Write Or Die

I have come to an impasse.  For years, decades – in fact, I have taken the roads others have encouraged or demanded of me or abandoned those that asked too much or too little.  Now, at the midpoint of my life, I find myself with nothing to show but expired certifications, unused degrees, and dusty accolades no longer relevant to any course I care to walk. 

My brief adventure in theater ended when I declined a spot on the casting couch.  I assumed the girl who got that part accepted.  Having encountered the same offer at my next big audition, I lost my taste for the business.  If I wanted to be a sex worker, I would swing from a pole and make considerably more money with significantly less rejection and effort.  I decided to wait tables and recalibrate.

A few years later, I went to school for Education, but all ambition I had to inspire children went out the window when I was told by a principle my lesson plans were “too interesting and creative,” that I needed to “focus on the [state-mandated, standardized] test,” and I needed to “stop working so hard.”  I switched districts and found new footing, but my first child came and I decided to stay home during the early years.  When I returned, five years later, I found out I had to start over.  From the bottom.  That meant substitute teaching and working as an aide, making copies and helping students use the toilet for poverty wages and welfare insurance.  At the time, I was a single parent with a chronic “non-payer” for a co-parent, busting my tail to survive.  In advocation for my students with unique needs, I’d made a pest of myself in the eyes of administration.  After three years of bureaucratic melodrama and literal ass-wiping, having been passed over for a promotions twice because I was “too valuable” in my position, I decided maybe this line of bullshit – I mean, work – just wasn’t for me.

So, off I went to real estate – the BYO of business.  Bring your own license.  Bring your own funding.  Bring your own training.  Bring your own signs, folders, business cards, office fees, copies, access to necessary associations and inventory lists, …  Hell, bring your own customers.  You’re basically paying thousands of dollars each year to the state and the office to provide you with a theoretical structure in which to operate your independent business.  I adore working with people on the sale and purchase of properties.  Trouble is, you need people to work with, and without thousands to spend annually on BYO marketing, research, and advertising, you’re chasing your tail.

Exhausted from trying to catch the fluffy end of my own existence, I circled back around to where I tend to end up: standing alone and in peril, wondering what the next thing is.  What I am finally realizing is that the reason I was ever any good at anything at all is because I write well, the thing that I enjoy doing the most is writing, and that no one – despite countless applications and efforts, no one – is going to pay me to do it for them.

Sure, I could take the fraction of a penny per word jobs.  I could earn a whopping $20 for ten 1700 word articles per week.  (Yes, that was an actual job posting.)  I could also shovel shit at the zoo.  I’d certainly earn more money in less time.  I have a family to feed, and I don’t have time to waste helping those who are both incapable of working my craft and unwilling to adequately compensate me to work it for them.  Eight years after ghostwriting a novelette that never made it to print, I am still kicking myself for letting the rough draft slip away into the expanse of great work never to see the light of day, dropped by hands unable to carry it across the finish line.  It’s almost as saddening as the freelance writing prospects out there.

Meanwhile, the web dumps pages of new content written by communications majors without the good sense or grammar of a middle schooler writing a bullshit essay on a standardized test.  Yet, these jobs are impossibly hard to get and pay little more than one would earn managing the local table-service chain, refunding overcooked steaks and calling Ubers for the Flagged On A Friday regulars. 

Thus, here, we find the impasse.

What is a writer to do in a world that values craft less than word count or click-throughs?  …Where those looking for quality in content are dreamers with shallow pockets hoping to turn a nickel into bait for the broke and talented?  …Where the Learned It On TikToker crowd wants to pay you $15 to write them a book they’ll upload to Audible and make thousands on?

If there is no money in writing for others, one must writer for oneself, and that means getting publishing.

There is no other direction I can go.  Trapped in a labyrinth of failed career choices and dead ends, I have no path but the one laid out before me, the one that leads to the only way out. It’s the one on which I will write my way out.

Many years ago, upon completing my master’s in education, I considered getting a doctorate and pursuing a career as a college professor.  My father cautioned me about the necessity to “publish or perish” when working in the highest levels of education.  A professor who does not write a critical manuscript in their field is as good as gone.  It seems this adorable, albeit threatening, alliterative is now true to life for me anyway. 

