if we didn’t have all these other identities and read throughs to fall back on.

What are the other possibilities before us? Another tired light hypothesis? The entire framework is much more fallible than we think.  Flawed. 

We humans are descended from a need.  This need. I don’t think there is any use in trying to hide it anymore.

leftover vein forest / hospital 3


For seven weeks, one by one, she cut her wrists into kites and string. 

They decorated her remains with escape clauses and expiration dates, a row of arrows through the skin. 

They asked for a warm body to replace a need elsewhere, a marker of muscle and a moistened gauze.

She gave me a reason.  Leaves were parted to let the veins in.


I waited for her in a short cornered room, in between cabinets, crouching, listening.  I was little more than a torso, with or without legs. At most an extra arm, shoulders and a patch of hair.

I caught them staring at a capillary and calling it a certain ripple, I saw a still life disappearing on the inner corner of each hand.


Six hours of slash and burn, six clinics, one back canopy, no one said your name.  Jillison, not even once.

They put her on a saline drip and said she was starting to improve, stopped vomitting, started drinking water and milk.  She showed a normal spinal curve for once. 

Her waiting room was windowless, walls nearly invisible, as close as we could come to a non-zero recovery again.

They never say exactly what shame takes away from you, the landscape of anatomy that gets subtracted entirely.


A faceful of blowout fractures.  A cavity in each cornea, irises resized by lack of light, same blank injuries for anyone to see. 

She told them the clouds were broken ornaments without a box, they weren’t even close. 

She said the sky was replaced by means of riot control, they threw it in a back room, probably burned it.  

She said you can’t replace a black hole, when all you have is a body full of black holes.

Silver lining of a sudden vein.  Just had to cut it cleanly, let it find it’s type.

They told me it was over, and I watched her.

Woke up to an empty waiting room, a blanket kite corpses covering the bed.  I told myself not to forget and then I left a note for her instead

Jillison, the ripples on the mirror show up as shadows below your skin.  I always thought if you left me and of course I hoped it would be then.

false martyr cartography.

“The malignant self-obsession and childish vitriol only scratches the surface of the man’s flaws. His compulsions aren’t hidden or covered up. They are broadcast for the entire country to see, for hours on end, every day, late into the night.”


Never underestimate temporary paralysis. It only takes one lifetime to forget all of human history.

The oldest burial sites and artifacts suggest such a belief in an afterlife goes back more than 50,000 years.

Can the dead talk at all?  Leave the afterlife alone. You open a door only to find a fire inside.

Petulant borderline (including negativistic features): Negativistic, impatient, restless, as well as stubborn, defiant, sullen, pessimistic, and resentful; easily feels “slighted” and quickly disillusioned.

Hollow, small, sunken, confused, jealousy. It just dominates so much of my thoughts. Intensities of abandonment or reckless abstraction. It doesn’t ever go away.

Everything was poorly communicated and treated as disposable. Identities. Aspirations. Jobs. Relationships. People, in general. We didn’t hang on to anything for very long.

Entropy was common and collective. Maybe we had more to learn from it than we think.

Days were sharp and light, and the afterlife did both things. I had shingles in my breath and a throat stacked with wood to burn. We often lit a fire just to remember what the world felt like before.

She carried bags of ash and gray air. We had good seasons and bad seasons. More choices did not necessarily make either of us happier. The afterlife highlights the lack in each.

Causality is murky and hubristic. Causality is irrelevant. Falling masonry offers little refuge.

Impulsive borderline (including histrionic or antisocial features): Captivating, capricious, superficial, flighty, distractable, frenetic, and seductive; fearing loss, the individual becomes agitated; gloomy and irritable; and potentially suicidal.

Hospitals were on their “worst case scenarios.” Every bird was made of metal and plastic. The weathervanes couldn’t tell the difference between wires and waves. There were too many angles to count. I think I was just tired.

We counted backwards from the crash site. There were few basic signifiers to indicate anything inhabitable. I used to hide survival tags in my room at night.

Chin, jawbone, brow, mouth, hairline. There wasn’t much I would choose to keep.

I wanted to cry, to feel my face wet and shallow and weak.

What kind of nightmares are the easiest to nail down? The ones that already know your name.

I was short, stumpy-bodied, big nosed. My skin looked someone was trying to kill the color pink. I had wrinkles, my teeth were cigarette yellow and crooked and disorganized.

She preferred an affectionate cloth to a wire frame.

Self-destructive borderline (including depressive or masochistic features): Inward-turning, intropunitive (self-punishing), angry; conforming, deferential, and ingratiating behaviors have deteriorated; increasingly high-strung and moody; possible suicide.

The barometer kept saying: chance of apocalypse. If only.

Big veins. Low self esteem. Not a risk taker. The center could not hold.

Peak-end rule. You pick apart the cemetery dimensions, go over the outline in your head. You make no payments to the future and repeat the same mistakes. You wear makeup and paint as if it will feel any safer. Just goes to show, the past you bleed is just the past you know.

For worse or for worse, felt like another afterlife was ready to fall.

aurora nervosa


On an ancient sundial in Ibiza: Ultima mvltis.

