The Quiet and The Void

enlight1-2

It’s been a little while since I last wrote, I know. I’ve been settling in the quiet of the creative space in my mind and concentrating on my project Hanford Ground Zero. It is a place dedicated solely to creative writing. Poetry, writing prompts, and storytelling of dark themes generally centered around Hanford, Ca.

Bedsheets and Canyons has become a more general blog since I began it some time ago. I lost direction. Yes, I have shared poetry, stories, etc., but it has also been an outlet for all the things which clutter my mind. And I appreciate that, but it means that the intended creative work has a tendency to fall by the wayside.

So I would like to invite you to join me at Hanford Ground Zero for the enjoyment of dark and horrifying poetry, short stories, and scene writing!

-Z.

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Unholy Water

alcoholism

It burns amber,
Like embers,
Cascading fire,
Warming his body,
But leaves unclean his soul.

This holy water,
Never makes him clean.
Leaves him less than whole.
Has shattered
Every relationship
He’s ever had.

It leaves him
Breathless
Broken
And homeless.

He wanders the cold
Looking for another shot.
This time,
He’s certain,
He will finally come clean.

But he will never come clean.
Will never know forgiveness.
Will never rebuild burning bridges
Laced in alcohol and guilt.
And he is guilty.

This is his home now.
He’ll never find a better place,
Until he comes to an honest place
With himself,
And in himself.

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A Funeral for Two

funeral

The dead beckon him.
It’s the only reason he’s returned
To walk the haunted grounds of his youth;
To tread upon desecrated earth
Where beneath the soil something evil stirs

He’s come to bury his father,
Along with the burning bag of shit
Weighing heavy around his neck.
It’s his burden.
And he must bear it.

Upon him fall scornful stares.
Sad tear laden eyes
Brimming with blame.
Belonging to a congregation of wolves
Who somehow always make death about them.

Intently he listens
As the adder tongued pastor
Pours out his pain
In a sermon assuring the flock
That the dead man made it.
He was with God.

It’s his turn to speak.
Narrowed eyes follow him
As he walks the miles from pew to pulpit.
The adder tongue warns him,
Tread lightly.

I knew this man,
He says,
Through a whirlwind of violence,
By moments of absence,
In the bombs falling around my head.

I knew him,
Much like I know you.
Nails scraping  against chalkboards,
The gnashing of teeth,
The pulling of hair,
And the defiant detestable lies.

And I’ve come to bury him.
And one day I hope to bury you, too.
I pray that the writhing twisting thing
Stirring beneath these blood stained grounds,
Rises up to greet you,
And stands you before God.

Justice will never have come so quick,
Will never have been so sweet.

The congregation,
Rabid and salivating,
Snarling,
Baring sharp and twisted teeth
Rise at once to their feet.

He tries to run
But is caught in their blows.
They’ll do
What couldn’t be done with tongues.
Silencing conviction .
Doing away with opposition.
Losing control to regain their control.

He won’t give up his soul,
But he gives up his ghost.
Broken
Like the shattered window of his life.
They’ll bury him with his father,
Cover up their tracks,
In a funeral of lies.
Knowing one day soon,
They’ll have to look death in the eyes.

 

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Go and Love

refugee

Strangers.
Orphans.
Widows.
Prisoners.
Refugees.
Neighbors.
Behold the face of God.
Go therefore and love.

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Of Killer and Carnage

bleedingeyes

She stretches out a hand
Looking to feel forever
In the gentle brush of fingertips
Against decaying skin.

She finds beauty in carnage,
In ruined corpses.
In violent displays.
In dividing the body against itself.

Ever hungry,
Ever feeding,
But never satisfied.

She weeps in prayer,
Pleading to any inclined divine ear,
For this time to be the last time,
For it to finally be enough.

Yet every snuffed out life,
Every desperately pleading last word,
Each dying light
Winking out behind frightened eyes,
Is never enough.
It’s never enough.

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Lingering Ghost

windowstorm

The window,
Fragile,
Thin pane of glass,
Mist curtained,
And trembling,
Stands between her
And the ghost
Who nightly rises
From a shallow grave,
A pit
Cut into her heart.