As a person who has made a career of leaving jobs that proved financially or spiritually impoverishing, and who has only ever really been skillful at one thing, writing my way out of this life and into the one I want is the only option.  I simply must get my manuscripts bound and on shelves. 

And so the music rings in my head, “Live, life, live, [write] or die.”

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What Do You See?

What do you see
When you look at me?
The girl who needs guidance
Or the woman fierce and free?
My heart of clay
Malleable, soft,
Or my warm outer coat
Inviting but course?
The helpless lamb
Who falls into foxholes,
Or sharp white teeth
Guarding tenderest soul?
A creature longing to be pet,
A queen stately and devoted,
A siren casting, calling, wet,
A subject begging and emoting?
I am all of this and more,
The Madonna and the whore,
An inspiration,
A call to fight,
The promise of love,
The threat of a bite,
The thing that remains
Loyal and true,
The heat of red,
The cool of blue.
What is it one must do
To own me, they wonder.
Most who come calling
Leaving crawling asunder.
Bare your teeth,
And your soul.
Turn me loose
But command, patrol.
For the alpha submissive
Is the rarest of finds
Who will come, sit, stay, kneel
For the rarest of kinds.

JMK (11/18)

Untitled (Ask me…)

Ask me about religion
And I will tell you I have none,
No books command my soul,
No preachers or priests, flawed humans in control.
The universe is my temple,
The stars are the heavens of which the ancients spoke,
My conscious is my compass.
My love is my true north.
It aligns with the center of my chest,
Illuminating the path through this world to the next.
Science proves the evidence for creation,
A miracle far larger than any told in the fairytales that cornerstone the arcane doctrines of modern man.
Ask me about faith
And I will swear I am held by it,
Comfortable with the notion
That all things manifest as they should.
I keep bright the light within
And trust the movement of spirits tied to me by love alone
To guide me through this passage,
So I walk fearlessly upon the earth,
My temporary home.
Ask me about prayer
And I will say the words that come forth,
Unfettered and unrehearsed,
From the core of my existence
By ignition of perceptible burn
Radiating with the warmth of sincerity,
And I will whisper them soundlessly
To the winds that carry the souls of countless lovers and others
Released from their being
Long before our names are called.
Ask me about death
And you will see I have no fear of it,
Except that it might be untimely
Upon my children or me,
For a mother must attend as long as she can
But not outlive her usefulness
And be a burden to her young who are burdened with their young.
Death is merely a return
And it is only hard for the living.
Ask me about life
And I will summarize the aforementioned idealities
Of faith and love and light,
Of fearlessness and prayer,
Ungoverned by a ruling class of vicars educated in the obsolete
And misguided in their vision of our human evolution.
For we are not the children of a god
All seeing and all knowing,
But fragments of a universe it created,
Perhaps by its death.
We are sparks of light and chemistry
Exploding momentarily
In subatomic works of art,
Created and recreated
Across an inconceivable vastness,
A landscape of time and space
Imperceivable to its residents
Eternal in their truest form.
Live.
Just live
Through all the love you can endure,
And perish
From this life
With grace
And the knowledge that this is not all of it
And you need not know the rest.
September 26, 2019

Untitled (Kiss Me, Sweet Current)

Kiss me, sweet current
Take me into your depths
I want to be washed away
I want to be out of breath
To pair no more my skin
To the lashings of this place
To ride the flawless draw of you
To the end of me
And though woe will be of those
Who stay behind
Beyond your banks
To toil some more
May they touch their tears
To see the fears of mine
Be gone and good
All done
Then let them dilute those salty mournings in your waters
As offerings to those who swam before me
Or after
And give thanks to thee
For my freedom
My floating
My skin soothed
To the same cool blue as you.

I’ve Seen Love

I’ve seen love shine.

I’ve seen it light fires

In the eyes

Of the hopeful,

The lonely,

The broken,

The weary.

