Twin Love <3

When the world fell apart,

and no one would look me

in the eye, you took my

hand in yours and told me,

“Don’t be afraid. I’m here

to heal your broken heart.”


Normative Syllabic Verse


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This too!

Dad Man Comes Walkin’


Skin’s saggin’, he drags his feet–

Dead Man comes walkin’ down.

He’s a cool cat, minus a cool beat–

Dead Man comes fallin’ down.


Drunk in a gutter, at bottle’s teat–

Dead Man goes staggerin’ down.

Got no home, lives in the streets–

Dead Man livin’ in a dead town.


Life’s a mess, nothin’ to eat–

he’s lost and never found.

Rain’s fallin’ down, now sleet–

tonight’s the night he may drown.


Life’s a bitch on that street

where Dead Man goes walkin’ down.

Full of cool cast minus cool beats,

where Dead Man goes fallin’ down.



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Hey, look what I found!

First Steps

(totally reads better in it’s concrete, step-shaped form, but that’s seriously too much work)


We worm,

we crawl,

we stumble,

we walk, and

then we stumble

some more. And more. And more


And she

was there,

guiding us,

urging us

to get back up

whenever we fell down.


Soft hands

that held

us, smiling

and laughing

with us, because

we were proud we could walk.


August 2009

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Revelations in Retrospect


This has been on my mind the last few days. Don’t ask why, because I don’t really know….

            He was getting ready to leave for Shades of Blues, drying off after his shower in my bathroom with one of my towels. “Are you sure you don’t wanna come along, Precious?” he asked.

            I answered from my bed without looking up: “Nah. I have to work tomorrow. You have fun, though.”

            He didn’t respond and instead apparently chose to finish readying himself in silence. I had my laptop open on my lap as I typed, and “Closer to You” by the Wallflowers played on repeat. I do that when I write, though not necessarily with that particular song every time.

            “Ugh. I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten all day.”

            That was probably an exaggeration. He never went more than a few hours without eating. “Why don’t you make yourself a PB&J or something? I think we have lunch meat in the fridge, if you’re not in the mood for peanut butter,” I answered, this time looking up at him.

            He was wearing his usual overly-baggy jeans, a blue CSM shirt, black suspenders, and plaid button-up shirt he hadn’t bothered to button yet. He might have said something in Russian as he shuffled off to the kitchen. He might have also acknowledged the dog, but I don’t remember.

            “Precious?” he called from the kitchen.

            I sighed, hit “save,” and closed my laptop before I hopped off my bed. I was damn tired, and my hip ached.

            He stood by the table eating a sloppily-made sandwich, his shirt halfway buttoned at this point.

            “Yeah?” I asked.

            “Do we have any soda?”

            “No, just juice and milk, I think. Oh, and some beer that I don’t know how long it’s been there or where it came from, but I guess you probably shouldn’t drink that if you’re going to be driving to the city.”

            “No, I guess not,” he agreed. He poured himself a glass of water out of the pitcher by the sink in the end.

            My kitchen overwhelmed me, and I hated looking at it. Since Matt had come around, things were just messier. The sink was overloaded with dirty dishes, there was…something…burnt to the stove, the floor was, in a word, disgusting. Like I said, overwhelming.

            “Hey, Precious?” I asked. “Do you think that maybe tomorrow we could clean up around here a little? I know I didn’t dirty more than a few cups and bowls in that pile.”

            “Yesh,” he said through a mouthful of sandwich.

            “Thanks, Precious,” I said. “How late do you think you’ll be out tonight?”

            “I dunno, at least ‘til midnight.”

            “If you don’t get back to the East Bay before then, can you just stay at your own place tonight? I’m really tired, and I need to get a good night’s sleep.”

            “But, but…. I love you.”

            “I love you too, but I have to get up early tomorrow, and you always wake me up when you show up late.”

            “Ok,” he sighed.

            Fearful I’d made him feel rejected, I wrapped my arms around him and told him I loved him again. He returned my embrace, slightly lifting me off the carpeted living room floor in his big arms.

            “Ok, I have to go now, or I’ll be late.”

            “Alright. Have fun, and behave yourself,” I smiled.

            He frowned. “What do you mean by that? ‘Behave myself?’”

            I shrugged. “I dunno. Just behave, that’s all. Be a gentleman.”

            He continued to frown for a few moments before giving me a weak smile. I could see the wheels turning in his head, but I couldn’t figure out why they’d suddenly kicked into motion. It was like asking a child if he’d stolen a cookie moments after he’d shoved it into his mouth. The child would shake his head, “no,” but there was still guilt there. I shivered as a cold blast of air hit me when he opened the door to leave, and I momentarily wondered if he was really going out to buy heroin that night. He’d insisted many times that he was still clean, but I couldn’t help but wonder at the look in his eyes.

            “Goodnight, Precious,” I said.


