Two Minds

we are of two minds,

you and I

vessels pitched toward

names left shapeless:

light to hold

by the comatose

mewling of silhouettes

as if breezes

no land here

only digital connections

between separate hearts

hoping to download a soul

Two Minds


Beyond Limbo

Photo by Nicolas Jehly

Somewhere north of nowhere, past a road fueled by rumor, where merchants but rarely travel and music seems to stretch on forever beneath the sky, a woman walks. In her wake is a train of sycophants—those who traveled here just to seek her, or those who were left here to whither under an endless cosmic array of appetites no belly could contain.

Yet come she does. Out on the parched dunes, far beyond the oldest ruins. The dunes, after all, cannot be bothered to rest on foundations. They eat and eat, savage as wolves and greedy as leeches, gorging on wind and earth alike. They know no names, unlike the hills they consume, and neither does she. She shuns those who ask one of her. She slaughters those who demand one of her.

Such is her right.

Her silence has as much to say as a thousand words sputtered from drunken men. It has turned folk to contemplation, deep in the caves where faith has become a palace only as great as the heart.

“You will only hear her on the full moon,” a caravanner whispers after drinks one night. “She will wear a crown of peacock feathers, and you will know her by the beat of a pellet drum.”

He has never heard it himself, of course. Those who do rarely choose to leave it behind.

North beyond the last tavern, north beyond the final well, north so far the rivers have turned back for fear of being forgotten, the world parches. Wind grinds the skin to pulp, wearing all to gold. Even prayer beads bleach, a bead for each prayer the desert does not hear.

At this point, there is no turning back.

When the desert wears the sun for a mane and walks between rest and sleep, the world loses meaning. A bell that rings, rings on forever, inviting the rain, calling to wisdom, and receiving no answer. In such a moment, it is as wise as any sage.

All that is left to do is to feel the tapping of a heart’s demands. It counts the seconds, minutes, hours, inexorably pressing toward the moment.

A hand closes its fist about the blazing heart of the world and she appears.

Her drumming is a conjured echo of the bell. She is as unquiet as the howl of the wind, and as ancient. Wrapped in skins and cloths dyed as if by iron, she swirls through the contours of her starlight hammered realm. Incantations pour from beauty glowing with the alchemical crescendo of the world, and for once, there is no deceit to be sensed.

About her the hungry ghosts dance in an endless parade, without malevolence or concern. Every strum of the woman’s hands sign words for them, sign voices for them, and it can be felt all the way to that tapping of the heart. It becomes the beat of it, wailing in tune.

For a tick, all is reborn and unborn, a hollowed out train of eyes pouring from the darkness. It stains the world. There is no escaping it. Only then does the drum settle and the woman cup her palm instead to the distant mountain. Her other hand hovers, as if waiting to clap it—but the sound never comes.

It is at this moment one might bear witness to the henna birds on her hands. They circle her, rising into the clouds of her garments, and one cannot be sure where they end and she begins. Other stories tell of men and women that can become birds that fly and fly until they find their hearts’ desire, somewhere in the green that exists beyond the sand. This is the birds’ favorite song when they fly.

Tears track the woman’s face, and she begins to call to ignorance.

“Leave me!” she cries. “Be not shackled by your lust and your hate and your pain. There is peace beyond the limbo. There is magic yet to be found in the emptiness of existence. There is a silhouette of a cage just beyond a rainbow. Tears will rust it. You would break it.”

From the unborn expanse, the ghosts mewl until no line can be found in the sand. The woman sinks, drifting through fog and silence, to the finest dab of dew on the ground. In this light, her garments are a prism, and the faint slants of light make her polychromatic. It just so happens the gesture is a bow to the full moon.

There is nothing for it but to bow with her. The gesture scatters and compels, until there is no chasm between the world and its ghosts. She looks up on approach, waiting for the hiss of self-interest.

But the perch is empty. Love has made another summit, somewhere closer to earth.

A Tribute to Ursula K Le Guin

Art by Rebecca Guay for “A Wizard of Earthsea.”

You taught us the meaning of humanity

out on the Sea, where the Earth

falls away and leaves us with nothing

save the mud of our struggle

visions of utopia left behind

when mad men came ashore

looking for Heaven.


When I hold my Left Hand to Darkness,

no one asks if I still suffer

what those men work in the shadows;

instead they take my hand and show

a map to the stars holds hope

that we are more than what we are

and not everything can be bought.


Perhaps we will never break the echo

the clatter of coins leave on the Farthest Shore

but the journey will chip at our bad habits

and remind us that happiness is to live

to a ripe old age where pain

is a memory of the Dispossessed

before we rejected the banality of evil hopes.


