The Positive of Power-Through Thinking

At times I don’t know where I should begin,

Whether to make someone scream loud or grin,

But I have set my brain on the matter

And found that readers grow sick of splatter,

So I need some new approaches to win.


A problem with being a… distinct… messed up… take your pick… individual lies in finding people who are like-minded, and after forty years on the planet, I have reached the conclusion that not enough like-minded people exist to be found.

Yes, I have found like-minded people through artworks, signs of lives and experiences like my own. Throughout the years I have been able to cobble together enough media from the “popular” culture to sustain me, but I never gave enough thought to why everything I liked got labeled with terms such as “alternative,” “fringe,” and “cult.” Actually, I gave a ton of thought to such labeling, writing an undergraduate thesis about the marginalization of popular forms in comparison to “high” or sanctioned-by-the-rich culture and then writing a dissertation about horror fiction, the bastard stepchild of literature, a genre that virtually all the greats have dipped toes in but no one wants to own as part of the mainstream’s backbone. I taught college classes on the alternative, the fringe, and the cult, showing mainstream students what’s going on out in the weird edges of their universes, and people usually (not always) rolled with what I sent their way, as college is a time for experimentation, after all. But what never quite sunk in for me, through all my research, teaching, and publication about the weird stuff, is that the weird is weird primarily because of a numbers game: it’s outsider art because not enough people want it on the inside, and the weirder it is, the fewer people want to deal with it.

Maybe in a few centuries, people will look back on some of the weird stuff as great, but in the moment, most weird stuff isn’t the charming, middle-of-the-road stuff that the middle of the bell curve embraces. Normal people, which is the vast majority (by definition!), don’t want the abnormal stuff, and I have finally begun to understand that. To produce stuff people want, I have to stop assuming people want what I want. I’ve got to temper my wild weirdness with a heavy dose of the normal. All great artists know they must cave to conformity—or they do it instinctively, as the mainstream is in their bloodstream. I’m not saying I’m great, but I’d like to be better, and what might have been missing from my oddball art all these years might have been a heavy dose of crowd-pleasing. Instead of poo-pooing the crowd-pleasing tidiness and happiness that define mainstream narrative, maybe I should have been including more of it, as there just isn’t enough crowd out there that isn’t looking to get pleased.

I am not lamenting. In fact, although I have yet to see whether it’s going to go belly-up or go through the process of fetching an agent, publisher, and a mainstream audience, I not-too-long-ago finished my first novel with the philosophy of trying to please crowds who don’t all share my own particular mindset. The novel is called The Vengeance of Galatea Starcrusher, and though it has some horrific elements (from the first paragraph, my prettier protagonist identifies herself with Frankenstein’s Creature) it’s my first effort in many years that is pretty unequivocally not a horror novel. It’s science fiction, or more precisely science fantasy, and a lot of it is downright silly, going for absurd levity in places where before I might have sought a grotesque sucker-punch. I don’t think I’m as funny as Douglas Adams, but at times his ilk is the inspiration, and otherwise I’m riffing on space opera adventure from TV and movies circa Star Wars and beyond as my heroine kicks lots of butt on her way to hunting down and taking vengeance on her slimy, no-good creator. There are explosions. Lots of explosions. There’s chemistry with sidekicks. There’s a romantic subplot. Did I mention the explosions?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide’s soothing motto is key to its enduring popularity.

If people see in their heads anything like what I saw in mine, they’ll have a righteous adventure. They’ll have fun. They’ll SMILE all the way through one tidy happy scene after another. One or two scenes might make them gasp in horror, but they’ll come back to the adventure all the readier for the next tidy-up, which I do indeed provide. The writing experience was a blast; I hope the reading experience is, too. As I wrote, I imagined not what my ideal audience would want to read, but what general audiences might want to read. I didn’t always spit out exactly what I thought the normals would want. I’m still me, and the book is definitely a product of my warped imagination. But what produced it was an imaginary negotiation between me, sitting out on the edge of the bell curve, and other people I don’t know too well, sitting up high in the fat bell’s curvy center. If we can all get along, I’ll have a successful book of a sort very different from everything I’ve ever published.