            Maybe he forgot my request, or maybe he didn’t care. He showed up around 4 am. Thursday growled in the darkness of my bedroom, and I sat bolt-upright in bed.

            “Shhh, shhh, Duppy. It’s just me,” he whispered.

            I relaxed a little when I heard his voice, though I was still irritated. “Why are you here? You were supposed to go home tonight.”

            “I missed you,” he said apologetically.

            “It’s 4 am. I have to get up in a few hours. We talked about this.”

            “I can leave if you want.”

            “It’s fine. You can stay. Just be quiet. I have to get back to sleep,” I grumbled.

            “Sorry, Precious.”

            I curled back up on my side and angrily gazed at my bedside clock. This was the makings for a long day. I was still anemic. I was still weak and got tired easily. My day was going to suck because of him.

            He got into the bed next to me and curled his body around mine, slipping one arm under my head and laying the other over my ribs.

            Duppy took his dangling hand as an invitation for a scratch behind her ears and licked his finger-tips. He pulled his hand back in surprise, and it collided with my open left eye.

            “What the fuck?” I shouted.

            “I forgot the dog was in here. Sorry,” he said.

            “You hit my eye. God damn it, I need some ice.” My head was already pounding from the blow. A shitty early morning leads to a possible black eye, which leads to a shitty day, right?

            “Oh, Precious, I’m so sorry. Let me get it for you.”

            I was already up. “No, you stay here. I’m going to take my dog out to pee, and then I’m going to get an icepack, and then I’m going back to sleep.”

            Duppy looked up at me with worried eyes. “Come on, Dup. Let’s go,” I muttered.

            The cold morning air hit me like another slap in the face, and I scowled at the overly-bright lamp outside our door. Dup dutifully peed in the patch of grass across from the door, and came back to me to be let inside for a treat. I handed her a piece of duck breast before rummaging in the freezer for an icepack.

            He was sitting up in bed with his face in his hands when I wandered back into my room, Duppy trailing close behind.

            “What’s the matter?” I asked.

            He looked up in anguish; he’d been crying.

            “Precious?” I said.

            “I hurt you. Oh, my God, I hurt you. You have to ice your face, and it’s because I hit you. I’m so sorry. Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” he sobbed. Even militant atheists pray when they’re in despair, even if they don’t realize it.

            I let my hand drop to my side with the icepack still in it and sighed. “It’s ok. It’s really not that bad, and I know it was an accident.”

            “No, it’s not ok. I hurt you,” he insisted.

            I slid under the covers beside him and carefully balanced the icepack on my eye. “It really is ok. It was an accident, and accidents happen. Just do me a favor and don’t do it again, ok?” I managed a half-smile.

            He buried his face in my abdomen and held me tightly. “I promise I’ll never hurt you again,” he murmured into my body. “I love you.”

            Still, as the ice stung the swollen area around my eye, I couldn’t help but wonder again if he’d been out buying drugs after dancing.

            Where there is love, there can be no fear. Where there is fear, there can be no love. The song’s simple lyrics flashed through my head. There was love there with him and me, so I couldn’t let fear in, I reasoned. We tend to force ourselves to think the best of the people we love, though. I wanted to think the best of him, that he was stronger than his addictions and cravings, despite what statistics on heroin and cocaine users tell us.

            “I love you, too,” I whispered back. There was enough love to push that nagging, fearful thought away, I was sure of it.

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Review of Whispers – Book One – Yggdrasil Children

September 10, 2013 1 comment

            Whispers – Book One – Yggdrasil Children, by Allen Neil Ortiz, starts off with a bang. With the very first sentence of the prologue, the reader is drawn into a world of chaos and terror through the eyes of an unnamed child. As the book continues, we meet both members of a secret military organization and a group of seemingly normal college students, though we quickly learn that these kids are anything but average.

            Between Veronica Cassidy’s recon team, and Aden Kerr’s students, the reader discovers a complex world where myth and magic are very much part of reality. Ortiz has created his own mythology based on Christian, Greek, Norse and Gaelic legends, wrapping together all the stories we learned as children into a new reality. With a few touches of pseudo-science here and there, we’re introduced to people who can talk to phoenixes, machines, natural elements, plants, animals, angels and demons. Some can even alter reality with the power of dreams.

            As a general rule, I don’t like science fiction, but I loved this. Why? Because Ortiz’s story is character-centered. He takes a motely group of young adults, each one unique in their own way, and he makes me care about every one of them. That’s not something I see often enough in science fiction these days. More often than not, I’m find myself bored with robots and aliens. Space ships are cool and all, but they don’t have much heart. And that’s what Ortiz gave to his characters (even non-human ones): he gave them compelling backstories and personalities. In a word: soul.