I’ve seen it make friends

Of enemies,

And lovers

Of friends,

Families of lovers,

And keepers of thieves.

 

I’ve seen love kill.

I’ve seen it break

And mar

And trample

And ruin,

Take the soul from the soulful,

And the faith from the devout.

I’ve seen it tear a man open

And spill his insides

Out.

 

I’ve seen love heal.

I’ve seen it reach across

Continents

And ages,

Pick people up

With the wisdom

Of sages.

I’ve seen it whisper

And breathe

New life

Into dead hearts,

Bring sun

To the darkness,

And peace

To the night.

 

I’ve seen love conquer.

I’ve seen it rage against hate,

Push down walls

With flowers,

Sign treaties,

Change fate.

I’ve seen it bridge

Great divides

Between men

And millennia,

Spill light

Into the shadows

Of misconception

And fear.

 

I’ve seen love last

Through all of this

And then some,

Through rage

And riots,

Through times darker

Than space,

Through trauma

And peril

Both personal

And global

Inside

And out

Of hearts

And minds

That have faltered

And grown forgetful

Of its power.

 

I’ve seen love

As warm as the sun

As ruthless as death

A salve

And a sword

Ageless

And infinite.

 

I’ve seen love,

And love has seen me.

Rid of Lens

Takes them off

And rubs her eyes…

The blur fades

And the girl unwise

Is seeing crystal clear.

The things she took to heart

The ways in which she bled

Were not from wounds

Of her own flesh

But things doled out instead.

Games of chess

With her as pawn

A whipping boy called knave

Who took the blame for everything

And let it all befall her

‘Til her head was bent

And her heart was broke

And her life became a horror.

Now she sees

The head disease,

The punishments she bore

Were his design.

Her heartsick plague

Infected by his sore

And damaged soul.

Its toll,

A choice

To stay or go,

To stand against

The steadfast wrath

Of pain

And insecurity

Not hers in source

Or cause

Or stay.

The path is clear.

The glasses

Trampled upon

As she runs for her life

And the lives of those she bore.

No more.

No more.

She goes

Rid of lens

And clear eyes to the sky.

Libatious

She was your constant
Your lover
Your friend
Priority
Mistress
She kept you from me
And she ripped us
Apart.
The man you were eroded
As you drank and she sank into you
Your goodness dulled
By the haze of intoxication
Your abuses amplified
By the steady darkening of your mood
So I widened the gap.
You swam the pain of our parting.
Gulping down mouthfuls
Of hatred and her
And anger and her
And blame and her
Never once reaching
For my hands
Trying so desperately to save us.
Thrashing against every effort
Drowning in denial
You slipped beneath the surface
And were lost to her depths.
A beautiful life
A beautiful wife
Two little men
All yours to defend
But you lost it all
To alcohol.

Untitled (Condemnation)

The luscious pull
Of divine helplessness
That draws me to you
In the weakest willfulness
I give myself over
Patient and fervent
To the devil who keeps me
Chained and waiting
Swimming in desperation
And desire
On fire
And running toward the flames
Of your rapture
Your limbo
My purgatory
My heart captured
In its own little hell
Burning in your embrace
Melting in your gaze
Smoldering in your absence
Scorched and aching
Yearning for your touch
To condemn me again.

His Moon

She was his moon
Beautiful and blue
Cool in the void
But enjoying the view
Caught in his gravity
Held at a distance
Revealing herself to him
In light shaped by his existence.
Pulling strongly at his seas
Yet never knowing
The kiss of his salt waters
His ebbing
Or his flowing.
Solitary
Still
She stays faithfully yearning
Constant
Content
In her endless sentinel turning.

Untitled (Be…)

Be the mountain
Strong and constant
Be the trees
Rooted and lofty
Be the reeds
That bend and sing
In the whistling winds of change
Be the bird
Be the bug
The winged and free
Be the pack
Be the prowler
Dance like the bee
Be the tortoise
The dolphin
And the fish in the sea
Be the eagle of vision
And the ram with its power
The willow that shades
The beautiful flower
For everything around you
Is all that you are
Made of this earth
That air
And those stars.