the curtsies

               They weren’t birds and they weren’t people, so we didn’t know what to call them at first.  They had feathers on the front of their arms and who the hell knew where else.  My husband was one of the ones who was afraid of them, but I didn’t marry him for his bravery, I married him because he knew more about the weather than I ever could.

             I remember it all too well, we were half-young and all-married and living in a town known for its toothlessness, it made me feel like I was in a cartoon sometimes, the way everyone walked past us, smiling with their big blank gums, and all those pets they pulled along with them too.  Big pets and little pets. So many fucking pets.

             I wasn’t a detective by any means, but I could tell as soon as we moved, something was going on there. The sky was loud in all the wrong places, the days were short and long and everybody said the sun could do all sorts of other things if it wanted to… I didn’t get what they meant by that. Again, I was no Sherlock Holmes.

             When they showed up we thought they might be some sort of new pet too, but as soon as we got a good look at their faces we knew they couldn’t possibly be, there was too much action behind their eyes, it was obvious they knew better than to be leashed around. 

            While I’m telling you about their faces, I’ll tell you this too, they were round and slightly pink, and sharp in the middle.  They didn’t quite have beaks, they looked a lot like people.  Maybe seventy-five percent like people.  I think I liked the way they looked, avian and mammalian and big eyed.  Like children.

             My husband would take a big breath whenever we saw one on the street.  He’s always been a fragile man.

         There had been a break in the summer and we weren’t expecting anything special.  The garbage was piling up in the kitchen, the mannequins were on display on the street, I was trying on new ways to be mad at buildings.  I used to wear my frustration on my sleeves, but then I was doing my best to cover my contempt under my clothes.  As deep as it could go I guess. 
            My husband would tell me to take the elevator to meet him for lunch and sometimes I did.  He ate a lot of salads and chewed quietly, one day he found a butterfly in his lunch bag, its wings were blue as a baby boy’s room, we laughed as it waved away.  Summer was when we got along best, I bet it’s like that for a lot of couples, I don’t know. 

            Anyways, we were closer to black and white living than I’m letting on, it was pretty boring for the most part.  I was working in a field I understood too well, sharpening equations and balancing ledgers for people who had grown up taller than me.  I didn’t have a fling with my boss despite what my husband says.  My hands were just too tired to get into it, even though I could’ve.

         Maybe I was waiting for something larger to walk its way all over me.  One way or another, I was just waiting.

         My husband started to call them bird people after a few days of calling them, “them” and “they.”  I kind of felt that name was disrespectful to birds and people both, these creatures were something new, and needed a new name of course, not some hackneyed mashup of their most accessible characteristics. 
            I tried on a few names, “flickities”, “koo koo karoos”, “laylas”, before I settled on one I liked, “curtsies” (after the ways their legs bowed when they walked).  I never thought to ask them what they wanted to be called.  Sooner or later they’d tell me I guess I imagined. 

         The big question we had to begin with was whether or not they could fly.  They could, but not very high and not very far.  They were better at gliding, but even still, they didn’t take to the air too often, not that I saw anyways.  Every once in a while when I was driving around in my car (it was yellow) I would see one up perched in a tree, but I always assumed they just crawled up there to get a better view, it barely occurred to me they could be flying around all the time when I wasn’t looking. 
            I barely ever saw it happen, I don’t have a terribly good sense of my surroundings sometimes, that’s all I’m saying.

         Another question is where they came from.  My husband insisted they came from bad families, but I eventually convinced him otherwise.  My theory was they came from some place colder and migrated here for the warm summer weather.  It wasn’t much of a theory, a hog-tied kindergartner could’ve come up with it on the spot.  I liked it.  It was simple.

         I guess it didn’t really matter where they came from, but we were curious of course.  Either way, there they were, a couple of them at first, and then more and then probably somewhere between ten and twenty.  It was easy to tell them apart, some had long, fat, feathers, some had tiny, prickly ones, some had skinny necks and some were stubby shaped. 
             Also, believe it or not, they had numbers on their backs.  Big numbers, like the ones on sports jerseys.  That made a lot of people think they escapees of some sort of experiment, but I just figured they liked numbers.  I liked numbers, I guess probably I was projecting.

         My husband had these horrible glasses then.  We still danced in the living room sometimes, but he was clumsier than ever.  At work someone kept telling him the Earth’s poles were reversing fast (too fast!), that’s the sort of stuff he brought home at least.  Our lives were less than fireworks on the rise, that’s for sure, far, far less, but there was a lot lower we could go too.  My hands were still soft, they didn’t hurt like they do now. 
            I still believed one day there would be a stage in the sky where I would watch something spectacular happen.  I’m pretty sure I don’t feel that anymore.

Continue reading “the curtsies”

murder the wren days / letters

Castle / 16 November to 15 December

Dear Jillison,

When I was little, still in the nowhere farmhouse, I used to press my palms of my hands against my closed eyes as hard as I could. 

I pressed and pressed until the discolored splotches and fractals showed up on the inside of my eyelids. 

I asked my parents if that’s what dreaming was.  Now I know the phenomena is called “prisoner’s cinema.”

Somehow I’m not surprised. 

The myth most commonly told to explain the festival is as follows; God wished to know who was the king of all birds so he set a challenge. The bird who flew highest and furthest would win. 

The birds all began together but they dropped out one by one until none were left but the great eagle. The eagle eventually grew tired and began to drop lower in the sky. 

At this point, the treacherous wren emerged from beneath the eagle’s wing to soar higher and further than all the others.

Prime / 16 March to 14 April

Dear Jillison,

You told me a few times, storms provide anonymity.  Provide distraction. 

I never liked it when you would talk like that.