That’s the hope, anyway. I can’t just flip a switch and become normal, nor would I want to, nor would readers be likely to respond well if I did. People don’t pick up novels to experience pure normality: they want to experience something, well, novel. The art of writing fiction is an act of balancing the outré with the familiar, titillating with the former and soothing with the latter, so that the people in the center of the bell curve feel like they’re glimpsing the outer edges, and the people further out feel like they’re being served, too. A good book needs extremes, but the extremes shouldn’t point all one way to suit most readers. An extreme of despair should have at least a glimmer of extreme hope. A younger me never would have admitted that, but my current thinking—thinking that powers through the aching desire to believe a critical mass of readers might just like to stew in darkness for 100,000 words—recognizes that people read to get away from the grinding conditions of lives that can often seem more than dark enough. Even dispositions that embrace the dark side need perks. Mine does. The artist’s job is to meet the needs people seek to have fulfilled through art, and heck if those needs don’t include a lift up more often than not. A long-time devotee of the arts of horror and dark fantasy finds that a tough pill, but then again, even most horror stories have marginally happy endings. I guess we know why that is. People’s need for those stories includes need for those endings.

Stephen King got most of his darkest stories out of his system when he was young: the bleakness of Carrie and Pet Sematary, hits certainly, hasn’t shown up as much since he got sober and became America’s perennial bestseller with a tendency to write about magic children saving the day. Writers in the grip of mental illness who described the world as the horror they saw—such as Poe and Lovecraft—did not come to good ends. The positive of powering through the realization that writing is a compromise not with the artist’s audience of choice but with The Mainstream is, quite simply, survival. King’s gift is that he can figure out what the mainstream is, what its tolerances are. I don’t know if I have that gift, but the challenge of trying seems worthwhile—for me as well as for any other author who wants to communicate a vision to minds outside the narrow band defined as being like her or his own.

June 8: Maudlin Self-Immolation and More!

Another Maudlin Account of Self-Immolation


When the dust settles and no one is left,

You’ve sunk your great height and slimmed down your heft,

You smell something burning and don’t ask who:

The smoke that is rising drifts up from you.

Water won’t reach you, no, not on its own;

It rejects anyone who lives alone,

So you can burn down until you are ash,

Crumpled leaves reduced to flakes in a flash,

Providing no comfort, giving no high,

Explaining nothing, not a reason why

You breathed in the first place, yes, you drew breath,

Wasting the air that just prolonged your death,

And now you’re speechless—you cannot defend

Why you would bother to stay for an end

Made by a chipping, a winnow-away

That melted substance until your last day

On which the birds sang and nobody cried

Because no one knew, as you never tried

To make connections, to form a network—

You chose isolation, like a big jerk,

And now lamenting sounds more like a joke

As grieving’s reserved for more worthy folk,

But in your passing there’s something received,

Something too beautiful to be believed—

Trees that died in forests and made no sounds

Understand feelings that go out of bounds

Such as the sense of a vast open field,

The lack of watching as you at last yield

To conflagration you’d have no one see

Take you and your past now and completely.




Every sentiment is a big fake,

And I don’t know how much more I can take

Of overflowing banks of affection—

I think somewhere I lost all direction—

I think that’s my car sunk deep in the lake.


I’m an ingrate, a hothead, and a snake.

Think of the idiocy that I rake

Up into piles of pure predilection,

Every sentiment.


I put good words into bile and I bake.

Nobody crosses the street for my sake,

But someone would attend my dissection

Only to see the ruin’s perfection,

Over which people serve coffee and cake.

Every sentiment—




Traitorous treasonous poisonous world,

You have your reasons for fucking the mass:

You drink champagne; yes, you do it with class.

Under bright lights with your white ribbons curled,


You can salute the new flag you’ve unfurled,

Join the rich ranks of righteous kissing ass,

Knowing the party is cool—it’s a gas,

Guessing the landings of lessers you’ve hurled


Down from the ladders they’d managed to climb—

They don’t need lifting; that’s not for their kind!