Pity,
A soft sadness that weighs her soul.
She knows it’s a monster,
But refuses to let go.
It’s the only thing she has,
To prove
She isn’t as mad,
As those who buried him,
In the ruins of the broken home,
Where she once stayed;
In that awful house
Where bombs and children played.

She can’t,
She won’t,
She’ll never look away.
Nor shut down its voice.
Where on white noise
Whispers the pain
Of past sins,
Regret,
And so much guilt.

A Ghost,
Which lingers,
In the settling dark.
And until she turns the light on,
He’ll forever break her heart.

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Snowflake

mothertheresa
You can smell it in the breeze.
Screams.
Blood.
Fire.
The aroma of despair,
The scent of greed,
The odor of selfish desire.

Uneducated masses,
Inbred and
Sitting on their asses,
Wallowing in filth,
Whose answers
Always involve a gun.
Who
Pave their roads in hate,
Then call it Christian love;
While calling those who oppose,
Snowflakes,
And Special ones.

If compassion and love,
Make me a snowflake,
Understand
That means I am not just one.
I am a million holy hands
Ready to bring down an avalanche,
To shut down your system,
To disrupt this dysfunction,
To stop the thriving of scum.

We are done with your shit.
We’ve done it your way.
Let us show you
What can be done
With a little hope,
And a lot of love.

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An Ode to Matt and Nathan

abyss

My parents warned me about you.
You were devils
Seductively knocking,
Leaving ancient tomes at my door.
They’d rather I
Swallow pills and die
Then learn what you gave me;
An escape,
A gateway,
Brothers,
You taught me to open my eyes
And step sideways.

You showed me,
Despite the darkness,
I had Magik inside.
All I had to do was unlock
The mind.

During a time,
When I longed to leave this life,
You gave me reason to fight,
Find my light and survive.
I pushed on
Through land mines and bombs.
I thought of you,
While waging war with my father,
I thought of you,
When I could go no farther.

malkavianYou taught me to save me.
To rewrite patterns and paradigms.
To boldly stride this dark world
Laying waste to my demons.

And even
Though I’m far away
I love you
Though you hate when I say it.
If push comes to shove
I’ll storm the gates Below,
And the gates Above,
Because you,
Gave me nothing but love.

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Man is God

wallup.net

Laced tongues languishing in lost languages.
While in PCP beatific visions
We gaze into the eyes of God,
And there,
See only our self.God is a mirror,
Or so we tell ourselves,
Casting our
Perfected photoshopped reflection
For all to admire.

Every imperfection hidden away.And we,
Self contained universes
With ourselves at the center,
Refuse to see
We have become numb
Narcissistic
Disassociated
And dumb.

These
Outstretched bloody hands,
Gore slick,
And calloused,
Bear up our brothers and sisters.
Sacrifices
Crushed under foot
So we might stand above,
So we might stand out.

We sing out to the oldest of gods;
Pride.
Owing ourselves only to him,
Poison on our lips,
Succumbing to the lie that we are gods
Thus truth is subjective
To our will.

Chemically altered consciousness
Rewriting hardwired pattern and paradigm.
Walking on bones.
We are lords of vermin.
Masters of maggot and fly.
For in our rewriting
We are unraveling life.
Leaving only decay in our wake.

We killed God,
To stand as god,
And now,
Look at this place.
The garden has become a waste.

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Slave to the Machine

cymachine

Wrench from me
These
Twisted machines.
Creating,
Crafting,
On open skin
Telling symbols
Of hidden sin.

Writhing
Wretched
Shameful things
Metal skin
Wire veined

Coercion and control of
Morals
Values
Soul.

Hardwiring
Until I am fit.
A product
Manipulated
Reduced
To a thing
Of profit.

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Trump and The Good Ol’ Days…

I’m angry, and I’m disappointed. I’m even outraged and sickened.

I’ve seen a lot of excitement from the Christian Right over a Trump presidency. Much of the excitement relates to the “rewinding” of the clock to a time of “traditional values” and dominance. A time when, let’s call it for what it is, the white Evangelical was calling the shots (and women and minorities knew their place).