            By the end of the book, I’d laughed, been forced to the edge of my seat, and even teared up on several occasions, because the characters were so compelling. Any time one of them had something to celebrate, I found myself rooting along with them. When the recon members or students felt sadness, my heart ached for them. And that, I feel, is the mark of great story telling. You can have nice scenery and cool weapons or whatever, but if you can’t make me care about your characters, what’s the point?

            Though Allen Neil Ortiz is a newcomer to the literary world, he’s placed a solid foot in the door to greatness with Whispers – Book One – Yggdrasil Children, and this reader can’t wait until book two reveals even deeper mysteries about these characters and this new version of reality. I wholeheartedly give it five stars, and I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something new and compelling.

           And, seriously, how can you not love this cover art by the author’s own sister, Amanda Ortiz?


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Visitation and Amends



            “Oh, it’s you,” I say, startled from the thoughts in which I’d been lost.

            “Hi, Precious,” he replies.

            “Please don’t call me that. I’m not your ‘Precious’ anymore. And why are you even here, anyway?”

            “I dunno. It’s your dream.” He’s still obnoxious, even when he’s dead, even when I’m sleeping.

            He plops down in the grass across the little stream that keeps us separated and gazes at me intently.

            “What?” I ask, trying not to sound annoyed.

            “You’re angry.”

            “Damn right I am! Your stupid parents are having twins.”


            “So…they’re having twins, not because they want to start over again and build their family, but because you’re dead. You were their progeny, the heir to their legacy, and now that you’re gone, they’re—or maybe just your mother—terrified of dying and leaving nothing behind. That’s not a good reason to have a baby, much less twins.” I pick up a twig and begin to break it into little pieces, throwing little bits of bark into the stream.


            I raise an annoyed eyebrow.

            “Sorry. Kari, my little Valkyrie, you’re looking at this from the wrong angle. Don’t fight the creation of new life.”

            “I’m not fighting it.” I throw a handful of leaves and pine needles into the stream.

            “Then what are you doing?”

            “I’m judging it and frowning upon it.” I smirk as the words fall out of my mouth, suddenly realizing how ridiculous what I’ve just said sounds out loud.

            “They’re not your problem anymore, you know,” he says.

            I sigh. “Yeah, I know.”

            “So let go of being angry with them, and let go of all this judgment. It’s not good for your soul.”

            I feel my eyes begin to brim with tears, and as the first one slowly rolls down my cheek, I at last blurt out the thing I haven’t been able to say to anyone: “I don’t miss you anymore.”


            “No. I don’t miss you anymore, and I haven’t for some time. And when I found out about the twins, somehow it made this light bulb click on in my brain, and I suddenly remembered that I was going to break up with you. But then you died, and I couldn’t do it, and instead I had to become your widow and be an example of beauty and grace in the face of your complete and utter bullshit.”

            “Oh, Precious—“ He holds his hands up in…surrender? Perhaps to a truth we’ve both known all along.

            “Please don’t call me that.” This time I throw and handful of dirt into the water and watch the clear, flawless stream turn murky and brown.

            “I’m glad you don’t miss me,” he whispers.


            “Yeah. “

            The world seems to stop: the breeze suddenly dies, the birds quiet their chirping, and all I can hear is my own heartbeat pounding in my chest.

            “They accused me of knowing you were going to die,” I finally whisper. “It was terrifying. I honestly thought your mother was going to punch me. How could I have known, though? I had wondered off and on, and I even told them that, but I didn’t actually know. You were so secretive.”

            “I know.”

            “And, for crying out loud, I had decided just a few days earlier that we clearly weren’t going to work out. You were so damn selfish, and you had an opinion about every God damned thing, and you didn’t give a shit about people other than yourself, and there were times when you made me so fucking miserable. But then you died, and this story was created wherein you and I had a perfect relationship, and I would cry by your grave every day. And I would take care of your insane parents; Jesus, they kept suggesting I should move into their home and take your room!”

            I shudder involuntarily and wrap my arms around my torso. He looks at me for a long moment, and I stare back at him through free-flowing tears.

            “But I don’t miss you anymore. Life is better without you. And I’m not telling you this to be mean, I’m telling you this because it’s true.” I wipe my face with the back of my hand.

            He smiles at me. “I’ve been hoping you would come to this point. I know you didn’t want to step into that role like you did—my beautiful widow, dolled up for my memorial just so you could cry off all your makeup when you gave your eulogy. I wronged you so profoundly, and I’m so sorry for that.”

            “You did a lot of wrong to a lot of people. You left a big hole in so many hearts, and that seriously makes you a total asshole.”

            He laughs, and I can’t help but smile.

            “But I know you didn’t mean to die, because you were so afraid to do so. And I know it was an accident, but I’m still gonna call you an asshole over it.” I pull my knees up to my chest and fold my arms over my shins. “So, yeah, you’re an asshole, and I don’t miss you anymore, and I was totally going to break up with you until you up and died. Then I just got stuck with you and no longer had a choice in the matter.”