The last day for many.

Our town was glass domes in a row. Crates and conveyor belts replaced cars and roads. Every horizon was high density sprawl.

Jillison was the only one left who still paid any attention to me. She was a shortage of a girl. Raw wire shadow, skin off white, washed her hands twenty to thirty times a day.

It was hard to tell what was real, what was projection. There was little way to make any of it last. We were losing track. Jillison kept checking dirt lines on the window. We did our best to make sense of the background noise.

We lost light every day, atmosphere was worthless as toilet paper. Might as well have been no windows. There was a long way to go, or maybe not, I didn’t actually know. We had a hole in our bucket, dear darling, a hole.

The sun came out in halves or less, rarely for long. Eclipses came in the shape of rectangles or squares. We helped each other, the two of us there.

We kept ourselves on steady behavior authoring programs. Clouds were gray and on repeat. Jillison held a script against screen molds and I spread the movable press.

Most people, if they could, were still playing pretend.

Anxiety became another bill we received daily. Scattered randomness became static disappointment: Sky was still expensive. Trees were expensive. Oxygen was expensive.

My mental health was mostly just arranging voids in a row. Is trauma walled or unguarded? Does it matter?

You can’t defeat yourself into a success. The hole only gets deeper, only goes way.

dark swan astronomy / hospital 6

We slept back to back, with sixteen windows along each spine.  

Jillison understood the curvature of carrying nothing, back starting to bleed, another accuracy of the dark.   

The present often meaning a single event being considered, infinity is not that which has nothing beyond itself, but that which always has something beyond itself.  

Time becomes ambush and ambush becomes time.

outline tectonic / topics of concern / letters

Grable / 16 October to 15 November

Dear Jillison,

I want to be vulnerable with you. 

Most interactions are either transactional or performative. We’re too self-conscious to listen. We’re thinking about what we’ll say next or how we’re being perceived.

All the posturing destroys any chance for a genuine connection.

A question worth asking: If you looked into the world’s most honest mirror, what would you see?

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Mother Night, 1962

Maybe I should stop going into the men’s bathroom.  

Castle / 16 November to 15 December

Dear Jillison,

Causality is a common lie.   We only believe in it because our brains evolved for it:   Tool making implies a world of causality. This action leads to this result: a very direct illusion.

You used to repeat yourself.  You told me over and over.

This weeks theme is garbage gray.  The goal is to pay attention to the illusions, knowing full well your brain is complicit in constructing them. 

Possible theme: fragments are existentially valuable.  Inherently valuable.

The movement of animals closely resembles in many ways the random walks of dust particles in a fluid.”

Plowshare / 16 January to 12 or 13 February

Dear Jillison,

Now the loneliness was evenly mixed with the air.  Settled like pollen and dust on table chair and dishes. Thin little lines lay under your eyelids.

When you were a child, what did you think happened after you die? When did you start thinking about death at all? 

I tried to remember the phantom limb of where we’ve been.  Maybe there once was a room where I knew what to do with months like these.

Prime / 16 March to 14 April

Dear Jillison,

Do laundry.  Go to work. Order/pickup medication.  Pack what you own. Find a temporary place to live

No money for concealer or caffeine. Reschedule face hair removal appointment for when you might have money.  Read an old story. 

Move?  Publish a book?  Get arrested? Maybe throw up again?

Be kind to yourself. Talk to friends.   Fuck dissociation. Wear what you have. No makeup necessary.  Fuck dysphoria, Go into world. Listen. Laugh at yourself. Actually make the trip to get your pills.  Be kind. Get a good night sleep. Write.

Confession: I have noticed this violent masculinity to our writing.  Short clipped sentences Too much force put on the period and line break.

The only form I trust are fragments.  What possible problems could this cause in our relationship?  In all relationships?

There’s got to be a lot more change in my life.  Let’s start with the way I write / think / collect / obliterate information.

continuous omissions / distortions

copying always / scavenging others 

entirely broken as a generative machine

trash collector / plagiarist

Shortcuts, cheats, so many breaks.  I collect scraps all week, just to leave them out.

Nevada / 16 May to 14 June

Dear Jillison,

“The map is not the territory…”  

Positive shame versus problematic shame.  I tend toward the latter. Internalize. Over-personalize.  Ignore external conditions and chance and circumstance. I catastrophize. I feel like I can’t change things, I lock in a spiral, I withdraw myself from others. 

Habit loops contain three parts. Queue (Trigger). Behavior. Reward.

A lot of addictive and destructive behavior may be caused by unacknowledged shame.  Concentric circles of denial and absence. 

We are so reliant upon the human face to read/understand intention and motivation, the face is a communication array.

A lot of gimmicks, too many gimmicks. The mask is an ancient performative tool.

It is easy to become sentimental.  It is easy to make poetic promises.  You are right to see these tendencies for what they are: flawed, human.

“I don’t know what’s the matter with people: they don’t learn by understanding, they learn by some other way — by rote or something. Their knowledge is so fragile!”

― Richard Feynman, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, 1985.