Friends, there was a lot of ugly during that era. (Hell there is a lot of ugly in our current era.) “Moralism” -which lacked the fundamental value of treating every person with the dignity and respect endowed them by their creator- was brutally forced on those who failed to acknowledge and comply with the “superior” way. Bullying, segregation, racism, brutality, etc., etc. was tolerated and even promoted. We thrived on dominating our “lessers.”

But you don’t have to take me at my word. Do a search on Google, or better yet go to the local library, and browse through our country’s recent history. I’m not talking about things that took place hundreds of years ago, but only a generation or so back.

If this is what you are looking forward to in a Trump presidency, if you require your faith to be legislated in order for it to be legitimate, if love and compassion take a backseat to totalitarianism, then you’re probably not a Christian at all. Rather, a sad individual who needs to be right, and needs to believe their worldview has always been right, above all else.

For what it’s worth, this country isn’t going to Hell for civil marriage equality, wanting to provide affordable healthcare as a right to all Americans, desiring to give our future generation a college level education at no out of pocket cost to them, demanding fair livable wages for workers, or any other “liberal” policy, it’s going to Hell for the way we treat each other.

It’s going to Hell because we are selfish, complacent towards one another, intentionally ignorant (e.g. stupid), and refuse to care about things that don’t directly impact us. As long as we (the individual) are happy and so nothing else matters, then we are on the quick road to Hell.

Y’all, if we can’t get our shit together, if we can’t wake up to realize that we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper, if we can’t abide by the law of love written upon our hearts which demands we respect and care for one another, then, we’re fucked. We will be as animals preying upon one another until there is nothing left.

God save us. God change us.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked an you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25

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An Open Letter To Stephen King

I posted this to the StephenKing.com message boards last Friday, but I wanted to also share it on a broader platform as well.

Mr. Stephen King,

There have been a number of positive and encouraging influences in my life that I wish I had thanked. Many of them, some personally known and others known only through their public works, are no longer with us, and I regret not having offered them my gratitude (for what little it may be worth).

I grew up in an abusive environment. Those sacred places which ought to have been safe havens were neither safe nor sacred. To this day I find myself still working through many of the aftershocks with the hope of becoming a better mentor and model than the monsters which had been set before me by fate.

This hope and this willingness have been made possible by the havens -or outlets of escapism, depending on your vantage point- I found while dodging the bullets and bombs of life.

Reading, writing, and faith provided steadfast shelters against never ending storms. These three have continued with me through the years. They have provided the courage and strength to face down my demons and break the cycle of abuse which has been passed from generation to generation in my dysfunctional family.

Your writing has been a part of that. As much as I have enjoyed your fiction, it was “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” which impacted me the most.

I aspire to be a published author, and so I write, and write, and write, and write some more. Often I recall key points you made on the craft of writing as I strive to improve my work, but even this is NOT the reason why On Writing made such an impact on my life.

Your life story was inspiring. A reminder to always strive for your passion while at the same time never neglecting your responsibilities. The highlights of your marriage left me with a burning desire to be the best husband and father I can be; to place my wife and three girls at the top of my priorities.

Mr. King, this was never taught in my home or my church growing up. These were not the values I was given. It is why I have struggled as a husband and father. And while I have picked up good traits and put down bad traits over the years, the example you left me on the matter of marriage has tremendously improved the quality of my own marriage.

I am not saying I was the monster who had gone before me, but I will not deny that I have fallen to a place of complacency and neglect with my family now and again. Many times over the years I have taken my wife and children for granted. But this is the case no longer.

My conversion to Catholicism just a year ago, and the examples you have left in your writings, are the reasons that my family is still together.

Your writings are wonderfully immersive, and they have taught me much in the way of writing horror, but the example you have shared (even if unintentionally) of what it is to be a truly loving husband has done so much good for my life.

And all this is simply to say thank you.

Thank you, Mr. King.

Very Respectfully,

-Michael

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Adventure in Writing: He Never Saw the Body!

supernova

I was cooking dinner with my wife. I don’t remember what we were making, probably something with chicken, but we were definitely cooking dinner. I remember reaching for a wooden spoon when this sudden realization came over me. I stood frozen as the words formed in my mind and echoed throughout the hollow cavern that is my skull.

“HE NEVER WENT TO SEE THE BODY!”

The words came screaming out of my mouth and into the world. Spoken that I might hear them aloud. Shouted loud enough for all to hear my shame.