The revolution drifts in orbit now

asking for trouble where only spirits and fire

can touch its priceless permanence, as with

love—neither sits, waiting

for someone to give it meaning

they get out there and remake

the universe on their own terms.

(For Ursula: 1929-2018, but whose mark upon speculative fiction, the world, and my own literary motivations, is eternal. Your journey was truly worth it.)

Ursula K Le Guin

Rhythmic Gambles

Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

Rhythm is not just speed

but the thought of where the signals lead;

away, spirit, into the motion

of the universal devotion

to life beyond routine

the confines of a paper-thin screen

freedom, by any other name

a laughter of notes experiencing the game

without any fear; sacred, and devout

before the collective trance of the communal bout

whirling meditations to the bleeding and the broken

speaking without ever suffering outspoken

methodologies through the fighting,

to find out what they’re lighting and writing

and talking about, exhaustion

a sort of Faustian

gamble for the peak in breaths

that strips identity, time and flesh

to bone, where shyness will not lurk

nor stimulation shirk

the magic of connection

only the body gives direction:

Dancing with the waves of the oldest seas,

Dancing to be wholly free.

Despite Appearances, Democrats May Come Out Ahead in Shutdown Fight

Image Clipped from CBS News.

(Since this piece was published–in a cowardly act–Senate Democrats retracted their push for DACA and Dreamers’ rights in future negotiation demands. As such, I renounce all the grace I gave them in this article, an instead add: this may be the moment that cost them the 2018 Midterms.)

The shutdown of the U.S. federal government seems set to end.

At least, as of 5:24 p.m. on Monday, January 22, within 72 hours of the debacle’s beginning, that’s where things seem to stand. My first reaction was, admittedly disgust–disgust the Republicans would get what they want, disgust the Democrats would cave so fast.

After all, Republicans managed to keep a vote on a Supreme Court justice nominee happening for a year when there was a Democrat sitting in the White House. They managed to play the game all the way through to the next president–so they could control House, Senate and White House, and thereby guarantee a sweep of whomsoever they wished. Gorsuch came of that. Gorsuch, and a disservice to the methods of representative rule.

This is not that case. On its head, as I said, Democrats caved to pressure within 72 hours and allowed for a temporary measure of government funding to push the can down the road until February 8. This refunds the government, gets people to stop using the military for ammunition for a bit, and gives politicians more time for debate.

I know what you’re thinking: oh gods, MORE debate? Can’t they come to a conclusion?

The short answer? No. Democrats want to protect DACA–Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It’s popular with their base and it’s just solid humanitarianism. Republicans chose to hold funding for CHIP kids–the Children’s Health Insurance Program–hostage as a means of forcing Democrats to abandon immigrants and DACA.

So how will this be different in February?

The Democrats won this round, even if it doesn’t look it at first glance. Once my fury had subsided, I realized this means that CHIP is now funded for a full six years. It’s passed, done, off the table. Those kids are no longer held hostage, and in so doing, Republicans have lost their big leverage. For those who think the military still represents leverage in the debate, just remember: Democrats attempted to pass a bill during the shutdown TO keep the military funded. They’re fools if they don’t consistently remind the public that it was Republicans who torpedoed those efforts, and most importantly, Donald Trump who shot down just about every attempt at a moderate solution that could have avoided the shutdown in the first place.

So if the moderates fail to get a veto proof bill rammed through the Congress in February? Well then, we’re right back at a shutdown–and this time, Republicans won’t have sick kids hanging in the balance for pressure. It gives Democrats even more of an opportunity for a longer shutdown, if Republicans won’t listen to reason. After all, DACA–Democrats’ main sticking point here–is still on the books until March. They can kick the can down the road for a whole month before they lose what they are pushing for.

In the meantime, under court order, DACA recipients cannot be deported purely for being here on DACA grounds. Now, ICE has been finding insidious ways of deporting people for other reasons, but they cannot deport specifically on those grounds as long as DACA remains on the books.

The left side of the aisle can blast Democrats for failing to stand up and deliver a scathing, “To hell with you,” to the Republicans in the Senate and Trump in the White House. It can blast them as having no backbone.

There are plenty of reasons I might agree with such statements on the day to day, but this isn’t one of those cases. This might actually be the smart play, if not the most aggressive. Of course the Republicans are unlikely to keep their promises to discuss DACA again during the February 8 deadline. Democrats know that. But there’s something they have to tiptoe around. After all, there are confines to this play: remember, McConnell can still detonate the 60 vote requirement in the Senate. Trump is urging him to do it. Republicans on the whole probably don’t WANT to do it, because it’s a short term win that might backfire spectacularly for them after the 2018 Midterms. Democrats could get that away from him, and while they don’t have a history of playing as rough with the nuclear option as his people have, they could, and use it to decimate anything Trump tries to ram through in the future.