You’ve got enough knives for all the right backs:

They’re silver-coated to slide right through slime,

And they’ll carve a helping of what meat they find

Each time you mount your fired-friendly attacks.




When the world’s shapeless, I must do laundry.

When days transition, clean comes upon me.

It’s not like I’m scrubbing spots on the floor.

Tasks for deep cleaning—I’ve got a whole score,

But when I’m listless, I seek rinse fondly.


Clean socks and undies, refreshing to see:

Fresh shirts and pants show me who I can be.

I use detergent from the wholesale store

When the world’s shapeless.


If it’s time to fold, I may seek to flee:

I don’t iron, I say, sans irony.

But do relax, I’ve a couple loads more;

I won’t run out; I’m a laundering whore.

Out of the dryer, my life comes fluffy

When the world’s shapeless.




I throw words away, refuse for the heap.

I’ve nothing to say; shallow cries aren’t deep.

You might find value, a phrase you can keep,

But I must warn you, hoping is a leap.


I’m not trying tricks; I am not a thief.

If I write nothing, nothing’s my belief.

Through these nothing lines, I intend no grief,

But, perhaps, the truth, where nothing is chief.


Why put ugliness of the world in bows

When my sweet nothings capture how it goes?

Why say pretty things, purple passion throes,

When life’s progression has just lows, lows, lows?


I find no reason. I find none at all.

To rise beyond nothing, look for a fall.




In the discard pile we live with such style,

People look and wonder, and we just smile:

Yes, we remember life inside the deck,

Back before everything became a wreck,

But we admit it has been quite a while


To live unwanted, packed safely with guile,

To rest on the stack with the rank and file,

Forgotten because we are all mere dreck

In the discard pile.


Do we view played cards with venom, with bile,

With jealous hatred because we’re servile,

Bereft of color, begging for a fleck,

Forced to kneel silent and bent at the neck

With hope of change nowhere within a mile

In the discard pile?




I hear you. Maybe someday I’ll do that.

The sidewalks are broad enough for slinking,

So I could pad through, an asocial cat,

Walking the town as I do some thinking.


I could get out, and people could see me,

And I could see them. It could be normal.

I’d order a drink, maybe a coffee,

And strike up chatter, something informal.


I’d learn a name, and someone would learn mine,

And maybe I’d get an email address.

The whole conversation could turn out fine,

But by the end I would feel like a mess.


Names, people. I hear you. Maybe someday.

Maybe I won’t always get in my way.





May 24: Meaningful but Melodramatic, Exit Signs, Maybes, etc.

So much for meaningful dreams that I had.

They were just wishes wasted by a lad

Who believed too much, too little knowing

Dreams are bullshit made to keep you going

Until you wake up a true hard knocks grad.


You think it’s dramatic? Maybe a tad.

Perhaps these days being lost is a fad.

With speculation, old age is showing—

So much for meaningful.


It’s too bemusing, too trite to be sad,

Too catastrophic, imposed by the mad:

Symphonies played for nuked shadows glowing

Have nothing on grieved seeds I’ve been sowing,

Which grow to demonstrate everything’s bad.

So much for meaningful!




Our exit signs are popular in red,

Although people have trouble getting out.

Signage must service the sound solemn dead.


It’s a new market; wrap that ’round your head.

They need directions; many are about.

Our exit signs are popular in red,


But we can make them in bright green instead,

If such a color pleases them, no doubt.

Signage must service the sound solemn dead.


You should forget all the lies you’ve been fed

About zombies—horrid things make one shout—

Our exit signs are popular in red


Because we all know right where we’re headed.

All the sound go, live or not, in one rout.

Signage must service the sound solemn dead


Because we need them restored, for we dread

Rapturous moments, an Ending with clout:

Our exit signs are popular in red;

Signage must service the sound solemn dead.




Maybe and Maybe-Not lived in a tree.

They had a stunning mode of relation;

Living for them moved too decisively.