My wife looked at me for the weirdo I am and asked me what I was talking about. I held her for a moment, unable to answer, with eyes wide and full of regret. My face betrayed the raw horror eating away at my psyche.

I swallowed back the dryness in my throat, and with a conscience made of lead, I confessed that I had unintentionally killed 53,967 people by a single omission.

Echo never went to the county coroner’s office. He didn’t see his father’s body. He went straight to the church, spoke with the pastor, and stormed out in a fury. After he went to a coffee shop. Never did he take possession of his father’s remains!” I said.

Her eyes narrowed. I could feel her gaze analyzing my every word, assessing my every unconscious twitch, judging me with a righteous righteousness! I awaited the unbearable hammer of justice to fall upon my head for committing so foolish a crime.

“You’re a nerd.” She said with a roll of her eyes.

“But…but…he never went to see the body!”

“Uh-huh.”

“And that means everything I wrote is wrong! A lie! Needs to be fixed!”

“Yeah.”

“Well?”

“Yes?”

“He never even went to see the body! Don’t you have anything to say?”

“Yeah. Are you done with the wooden spoon?”

Are you done with the wooden spoon. She said it. In the face of a cataclysmic plot hole which threaten the entire universe, with calm thoughtful contemplative wisdom, she had given me the answer.

She wasn’t just asking for the spoon -I mean she was and I gave it to her, but she was imparting a powerful metaphor. In asking if I was “done with the wooden spoon,” she was asking if I was ready to set down the pen. She was challenging my intentions. Would I give up, or would I push on and set right the world I set aflame?

She was right! I knew what had to be done.  I had to finish making dinner, but after I would save the world!

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2016: Glad That’s Over

darkroad
I’ve been out of touch for the holidays, and I don’t believe in re-posting old content to give the illusion of activity. I don’t believe you, the readers, are stupid. I know it is bad practice to simply go quiet, but I’d rather have an unintentional loss of readers due to my own blogging sins than a loss caused by insulting the intelligence of my readers.

With that said, for those of you who follow along (or simply graze through) the eclectic path of my literary madness, I sincerely thank you. I don’t have many readers -probably due to my poor blogging practices, but for those of you hanging around, I really do appreciate you.

2016!

2016messWhat a stupid, stupid, year. I’m glad to see it gone. We lost some wonderfully talented artist. We slogged through an especially muddy election resulting in the selection of a man who tweets with maturity of a 16 year old. We lost our minds over people trying to use the bathroom in peace. And we found ourselves divided over race and gender equality.

Other important matters exploded during the year such as the Dakota Pipeline and Flint Michigan’s unsafe water. We had the Zika virus, denial of the scientifically backed global warming problem, the chaos in Aleppo, the NRA is still a thing and still pockets politicians, a tragically high number of African Americans being gunned down by police, mass shootings, and so much more.

It felt like 2016 was a giant step back for the U.S. We fought over matters that should have been settled long ago. It was a wake up call that we still have a long road ahead when it comes to issues of equality.

I would love to say it can’t get much worse than that fiasco, but 2017 is already promising to continue the madness. The only hope we have for change is us.

1. Be A Decent Human Being

godsimageChange starts with us. Who we are and how we relate to one another matters. Having a difference of opinions is not a problem. How we coexist while having a difference of opinions can be a problem, but doesn’t have to be.

We must start by looking at everyone as worthy of dignity. Every person is created in the image of God, and thus every person is deserving of respect. Our opinions and ideologies may vary, but at the end of the day we are all human beings who ought love one another.

And I don’t mean love in the cheaply used sense so common in our vernacular (i.e. “OMG I love this new phone!” or “I love taco trucks!”). I mean LOVE; an action which takes others and their needs into consideration, and meeting those needs when and where we can.

2. Draw Lines

100-jeffersonI am all for make believe, as long as it is kept in its proper context. There are, however, certain truths which can’t be ignored. Don’t be afraid to stand in honest truth even when it seems like you’re the only one willing to.