So in essence? No, this is probably not the shutdown deal any of us want. It’s far passed time to get a long term solution for the issue of funding this nation, but this opens a lot more opportunities for Democrats to come out ahead.

Dreams from the Lunar Sea

Photo by Uroš Jovičić on Unsplash

She had always wanted to live on the moon. People called it barren, but in its dryness, its isolated streets, she saw endless possibility—untouched, untainted. When she got there, she walked the streets every night, reborn under the reversed sky. She drank in the scents of abandonment and stale, recycled air.

Somewhere off of Main Street and Liberty, though, she caught herself absorbing the rotating waves of the blue satellite above her head. People looked at her oddly, called her out of place. And it was just so cold, here. The moon disappeared from her dreams one night, leaving her in darkness.

It wasn’t so long before she began to dream of living on the earth.

(Happy National Science Fiction Day, everybody!)

The FCC and the Battle for the Modern Internet

Today, Chairman Ajit Pai of the FCC, flouting a majority of the U.S. public that has been surveyed time and again as being against the decision, and disregarding the dissenting opinions of two of his own boardmembers, announced that Net Neutrality is officially dead.

Take a breath. Take a drink. Let it out. I’ll wait.


You back? Good. Because first of all, let me just say: I know this hurts. We just watched three men snicker and condescend to two women and a host of data, history, and opinions while voting to gut the Internet as we know it. Second, and most importantly: this is not over. Not for a minute. This was a major battle, don’t get me wrong, but we knew we were going to lose here. Pai has ever been a friend to the corporations of the world, and makes no qualms that whatever they want, he thinks is for the best.

What Comes Next

This decision is going to be tied up in courts for months, if not years. In the state of Washington, they have already said that regardless of a federal decision like this, they will be doing everything they can to maintain Net Neutrality for their own people. There’s going to be a splintering, and further court cases, as sides assault every linked issue. It’s going to get messy. The knives are coming out. And we’ve all got skin in the game–so we’ve got to get dirty.

web17-fcc-1160x768“Innovation and investment” are the bywords Mr. Pai has used as his rallying cry. It’s fairly transparent. What he means and what he wants is a world where, at a whim, companies can decide you’re going to need to pay extra cash for every little service. It’s like if EA suddenly were given world power: you can still play, but by god, you’re going to need to pay for every little service and every little upgrade. It’s life as DLC.

What his side wants, under the auspices of “innovation,” is for cash flow potential for corporations to be unrestricted. They don’t care about innovation–they don’t have to innovate or get better when they already reap the benefits of forcing you to use whatever they give you. And where their rivalries and internal hatreds emerge, is where you’ll really notice some nastiness. Do you like Netflix, for example? Comcast never did. Do you like Streams, such as Twitch? They gobble a lot of data, you know. ISPs don’t like that. So what if your ISP decides they, or any individual site or service, go against their values? Don’t align with them? Say farewell to that service. And further–there will be nothing you can do. Because the Internet isn’t neutral anymore. It isn’t protected ground. It’s full on PvP–and you’re level one, while the fellow you’re dueling has all the top tier gear and skills. There’s no appeal.

Like Netflix? Streams? Any of that good stuff? Well, what if your ISP decides they, or any individual site or service, go against the values? Bye-bye service. Nothing you can do. No appeals. Because they will have that power with no Net Neutrality. The Obama administration put the rules in place specifically to avoid motions toward that end.

I’m not saying these extortion demands erupt tomorrow. Even these companies, greedy as they are and giddy with victory, have PR teams. They recognize the rage going on over this issue. Like most things, the plan will be: wait a little while until the heat dies down, then gradually implement. It is something that can happen. Most likely, it’s going to look like modern cable packages: Premium speeds versus Lower speeds, with more paid for faster Youtube, Snapchat, etc. services. Sites like Wikipedia may have to do EVEN MORE  fundraisers to meet cost demands raised by these ISPs.

Ongoing Battle

Congress has the power to reverse the FCC’s decision to dismantle net neutrality protections. Unlike Ajit Pai–who was not elected and publicly has stated his lack of care for backlash over Net Neutrality repeal–politicians do have to worry about elections. They can be influenced. Many have taken lots of money from ISPs over the years, but they still have to worry about getting their seat back next election. A lot of those seats are coming up for re-election in 2018.

The trick is to make sure they know that. And feel it. Hell, did you see how quickly Patreon backed off its updated pay model when people launched into an uproar? Make them backpedal that quickly.