Better to linger introspectively

Until one hears a clearer vocation:

Maybe and Maybe-Not lived in a tree


That forked at the trunk, quite a sight to see,

Remarkable in symbolization—

Living for them moved too decisively,


And each side of the fork couldn’t decree

Whether the tree had stood since Creation.

Maybe and Maybe-Not lived in a tree


Haggling over possibility

And whether a thing could change its station:

Living for them moved too decisively,


Yet each of them inched toward certainty—

Out on the branches, a safe location?

Maybe and Maybe-Not lived in a tree.

Living for them moved too decisively.




When did the atmosphere get thinner here,

And when did things get hot, and when my crop

Of hope drooped dead, when did I run in fear,

Burning red, and when did the cage door drop?


How did the air get so heavy, how did

My store of juice go dry, how does a harp

By harping sound like heaven, which I hid,

Knowing how you like your razor blades sharp?


Why the acid ever oozed like autumn,

Why the cages slid, why the maximum

Joys hurt, why I always kiss the bottom:

Why is music inside the cranium.


Answer nothing like a groove unwinding.

Answers groove with nothings wound and blinding.




I’ve heard rumors about feelings of trust.

Asset with many—with loved ones, a must—

Foundation for buildings to stand the years—

Powerful enough to conquer all fears—

People about it have certainly fussed.


Maybe Nurse dropped me, a baby concussed

Who felt too anxious about being trussed

And baked and eaten alongside some beers—

I’ve heard some rumors.


The thing with trust is that it’s boom or bust,

Which means you can’t trust trust, or you’ll be cussed.

Think of all too many wasted careers

Spent thinking rich folk will pay for arears

And you’ll know why trust arouses disgust.

I’ve heard some rumors.




You know, when you want to stand up and cheer

For the ones you didn’t think would make it,

For the ones you didn’t think could take it,

You know, when you want your hands up, here, here!


You know, when you want to cover your face

From the ones you said would never matter,

From the ones who watched you getting fatter,

You know, when you wallowed in your disgrace!


You know, you’re a fake and you’ve been exposed

By the ones you thought couldn’t ever tell,

By the ones you thought you could always sell,

You know, the lies and hate you always imposed!


We know what it means when you stand and cheer:

It’s the start of your well-earned life of fear!




I’ve had about enough of my dark turns,

Twisting revelations, even slow burns—

There’s a little devil inside who yearns

For happy endings, where everyone learns.


Boy meets girl, or boy, and that’s okay, too,

They get advice from some bat in a shoe,

Go to a party, big showdown to-do,

Knots get tied, all is well, and then they screw.


The pattern works well for all kinds of views,

And it’s far better than watching the news.

So go on, write it! There’s nothing to lose.

Dignity’s fictions are bombs to diffuse.


Nothing’s more common than bitter writing.

Give it big tits to make it inviting.




I write like no one’s reading. Liberate!

Maybe a stranger will stumble, connect.

Why would I intend to communicate

Except with this stranger on intersect?


This is my private exhibit for you.

It’s not for my friends or my family.

I want to make sure you think this thing through.

I want to provide you a part of me.


If you accept you’ll own me forever.

I’ll own a condo inside of your brain.

We will travel the whole world together.

You’ll drive me home, or I’ll drive you insane.


Welcome, my friend, to freedom I’m giving.

Me in your head is a way of living.



May 10: Ten Syllables, Strange Change, Stupidity Maintenance, and so on

The ten-syllable rhymed line’s seduction

Sometimes impairs my base will to function,

As I have lost myself inside the sound,

And I doubt my feet will now touch the ground,

At least not at this stanzaic junction.


What of real life’s strong-held malediction

For anyone who defies prediction

That words work better in strong prose’s mound—

The ten-syllable…?


I understand the modern reaction,

But I will issue no choked retraction

To satisfy assholes too tightly wound

To take word music wherever it’s found—

Yes, I say “fuck them” with satisfaction!

The ten-syllable!




Don’t get used to it. The best stuff changes.

What takes years’ planning, fate rearranges.

Enjoy a good moment—two if you dare:

Never forget that the world doesn’t care

For you or your goals. Its best estranges.