For example, I am personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice. Life is sacred, and we must hold it sacred. Yet there are those in places of power who take the matter of Pro-Life to an unhealthy conclusion. They demand all babies be born regardless of circumstance (including extremes such as rape, incest, risk to mother and/or baby, or illness/disease/etc. which will result in a stillbirth -or immediate death- of the child). This, to me, seems calloused and unmerciful.

These same individuals then disregard mother and baby postpartum; unwilling to fight for things such as paid baby leave in the work force, affordable and accessible healthcare (in general), and despising any support intended on preserving a decent quality of life. This isn’t pro-life, this is pro-baby.

At the same time, I despise abortion as a means of birth control (i.e. “Oh I wasn’t ready.” or “It is inconvenient at this time.”), or as a means to search and destroy imperfect babies (i.e. children with Down Syndrome, etc.). Some would consider me calloused, but I think this is bullshit.

The willingness to take this stand has me at odds with pro-life and pro-choice friends and family, but life is sacred. It is an undeniable truth I must stand honestly for lest vox populi robs the sacredness from life and treats all human beings as little more than a commodity. (In other words, if we don’t care for life when it starts, we won’t care where it ends.)

Draw lines. Make waves.

3. Demand that We Be Better

hungerI hate politics, but we can’t escape its effects. We must be a voice for those who are being silenced. Speak up for changes that enhance the quality of life for those around you, not just yourself. Rally around those things which give people a chance to pursue their inalienable rights.

Too many corporations and politicians are ensuring they and their own are protected. We have seen opposition against programs and policies that give the average American a fighting chance at a better life. Opposition against a higher minimum wage, affordable health coverage, and programs aimed at caring for those in need should cause us pause.

Don’t be silent. Your voice matters.

4. Demand Better of Yourself

possibleMake long term goals which can be broken up into attainable chunks. You want your college degree? Aim for accomplishing a doable amount of credits each semester. Want to finish your manuscript? Set aside a few hours each week dedicated to writing. Want to lose weight? Set a reasonable weight loss goal for each month (a few pounds at a time). Remove a little excess from your diet each week (do I really need six donuts, or will three be enough -I’m guilty of this). Aim to walk at least one day a week.

You can reach your goals. You have to break them up into bite-sized chunks so you can see your progress. This, hopefully, will keep you motivated to see your commitment through to the end.

Demand better of yourself. You’ll fuck it up. We all do. When you fall, however, get back up and keep going. This is the only way.

Finally…

Even if 2017 is worse than last year, you can make it a great year for you and those around you. You will have set backs, bad days, storms, trials, etc., but you can endure. Be a decent human being. Draw lines. Demand we be better. And demand better of yourself.

Have an amazing year!

(Also, if you’re feeling chastised, don’t. This was mostly for me.)

mr-rogers-redeeming-way

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Life is Strange

consequences

The most memorable games are those which are story driven and demand emotional and intellectual investment on behalf of the player, and this is exactly what I got from Life is Strange.

lifeisstrangeIn this Butterfly Effect meets Donnie Darko story you are drawn into the life of Maxine Caulfield, a high school girl and photography student who learns she has the ability to turn back time and change fate. She is plagued with visions of a sudden and unseasonable storm which threatens to consume her entire town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon.

Reconnecting with her best friend, Chloe Price, the pair find themselves investigating the sudden disappearance of Chloe’s long time friend, Rachel Amber, while Max seeks a way to deter the coming storm looming in her vision.

Through five nail biting episodes you will be taken through a world of conspiracy, heart wrenching plot twists, and the applied philosophy and theory of time travel. Each and every choice you make on behalf of Max will come with its own set of consequences which will play out over the course of the game.

In the end you are left with a choice guaranteed to break your heart.

The game play is smooth, and it is accompanied by a unique soundtrack which fits the setting well. You may even find yourself (like I did) downloading the soundtrack on your preferred music listening device (in my case, on my phone).

The story is unfolds in a cinematic style of play similar to Alan Wake, Indigo Prophecy, and other similar story driven games. This approach gives the game an interactive movie feel. The voice acting is well performed adding to the immersiveness of the game.

The game can be completed in just a couple of days, but will leave you wanting to play it again to explore other options and opportunities. Best of all Life is Strange will haunt you long after the console is turned off.

(I’m not saying this game made me cry, but I did get something in my eye towards the end.)

life-strange

 

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