            “You seem to have taken back that lost power of choice, since you no longer miss me. And I want to give it back to you all the more by letting you know that I’m so glad. I’m happy you’re finding happiness again. I wanted so badly to be with you always, and look at me now. I’m everywhere, with everyone, including you.” He’s positively glowing.

            “I have a new boyfriend,” I say into my knees.

            “I know. I’m glad about that, too.”

            “And I’m done being your widow. You have no idea of how much that sucked.”

            “No, but I watched your pain, and I know that it was awful.”

            I stare at my toes, unwilling to look at him. “’Awful’ is an understatement.”

            “You’re doing so good, though. Don’t worry about the things my family does. Don’t worry over what my friends might say. I want you to be happy, and to keep being happy, and even though my body is gone, I’ll always be here to keep an eye on you.”



            “I get the intended meaning, but that last statement is still incredibly creepy when you think about it.”

            We both laugh at that.

            I glance down at the bank of the stream, and when I look up, he’s gone. But I know he hasn’t gone far, because I can still hear him chuckle.

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Dancing Barefoot and Running in Heels: How to Flip the Bird with Your Whole Body

            “I’m not even sure I want to perform at this point. I’m kind of in run-and-hide mode right now, Betsey.”

            “Kari, I need you to be sure. The first rehearsal is this Thursday, dress rehearsal’s next week, and then the show is on Saturday.”

            “I know. Sorry.”

            “Do you want to tell me what’s been going on lately?”

            “I don’t know yet. Let’s take it from the top one more time.”

            She sighs as she crosses the room to start the music over and I get into place. My whole body aches from the hours of practice I’ve put into the upcoming performance, but I ignore the pain as I raise the veil over my head.

            One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…. I count the beats in my head and slowly walk across the studio with as much grace and poise as I can muster with my exhausted muscles. …five, six, seven, undulate! One-and, two-and, undulate! Undulate! Undulate!

            Betsey nods in approval, and it’s enough to keep me moving through the pain. I’ll be lucky if my hip doesn’t dislocate by the end of the night, but I try not to think about it and keep my mind on the rhythm instead.

            I stop consciously counting the beats and let my unconscious mind take over my movements. I’ve been in a state of rapt terror all week, and it feels good to let go of the fear and just be inside myself. My accents become stronger, the veil becomes its own fiery, powerful creature, and I entangle myself within it.

            I lose sense of earth and sky as I spin in tight barrels, and the world only stops racing when I suddenly fall into a backbend and catch myself with every core muscle I’ve got. I let my arms fall back and embrace the stillness of the air around me.

            “Wow,” Betsey says and claps her hands together. “You don’t have a choice. As your instructor, I’m telling you that you must participate in the show next week.”

            I’m too out of breath to speak yet.

            “Why is it you don’t want to do this?”

            I take a swig from my water bottle and toss the veil over a chair back. “I have a new stalker. I don’t know that he’s actually stalking me, but he seems to be kind of obsessed with me. And the show is at a public venue, and I’m terrified he’ll show up,” I sigh.

            “Oh,” is all she says.

            “His name is Ron, he’s creepy as hell, and he’s obsessed with my boobs. And, well, look at what I’m wearing to this thing.” I motion to my body, just barely covered by chiffon and rhinestones. The bra I’m wearing makes every other dance costume I’ve ever worn look nun-like and tame.

            Betsey sighs. “Kari, in the years I’ve known you, you’ve been though many ups and downs. I don’t know all the details of your life, but I know that you’re far stronger than any creepy man who thinks you’ve got a hot body and won’t leave you alone over it. And, what’s more, you do have an intensely hot body, you’re incredibly strong, and belly dancing has always been your dance of power. I think instead of running and hiding from this guy, you need to step fully into your power and let your strength show through.

            “And, if he does show up, I will personally throw him out. And if he won’t go, I’ll have some of the men escort him out. Your dad’s coming to the show, right?”


            “And your brother?”


            “And for heaven’s sake, if they can’t get rid of him, your mother will!”

            I let myself laugh over this. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

            She puts her hands on her hips and shimmies ever so slightly, a sign that it’s time to resume practice.

            “What is the translation of this song title again?” I ask.

            “Something about longing and despair, I think.”

            “Can we come up with a different title? Just for my performance?”

            “What did you have in mind?”

            “Um, ‘Go to Hell, Ron?’ ‘Die, Die, Die, Ron?’”

            She laughs. “No names, please.”

            “Ok, then just, ‘Die, Die, Die!’”

            “That can be our private title. I think I should still announce the real title at the show. You know, to give the musician proper credit. But when you dance to it, I want that to be your attitude. Knock that jerk into next week with those accents of yours!”

            I smile. “Ok. From the top?”

            “From the top!”


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