All throughout life, we will take our plunges

And get back up, scraping off the grunges

And other proof showing that we were there.

Don’t get used to it,


For upon our absence a plan hinges,

And we won’t be counted among the whinges.

We’ll carry on with will strong like a bear

And wield sharp weapons inside each nightmare

That on the daytime darkly impinges.

Don’t get used to it.




Famously facile, aptly maladroit,

We know somebody somewhere is stupid,

Send a drone to make sure, to reconnoit,

Find where everyone thrown for a loop hid.


Send out a message, two or three meanings,

Make quite sure none of them stands out too much—

With such a message people take beanings,

Hitting their heads for clear answers and such.


Stupendously super, hoorahed and hip,

They know they have little foibles to hide,

For each time their ratings go for a dip

They take extra shots of formaldehyde.


Yes, they know everything. Isn’t it grand?

Everything’s knowable now. Understand?




I want to tell all the secrets I know.

I want the secrets to be worth a show.

I want the hushed show to have millions go.

I want the millions to make secrets grow.


Secrets transform when they get left open.

Softer memory ends crestfallen,

And forces pull you under the ocean

And speak hard truths unmeant to be spoken.


With bigger secrets, more people hear you;

With bigger secrets, you’re a big to-do.

With bigger secrets, amazing shit flew;

With bigger secrets, your you-know-what grew!


I want to tell all the secrets I know.

They get you, you see, with the undertow.




Fair-minded people need to get it right:

They lost the battle, time to suck it tight.

Time to accept fairness has gone away;

Too bad if you choose to get sick today;

Time to accept they have turned out the light.


Do I exaggerate our current plight

When I say we’re screwed by whackos’ crazed might?

The screw drills deeper each day that they stay,

Fair-minded people.


We must evict the heartless parasite

Who knows nothing about how people fight

To breathe, to work, even to have a say,

Even to be sorts who care anyway,

Because of so much taken by the blight—

Fair-minded people.




I want to form an association:

Folks afflicted with dissociation

Can join with minimal hesitation

For it requires no congregation.


Indeed, we have enough of discussion

On our own, with our own repercussion

Sufficient for inner-head percussion

Worthy of a world-blurring concussion.


So what’s the point of associating

When we might not wish to be deviating

From our patterns geared to obviating

Unwanted turns, which are irritating?


Perhaps in the ether we’d discover

New exciting ways to help each other.




I’m a volatile personality.

I’m still working on what this means to me.

Up and down and through the fickle middle;

I’ve been on this ride since I was little.

It’s frustrating, and I know you agree.


What about the extra chances to see

Life in its grand, extreme variety?

My oh my, ain’t that one a big shit hill!

I’m a volatile personality.


I seem to have a greater destiny

Making up rhymes of fameless infamy

About the fuckers with whom I’d fiddle

Because my words more than their dicks diddle.

Doing that, do I cross a boundary?

I’m a volatile personality.

May 5: Curtain Calls, Shopping Skills, Violence, and Words, Words, Words

[photos pending. maybe]


The curtain’s up. They await performance.

They demand action, with hints of romance.

I have worked too long on this silent dance;

I have lost all faith in the arts of chance.


The curtain’s up. I guess I’ll be moving.

For some it’s easy to grind while grooving,

While I find songs of despair more soothing,

Curtain-down feelings that need no proving,


But curtain’s up, boys: it’s time for a smile!

I guess we can fake it a little while.

Audiences mistake depression for guile

And think you’re malingering, artist-style.


Ra-ta-ta-tap goes rhythm of despair—

If you can move you can act like you care.




Observing the world while not quite a part,

My body pumping blood without a heart,

I see everything better than you do—

I see the grooves and the point of the screw—

My vision links nowhere to being smart.


It’s disconnected from all at the start,

Pushing reality off in a cart,

Eying the shelves for what’s next in the stew,

Observing the world.


No, it’s not smart, but it’s a shopping art

To spot which screws hold you up at the mart.

What I’ve been cooking serves more than a few.

It’s based on seeing the mart looks like you.