You see, the Congressional Review Act is almost assuredly going to be tapped to try and review and ultimately reverse the FCC action by those opposed. Get enough members signing on in the 60 legislative days available–the CRA allows Congress to reverse regulatory actions within 60 days of their creation–and Ajit Pai could find his ambitions dead in the water.

What they cannot be allowed to do is run out the clock.

If that fails? There remain the courts and the state level–and we would have to fight in every state, and in a constant, unrelenting force through the courts. The latter gets dicier, however, as the Trump administration continues pushing forward more of its rather controversial nominees for those roles.

I tack on the bad to let you know the stakes and realities: the fact remains the same as that with which I began this piece. The fight is not over. Far from it. Settle into the trenches. Get your jams queued up. It’s going to be a long night.


Those Hits, They Keep On Coming

Dedicated to a Changing World, just for the blog:

Photo by Aimee Vogelsang

The first hit makes him think of hands. Hands like small stones, weighing down his pockets.

The second hit makes him think of eyes. Eyes that never let him see them cry, because of what that might do to him.

The third hit makes him think of lips. Lips that drink alone to forget, breathe out bloodless clouds into the silent air between them.

The fourth hit makes him think of hearts. Broken hearts that end him, piece by piece, for all the lies his lips told, all the secrets his eyes held back, and all the pain his hands brought.

Writers, Beware Blue Deco

It’s time to add another bundle of publishing scammers to the list.

Long time followers/readers might recall mention of friend and fellow author Bryce David Salazar on this site. He is the author of She Sees Metaphors, a master of imagery, and a strange thing for horse masks. In all, he is a pretty decent fellow I was delighted to see make it in the literary world with his debut novel.

27fae5_8b14feb6aa5945f5b7896329b1f6c897~mv2Unfortunately, his debut has been spoiled by his publisher, Blue Deco Publishing. Bryce is one of seven authors ostensibly represented by the company who are currently petitioning, through, for reversion of rights and payment of outstanding royalties under what they allege is a voided contract.

That outstanding royalties bit is key. You see, Blue Deco pledged under their contract to pay third quarter royalties to their authors by Nov. 15 of this year. It now being November 27, they only just recently provided a brief severance e-mail and money to several of the authors. These authors also noted that such payments were similarly late in the second quarter. Being paid for one’s work shouldn’t sound revolutionary to anyone, especially not when it’s on paper.

That said, the company also has skimped on its actual duties. ISBN numbers, for those who don’t know, are a critical part of the publishing process. They represent the identity of the work, making them identifiable by publishers, booksellers, libraries and other retailers worldwide. It says, “THIS BOOK WAS MADE BY SO AND SO, THIS IS WHAT IT IS AND ITS FORMAT.” To get your own, unique ISBN, comes with a price tag associated.

While the ISBN doesn’t in and of itself provide any legal or copyright protection, it’s an absolute legal necessity in some countries. Amazon’s Createspace service handles it free for self-published authors, as it essentially becomes their publisher. However, it is usually publishers themselves who take on associated costs as part of production costs.

Blue Deco had, as part of its contract with its authors, agreed to provide ISBNs. Instead, it turned to CreateSpace to make these ISBNs, therefore negating a major factor behind going with a publisher: it made these books self-published, CreateSpace books, rather than attaching its own name to the works.

There’s more to the tale, of course, but the sum of things is that Bryce and his fellow authors have declared their contracts voided. Up until recently, Blue Deco hadn’t responded in any way to its authors. It was only until their public call for help and awareness that the company issued its severance. Even so, it still has them proudly listed under its authors.

Authors being taken advantage of by scam artist publishers is an unfortunately growing trend. There’s whole websites, like Writer Beware!, dedicated to tracking them down and exposing them for what they are. Often, they face no consequences beyond what public outcry can force upon them, by leaving them no shadows in which to scuttle.

Help get justice for these authors and guarantee the Blue Deco Publishing is no longer able to operate in the shady manner it has chosen. Spread the word. Support artists. Keep creativity alive.

(For more, check out Bryce’s own page on the issue:

Microfiction: Spreading Roots

Daniel has never been much of a gardener. Yet he knows what his lover likes. He clears and tills a space near the back fence, out of the way, where people might miss him between all the pot plants and strawberries (the two go well together). When he pauses to breathe and to sweat, he can feel the tingles where she kissed him, like poison ivy spreading, out in the national forest. It’s evening before he can plant her seed, but it doesn’t take long after that.

Drunk on pollen, he could wait all night. Her vines scrabble in the dirt, inch by inch, awaiting their crown of flowers. A dryad can sprout wherever her tree takes root.