It was the day to commemorate the first killing of the winter king by the orphan children.  Capture’s Day. Hollow Born Day.  First Martyr’s Day.

We wore scars around our necks and short robes and women’s clothes, just trying to keep the wind from breaking us.


Mutatis mutandis is a Medieval Latin phrase meaning “the necessary changes having been made” or “once the necessary changes have been made.

It is used in many countries to acknowledge that a comparison being made requires certain obvious alterations, which are left unstated.

The tradition may also have been influenced by Scandinavian settlers during the Viking invasions of the 8th to 10th century.

Various associated legends exist, such as a wren being responsible for betraying soldiers who fought the Viking invaders by beating its wings on their shields, in the late 1st and early 2nd millennia, and for betraying the Christian martyr Saint Stephen, after whom the day is named.

This mythological association with treachery is a possible reason the bird was hunted by wrenboys on St. Stephen’s Day, or why a pagan sacrificial tradition was continued into Christian times.

our nowhere ocean

Used to scrape off my skin with fingernails and rough fabric. Carved out circles of cheek, jaw, forehead, chin, jaw again.

I was trying to rip the reflection off. I wanted a topsoil of scar tissue, a surface level of red and violent and bleeding through. Raw and bruised.

Am I still angry?  Am I still confused?  Look at all this sweat and syntax emptied out for you. Another nowhere ocean I knew by heart. Another face buried without a name.

Coincidences of sand. Echo sounders. Ocean worshipers. A connected body of lack and loss.

“All poetry is misrepresentation.”
— Jeremy Bentham, An Aphorism attributed to him according to John Stuart Mill

Human emotions are an unconscious bio-psycho-social reaction that derives from the amygdala and they typically last 0.5–4.0 seconds, although a microexpression will typically last less than 1/2 of a second.

Look at the undertow. You find the prognosis for causality.        

I think of you often.  I go over things I could have done differently.  I try to remember it’s not always about what I could or couldn’t do.  

I know what nostalgia is, it’s a camouflage people cover themselves in when the present tense has become a trap.  

I know it’s a form of depression.  I know we didn’t get here by accident.

“Science is a differential equation. Religion is a boundary condition.”
– Alan Turing, 1954.

Hedgehog’s dilemma / Lover’s paradox: Despite goodwill, human intimacy cannot occur without substantial mutual harm.

A parasocial breakup. Illusionary experience. Interacting with personas, fictional characters. Scarcity becomes social stress.

Negative consequences: Body image. Aggression. Wishful identification.

Stagnation pressure is the pressure a fluid exerts when it is forced to stop moving.

Synesthesia as pathology.

Electronarcosis is one of the methods used to render animals unconscious before slaughter and unable to feel pain. Electronarcosis may be followed immediately by electrocution or by bleeding.

Prohibition against slaughtering an animal and its offspring on the same day.

Uncertainty over insect sentience. Welfare of farmed insects.

Trade-offs between stimulus avoidance and other motivational requirements.

Darwin described complex behaviors by worms when plugging their burrows. He suggested that worms appear to “have the power of acquiring some notion, however crude, of the shape of an object and of their burrows” and if so, “they deserve to be called intelligent; for they then act in nearly the same manner as would a man under similar circumstances.”

Thought-Forms: A Record of Clairvoyant Investigation

Animals that have failed: sea lions, giant panda, gibbon, macaque, parrot, crow, fish, octopi.

cryosphere ultima

“Near limitless energy is to be found by effectively cannibalizing dead galaxies from other dead universes.”

“See the moon? it hates us.”
―Donald Barthelme, 60 Stories, 1966.

I was living topside when we met. I was covering my organs in gray cloth and hoping no one noticed.

I wasn’t following fault lines or fractured terrain. My silhouette was stitched thin already.

I knew it could all go wrong.

The cryosphere is an all-encompassing term for those portions of Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, and frozen ground (which includes permafrost).

Benign envy versus hostile envy. We reserve this malicious envy for our peers. Relevant comparison standards. Relative dimensions.

The Icelandic word for “drift whale” translates as “windfall“, since the washed-up carcass provides meat, blubber, fat, and other benefits to the finder.

In Chile, the caldera of the volcano, Sollipulli is filled with ice.

A glacier erupts.

During the Renaissance and by early modern times the voices in favor of actual infinity were rather rare.

“The continuum actually consists of infinitely many indivisibles…”
Argues Galileo.

But Plato has two infinities, the great and the small.

In 1909, one filmmaker, Władysław Starewicz, found that when filming live stag beetles, they tended to stop moving under the hot lights.

To solve this problem, he killed his film subjects and attached wires to their bodies in order to puppeteer them. Dead insects and other animals were frequently used as protagonists in his films. 

Discussion of Warm Diseases published in 1746, divided the manifestations of diseases into four stages.

Parrondo’s paradox: it is possible to play two losing games alternately to eventually win.

It’s vehement, it’s mean-spirited, it’s hateful. It’s like a rattlesnake was kissing it almost.

Prose itself reads like a rant. Basically just primer material. Hard to understand. Bombards you with information that is no way persuasive. Again. Childish. Babbling.

Most virulent forms of jealousy reserved for those who are in same boat as us. Hostile envy gnaws at you, schadenfreude soothes the pain.

Envy feeds on the living. It ceases when they are dead.
― Ovid, Amorum, 16 BC

“Beware the fury of a patient man.”
―John Dryden. Absalom and Achitophel, 1681.

Ice sheets are the greatest potential source of freshwater, holding approximately 77% of the global total.

“Ambition is the last refuge of the failure.”
―Oscar Wilde, Phrases and Philosophies for the use of the Young, 1894.

“It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others, and to forget his own…”
―Cicero, Tusculanarum Disputationum, 45 BC.