I’ll take my druthers and tear you apart,

Observing the world.




Violence and words are out of control,

Uppity in their pushy pretension.

They do some damage that they can’t console,

Although they have a healing dimension.


Everyone knows that cleansing brings rebirth,

And birth is violent—mothers can tell.

Violence burns with the turns of the Earth,

And moves its cycles to keep them all well.


I could praise words in similar fashion—

Keys to discover, and to share passion.

The problem is, both forces can cash in

And multiply as parasites dash in.


When they multiply they over-consume.

Each person you meet acts like a legume.




Songs for the weird would placate the hurt soul

For the true weird are seeking to be whole.

Forget all this nonsense, being badass,

It’s just a stratagem to help us pass—

Revealing the weird serves nerves on a roll.


Is I am our not? Questions take a toll.

Sing it aloud to make answers a goal!

Don’t sing it soggy; sing it with sass—

Songs for the weird.


When will this babbling donkey go foal?

He’s so fucking normal, I’d pelt with coal

Each of his soft parts except for his ass

Because if he popped out a real jackass,

Then he’d be weird, a part of the fol—

d. Songs for the weird.




I come by it honestly, this contempt—

When bigots in red states offend exempt

From penalty, as their cronies run law,

And they offended where everyone saw,

I’d say I’ve a right to roil unkempt.


What if I get lost in the mad attempt

To lash out with forces I shouldn’t tempt?

I look at the prospect with a guffaw.

I come by it honestly.


I still play on fields where evil has romped,

With demon fist-fights where devil-hooves clomped,

And having been so close to Satan’s maw,

I’ve come out feeling rather far too raw

Not to want to see my enemies stomped:

I come by it honestly.




Inevitable logic of parting

Will articulate algorithmically

Given the temporal parameters

Appropriate to suddenly starting

A newer way to live, and to be

Among the many predicted quitters,


Which is not to say all will be quitters,

Which is not implied by common parting,

Which turns out, here and there, often to be

Precipitously, algorithmically,

Engaged in the act of up and starting

Conflicts with similar parameters


For those with similar parameters

In relations, never before quitters,

Now cataloguing problems, starting

The protocols of practical parting,

Proceeding, in step, algorithmically,

To determine en masse what will soon be


The new state of what’s no longer to be

Which will have, certainly, parameters

For them to observe algorithmically,

Ceremonious in being quitters,

As is ordained by logic of parting,

And that is only how it is starting,


For they know parting involves a starting,

And stopping, and starting, looping to be

Synced with logic that feels like brains parting,

But this halting follows parameters,

Like everything—they’re not being quitters

Now, as they approach, algorithmically,


Problems that you solve algorithmically:

They move to doing, transcending starting,

Discarding notions of being quitters,

Preferring, at last, what was meant to be,

What answers all of their parameters,

The only logical thing left, parting.


Trouble in algorithmically parting

Is re-starting lies in parameters—

Parting won’t end; quitters never can be.




I can be abstruse where no one will look.

I don’t need all my poems in a book.

I can write whatever the hell I want:

Down with the dick and glory to the cunt!

It’s my website; only I’m on the hook.


You might read on your Fire or on your Nook

A site such as this, such as gods forsook.

You won’t lose a dime on your surfing hunt.

I can be abstruse.


Bask in my weirdness—it’s like drugs you took!

If you don’t eat it all, at least we cook.

On lots of my words you might choose to bunt,

But most of them are common as currant,

And rhythm and rhyme are meanings that shook!

I can be abstruse!



Interplanetary destruction is

Sometimes required by vengeful feelings

Spurred on by series of bad businesses

And underhanded, cheap, dirty dealings.


“Send out the death rays!” The good people cry.

They all want carnage, they want big fire:

They want to see their space enemy die,

To crash and burn in some acid mire.


Ships have technology to serve up death;

As you know, space is where no one hears screams,

As there aren’t soundwaves, and no source of breath.

Serving are quiet and won’t disturb dreams.


In all, destruction in space is truly fine.

Get your revenge while the bright lasers shine!